Don’t Fight the Feelin’ of Bucktown USA’s Jewels. Tryna catch that underground? Jump the stiles for Jewels’ video “I Mean Business” featuring Logic Wise. Effortlessly cool, it flexes a subterranean pulse and lean, mean lyricism. The single isn’t even the chillest track on The Easy Way Out, a new mixtape from the NYC emcee and producer.
Still, upon hearing it we immediately picked up on something rare yet familiar. Distant echoes of another cool ruler, none other than Bay Area legend Rappin’ 4-Tay. A key figure in SF’s Golden Era, his plushly hushed, breezy delivery was one of a kind. “I Mean Business” harkens back to that Fillmore District flow, particularly through its loping, looping refrain: “New York City / what it is one time / shut this whole sh- down one line / Survival of the fittest / in a cage with the cubs / no food, came back / and there was only one lion / ROAR…”
Digging deeper into The Easy Way Out, “Tight Shackles,” “Try So Hard” and the playful, grimy “Smoke Break” follow the setting sun all the more. After hearing L.A. vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson’s “Montara” sampled for another album highlight “Slow Rhythms” (favorite line: “My heartbeat was Grammy nominated / but the award goes to the tap of my toes), we approached Jewels’ fellow Bucktown soldier Vvs Verbal to ask “Is this guy originally from Cali or what?”
No, Jewels is just a obsessive musician who dwells in the studio and wields his microphone talents much like a jazz cat, hanging deep in the cut. Whatever. Maybe I’m influenced too heavily by the decades I’ve spent on both sides of the country. Perhaps under the spell of a recent mix posted by one of California’s most infamous rappers celebrating classics sampled by primarily East Coast (and Chicago) performers. Regardless of the roots in my logic, I put this in the air: there’s more East/West love at work in the hip-hop continuum than many of us recognize.
“I Mean Business” video directed by Cynical Smith & General Steele for Bucktown USA Productions.