Tony Maristela/Star in the Sky Photography
Real J. Wallace in deep concentration
Rapper Real J. Wallace, one half of young local duo Brother Nature, recently released yet another project, RælBlz (pronounced "real blues"). The project is a collaboration with Godlee Barnes, the producer moniker of celebrated L.A. rapper Blu. Barnes handles all the production while RJW supplies the rhymes. RælBlz is available for preview and purchase on Bandcamp here.
Previously, I had mostly known Brother Nature for rhyming over other artists' instrumentals, at which point I advised them to stop and go find an actual producer who will tailor their sound and come up with something original. Hah, shows what I know. I'm not exactly sure how this project came together, but I'm guessing the existence of RJW's The Laundry Room, a free mixtape from 2010 in which RJW raps over older instrumentals by Blu, had something to do with it. Since Blu is something of a darling of the underground (or, um, of blogs at least), this is poised to be RJW's most high-profile release to date.
Besides just being a good look for RJW's career, RælBlz is a good look for his music as well. Though most fans clamor for Blu to rehash his breakout 2007 album Below The Heavens ad infinitum, his work has been much weirder and more interesting since then. It makes sense that someone as quirky as RJW (to wit: he recorded a video detailing his Amy Sedaris fetish) would be attracted to Blu's post-Heavens output.
As such, RælBlz benefits from a tendency towards experimentation, spontaneity, and messiness. The opener, "Bu!!sh--", features four distinct sections in its short 2:20 span. It starts with a barren bass groove, goes into a sort of summery jazz with staccato keyboard hits, juggles samples of the first two sections in the third section, then breaks back down into the bass groove to end it. This level of experimentation isn't characteristic of the entire project, but there's enough of it to freshen up the jazzy, soulful hip-hop formula.
Despite frequently invoking the language and ideals of the Occupy movement, RJW is never overtly political. Instead his politics are mixed up in hip-hop braggadocio, weed, philosophy and spirituality. Like Blu's production, RJW's lyrics blur lines. It's not completely novel but it's done well and it meshes well. If you're looking for a "classic", RælBlz is not it and has no aspirations to be. Instead, it basks in the freedom and looseness of imperfection.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog SD Raps.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.