The Experienced Listener Presents: Intellectual Bliss by Jasonplusone
I hafta begin this write-up with an apology; I received this particular project EONS ago. But it was right in the middle of a turbulent period for TKKT; I decided to hold off on dropping this review for a better time when people would actually read it, because I’ve found Jasonplusone to be a dope artist worthy of some serious profiling. And big-ups for being a thought-provoking artist from the South by way of Florida; we need more of that down here.
A combination of meditations and love songs, the title Intellectual Bliss is an appropriate one for this album It’s an enjoyable listening experience; a chill listen for the purposes of thought and reflection. Heavy on the lyrical side, but not so much that it becomes a headache. And I must say it’s sonically one of the smoother projects I’ve covered. Exactly how smooth, we’ll get into shortly; let’s just say, an orchestra of old school heads are gonna have an unlimited love for Intellectual Bliss.
The title track Intellectual Bliss catches my attention because the rhythm reminds me of an oldie-but-goodie— To the Left by (not Beyonce, fool) Crucial Conflict. That being said, and forgive me if I’m wrong, but if you’ve ever seen the movie The Mack, it sounds like it samples the song Mack Man by Willie Hutch from that soundtrack. Definitely not a bad thing. Listening to Jasonplusone’s rhyme method on this opening track made me optimistic for the rest of the project, because he takes a lot of liberty with his flow. There’s a lot of pause and hesitation in his delivery as he simply puts forth his convictions. This isn’t a punchline exhibition or a demonstration of metaphors; it’s simply well-thought-out diction, sound principle, and rhyme. Definitely creates a lush environment for this ‘bliss’ that Jasonplusone speaks of.
I’m a fan of the movies Oceans 11 and Oceans 12; I myself hope to one day stand in front of the Bellagio hotel with my homies and smugly smile about the job we did heistin’ planet Earth… Anyway, The People Want, I believe, samples the guitar from the scene in Oceans 12 where Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta Jones encounter each other in flashback. I love the chorus on the track because it really gave me a sufficient introduction to the artist:
The People wanted thugs; they gave ‘em motivation/
The People wanted dreams; showed how to chase ‘em/
The People wanted gimmicks; people started hatin/
The People wanted real; they went and got Jason/
As I listened to the rest of the track, something told me to look for a special line to really capture “the stroke” of this artist Jasonplusone. In my search, I picked out this set:
Huey Freeman on the shoulder, Riley on the other/
Boondock Saint, better find a fuckin cover/
At first, the lines seemed inconsequential to me; Black folks showing love to the Boondocks is nothing new. But then there’s that second line— I hafta admit, I’m clueless about Boondock Saints. I mean, I knew it existed, but I was never curious to investigate. So I followed the man’s instructions— I found a fuckin cover. And MAN!! Two guys standing side by side holding guns pointing into the foreground; all of a sudden, I was seeing Huey and Riley upon his shoulders in that same pose. And add to all that the Ocean’s 12 sample in the instrumental… I began to see the genius of this lyricist. Definitely something to appreciate here!
Dazed and Perks I fell in love with because of the beat. Very nostalgic for me; I remember being around my cousin Andre Ellis when he was first starting out on the beatmaking end of the game, and his early-phase sampling would come off sounding like this track. Aside from a sweet sample loop, producer Absalom advances the track with some DJ cutting and some tom drums coming in at given intervals. All the while keeping the vibe very blissful.
At the end of Dazed and Perks, you get a sound bite from the late legendary Barry White where he talks about being a product of his environment. This is one of several appearances that ‘The Maestro’ (that’s Barry White for you younger cats) makes on this project; he shows up so much that you might even venture that his interviews form the backbone of this project. Barry White’s recordings on his musical thoughts. For Da Love and Got Dat also feature B.White soundbites. He talks about everything from loving the craft of music to the distinctness of 70’s music being that it was melody-based and 80’s music that it was groove-based.
FAMU— famed HBCU of Florida and the title of the ensuing track on Intellectual Bliss. Jasonplusone speaks some pertinent words to the “underachieving” student body of this and all other HBCU’s, and to anyone else listening. All over a drum beat that puts me in mind of OutKast’s Decatur Psalm.
I’ve seen crack fiends smile like the sun’s shining/
Soul snatched outta hell with the right environment/
I’ve seen gleams in eyes turn bastard child/
John Stockon point guards come and turn Chris Childs/
Don’t provoke a man less you wanna see his hands/
Touch a woman’s claim if you wanna see your grave/
Show your daughters how to fight, sons how to love/
The perfect balance it’ll come from the God above/
And when they walkin’ down on earth and they heart hurt/
Just remind them of their beauty and their artwork/
It take a few dark hues and a few lights/
To paint the perfect picture that we all call life/
Rapper Steph Luva makes a guest appearance, adding to the presentation:
This what it sounds like when you put a little thought into it/
Artistry at its peak; use it, you oughta do it/
Smart influence for the youth, it’s all a part of music/
This is a movement for our sons and daughters to use it/
We grown men, man, we used to be young black boys/
Gettin’ in trouble, writing sentences on the black board/
Now we dictate, standing in front of the Black boys/
This is higher learning literally, you ain’t gotta ask for it/
With so many HBCU’s coming under attack and struggling with finances in recent years, it’s good to see alumni turning back to feed knowledge into the products-in-progress. Much needed, and hopefully we’ll see more of it.
What is it about the use of Al Green’s music and preaching the gospel? I mean, The Book of Eli was about the Bible, and it starts off with Denzel bumpin’ some Al Green in a post-apocalyptic world. Now, here comes Jasonplusone on his track All Da Luv ft. Cheeech, saying stuff like, “and you don’t know life, unless you know Christ”. And the whole instrumental is an ongoing Al Green sample looped in various ways; I’ve always said, I don’t know who used to play and produce for Al Green, but they had a GREAT sound. I enjoyed the way that Cheeech’s voice was used, not so much for singing, but more to add a glassy tone to the chorus. The combination of all these elements results in a very southern-fried track in my opinion.
I hate to give the impression that my listening ear has a pop side to it, but In and Out featuring Cheeech is, in my opinion, the most radio-friendly of all the tracks on the album. The sound is very clean; I’m not saying it’s the best song or even the best instrumental on the project, but the sound is crisp where it’s very easy on the ears. The loop is very catchy, the feminine touch of Cheeech is a nice accompaniment, and the simple 808 open hi-hat just works. Not to mention Jasonplusone’s lyrics are very easily heard on this track, which is great because they’re worth hearing.
As for the next track, Letting it All Go, I hafta say I love the beat. It’s funky, it’s soulful, it’s catchy, it’s electro, it’s rock, it’s even bass at the very end… ultimately, it’s hip hop. I like this excerpt from the song because I think it really captures the vibe:
In the mirror wonderin where’d the smile go/
Grab a comb and hit the beard like an Afro/
And let that thang grow longer then it’s Castro/
One hand rag, other hand drippin black soap/
Scrubbin on my skin til I’m cleaner than a whistle/
Nothing but my dreams on the front row/
Everything else, middle finger to the cuticle/
No love for them jobs or them fuckin cubicles/
Makes me wish I still had my Afro; you gotta have some hair to throw around to really headbang to this track correctly. Incidentally, I’m Letting it All Go as I write this; hoping I can find success in something other than my 9-to-5 (technically, my 7:10-to-3:20).
‘The Maestro’ chimes in again at the beginning of the track Green Devil. The legendary bass singer makes a lot of profound noise in his tidbits, but this particular one I found especially interesting. He says to his interviewer:
“Before then there were 11 and a half years of starvation and struggle that Barry White went through. Stories that Barry White could tell you about what he was before it happened… would make your hair curl, Sweetheart.”
This is a big thing to me, to hear about the life of a soul legend from the horse’s mouth on this project. And not just to hear about his struggle, but to hear about his CHARACTER… to think that Barry White wasn’t always Barry White, and perhaps wasn’t even a lovable person in the beginning. The kind of history you can’t get in school, ya know?
Featuring Alpha T., All I Want gives us Jasonplusone with a style that ANY Georgia boy should appreciate. You gon feel some Dungeon Family in this delivery on this track; perhaps Jason should be looking to do a collab with Big K.R.I.T. soon, because there’s definitely some DNA shared common here. J+1 goes clean off on his first verse:
All I really wanted was a star on my hood/
Three point, leather seats, in the glass/
Dame Dash, champagne, on the models/
Objectified, by every member of my gender/
Only birds and bees I knew/
Was dope boy rappers and the Wu Tang crew/
Spendin’ all my bread still eating like a bird/
Tryna roll hard, still parked on the curb/
Hearin’ folks say that everybody can’t rap/
And I’ll be damned, if every street ain’t a trap/
Struggle universal; tryna see notes, no rehearsal/
If it ain’t underground, why is it commercial?/
Why the club banger selling out, it won’t hurt you/
Raking in sales; seasons changed, with the vocals/
Faking til, nobody tells but the locals/
Now you the hopeful/
The verse goes on a good distance further; personal pref, but I LOVE when MCs take the mic and go unlimited. And it just gets better and better the further the song unfolds.
Now, if you noticed, Jason mentions the Wu Tang Clan in the aforementioned verse. An interesting track happens at the end of this journey called Intellectual Bliss; the song Still My Shit makes you wonder if perhaps there is another temple of Shaolin aside from the MCs of the Wu Tang Clan. Out of nowhere, a bedlam of nameless MCs— although ONE voice I recognize VERY clearly— demonstrates martial arts on a 22-minute instrumental. 22 minutes… that’s a whole nother datgom mixtape in one track. Which is why you’re gonna hafta hear this track for yourself rather than taking my word for it. Cuz I’m Sweet Brown, and ainnobody got ti—*drops mic*
Overall, the beats and lyrics of Intellectual Bliss are gravy; with samples of Barry ‘The Maestro’ White all over the place, it’s hard to lose on the instrumental end, and Jasonplusone proves to be quite the intellectual indeed. Only the album’s sound quality leaves something to be desired. While practically every track is a head nod, you don’t catch how nice some of the instrumentals really are because the sound is sometimes muffled. The melodies are all there, but the high frequencies that normally add a “crisp” element to the beat are missing. The presence of a wider range of frequencies would definitely have helped so that each sound could be appreciated. The same issue is sometimes found in the vocals; Jasonplusone’s voice booms, but you still find yourself leaning into the speaker to try to make out all the lyrics. The track Vibe To perhaps most strongly exemplifies this problem; I like the track conceptually but, quite simply, I can barely hear the lyrics. The way the lead vocals go from the foreground into the background reminds me of something Nujabes (R.I.P.) would typically do except for two things. 1) In the case of Nujabes, his entire project would be recorded in that fashion, so you know it’s being done intentionally; 2) Nujabes had a way of putting vocals into the background, but having just enough high frequencies so that you could still hear every lyric clearly without straining too much.
…But I’m just being technical now, it’s what I do— get this album. Like, right now. Support this artist. There’s some serious noise being made in Florida— from Duvall, home of ‘Mr. Evelyn Flow’ himself DJ Al Pete, to Jacksonville, the domain of Jasonplusone.
…While I’m in the neighborhood, shout to my homegirl Ladybyrd too. Standin’ tall in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I might need to fall through FL sometime soon…