Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Cazzie Jetson – theMighty



StraightFresh.net - Representing the purpVarsity family, Cazzie Jetson recently dropped his latest album, theMighty. The new album includes features from the majority of purpVarsity’s crew, as well as a few other talented artists.  Hit the cut to stream the project & for the #SFDotNet review of theMighty.




I’ll be honest, before being tapped to review theMighty, I had very little exposure to Cazzie Jetson, with the exception of a couple tracks by THEBLKHANDS.  Because I did not know what to expect from the artist whose work I was going to review, I wanted to get a feel for his music prior to listening to the new album.  After checking out a few tracks, I was impressed.  And I was relieved – I can’t imagine it would be too much fun reviewing an album if you weren’t feeling the artist or the music.  Nonetheless, I still did not know what to expect from Cazzie’s latest work.  But I was looking forward to checking it out.
Cazzie Jetson, whose real name is James Thomas Chandler, is a songwriter, lyricist and producer, hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Cazzie has played a crucial role in the creation and evolution of purpVarsity, a team that consists of himself, Gic, Breed, Leaf Madtic, SirPHresh, LH, Presh – the first lady of purpVarsity – and illA.  In addition to his solo career, Cazzie makes up one-third of THEBLKHANDS, alongside illA and Dominic Serendip.  Over the past couple months, THEBLKHANDS have released “I’m Gone”, featuring Big KRIT, and “Smoke Good Live Good”, featuring Smoke DZA as well as a lifetime member of the Straight Fresh team, Fenix.  Features like those are nothing to sneeze at, and although it’s not hard to see that Cazzie and the whole purpVarsity team are ‘making moves’, Mr. Jetson has been doing his thing as a solo artist – with support from his team, of course.  Thus far in his career, Cazzie Jetson has released five mixtapes – How to Survive Fallout 1, The Purprint 1-3, Jetsonia – and two albums – Jay LaRue vs The dreamKiller & Son Of My Mother.  His newest album, theMighty, was released to the public on Monday night.
As noted, I had limited knowledge about Cazzie Jetson – as an artist and as a person – prior to listening to theMighty.  After listening to the album all the way through for the first time, I felt like I had known Cazzie for years.  The honest and open lyricism was the first aspect of the album I took notice of.  Cazzie makes sure the listener knows who he is, where he came from, and where he’s currently at in his life and career.  You get to know the artist behind the music – in my opinion, this should be the goal of any musician looking to gain a larger audience and make an impact with their work.  theMighty opens with “Oh How The Mighty”, and after some quick narration by Dominic Serendip, Cazzie wastes no time offering a lyrical backdrop detailing where and what he comes from, as well as what he is aiming to accomplish in life and in music.  By the time the first track on the album ends, the listener has visions of Cazzie dodging gunfire, losing friends and family, and even growing up watching the television show ‘Reading Rainbow’, which he credits for having made him “smart as fuck”.
Throughout the album, Cazzie delivers personal and emotional lyrics that showcase his willingness to share even his most vulnerable thoughts and experiences.  Tracks such as “Like It’s Golden” and “Baby Boy” exemplify the straightforward and candid storytelling that encompasses theMighty overall.  On “Baby Boy”, Cazzie raps:
Since ’09 I’ve been a shell of me, scared to get close to another
It’s easy to say it’s cause I never got close to my mother but it’s deeper than that,
Easy to say it’s the rap I grew up on, the rappers I love, but it’s deeper than rap
It’s easy to say it’s my father and me but, I don’t think that’s true,
The DNA in your blood don’t make you you, that’s my philosophy
Obviously I’m a broken man, but here I am standing tall,
Looking like it’s nothing, but secretly I’m on crutches
It’s honest and personal lyrics like these that help the listener understand why Cazzie is a “purple hearted veteran” who has been “wounded in the war of life”.  More importantly, it’s the sincere lyricism that makes the listener believe Cazzie.  He is putting himself out there for the world to see – to judge, to critique, to love, to hate – and he doesn’t hold back from describing the good, the bad, the insecurities, the uncertainties, the hopes and the dreams that make him the person he is.
That was my initial impression after listening to the album once – honest lyrics that allow the listener access to the man behind the microphone.  After listening to theMighty a few more times, it became obvious that Cazzie’s lyrics need to be listened to.  If you just let the album play through, you’ll enjoy what you hear – catchy beats, tight flow.  But if you don’t take the time to actually listen to the lyrics, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  Cazzie makes plenty of serious observations and confessions that aren’t so explicit the first time through.  By listening closely to the lyrics, it becomes apparent how intelligent, creative, and deep the purpVarsity artist is.  Over the course of the album, Cazzie uses his lyrics to comment not only on his own life but also politics, religion, race, the music industry, and a number of other issues many artists seem to shy away from these days.
“SWAYZE”, one of my personal favorite tracks from theMighty, epitomizes what Cazzie is capable of doing with his music.  The self-produced song has a beat that instantly draws the listener in – and then Cazzie starts dropping knowledge.  I don’t like to compare artists because I believe it discredits an individual who is trying to create their own image, but lyrically “SWAYZE” reminds me of Kanye West – if you were to mash-up early Kanye with the Kanye of today.   His insightful examination of reality is evident with lyrics like
Hangin’ on a branch or the corner,
Only thing they have in common is they both involve the coroner
He touches on the tragedy that was Rosewood, and connects being lynched from tree branches to marijuana (‘tree’) and hustling on the corner, and then goes on to proclaim, “We the generation of visitation” – Cazzie takes a blunt look (no pun intended) at the way people live, as well as their inability to realize the blatant consequences that surround them.
Another track that stood out as one of the album’s highlights is “Nice Mad, Good Bad”.  Cazzie begins with the unfortunate reality that although people live focusing on the future, many won’t live long enough to experience adulthood.  Then, illustrating his creativity, he transitions to a dialogue about religion using a wrestling reference.
…Frog splashes the pavement like Christian when he wrestles,
They want me to go to church and confess my sins and settle,
But not me,
I’d rather walk in darkness in confidence than religion filled with questionable people
I appreciate any wrestling reference in music, but using the wrestler Christian to shift into his thoughts on religion is ingenious.  It seems so obvious, yet incredibly well thought out – I can only describe it as complex simplicity.
On a number of tracks, Cazzie takes aim at the rap industry – most notably on “Ignorant” and “For The Kids”.  “Ignorant” is a perfect example of a song that requires the listener to pay close attention to really grasp the message behind the lyrics.  The beat, produced by Cazzie, sounds like something that would not contain intelligent lyricism – it sounds ignorant.  The cocky attitude expressed early in the song – “disrespectful as hell and he ain’t sayin’ shit” – sounds like something you’d hear from a Waka or Gucci type ‘rapper’.  As the song continues, however, the tracks purpose is revealed.  Cazzie is commenting on the ignorant rap music that controls the airwaves, the clubs, and the charts.  Rappers are ignorant and, most the time, not saying shit.  The production and his flow resemble the ignorant rap songs, but his lyrics – especially later in the song – make this a creative condemnation of the music industry.  Rap is used by critics to blame black people for societal ills, whether it’s drugs, violence, sexism, etc.  Ignorant rappers help to support the accusations of critics and racists alike.  “Only thing worse than a black man is a black man with no conscience” – black people already have to deal with stereotypes and discrimination, ignorant rappers are playing a detrimental role to the black population as a whole.  Cazzie doesn’t place the blame solely on ignorant rappers, though, ending the track with a shot at the industry and fans that support the music.  Ignorance sells, but ignorance sells because that’s the product music companies distribute and fans are willing to purchase.
I ride around like I’m ignorant, but we both know that I’m not,
But if I make a song that sounds stupid, that’s the only way it’s goin’ hot
On “For The Kids”, Cazzie argues that rappers are setting bad examples for the youth listening to the music.  Rappers that do nothing positive – “Fuck you doin’?, Nothin’ much” – claim they make their music for the kids.  In reality, these rappers are making music to make money – “Bitch I’m getting paid” – even if the music and lifestyle they live has a negative influence on those listening.  Because of this, Cazzie does not respect the rappers he describes as “big chain wearing no giving back to the community ass nigga”.  If the music was for the kids, the artists creating the music should understand and respect the influence they have on the youth.  “For The Kids” stands out to me as one of the most meaningful songs on theMighty because it explores the impact music can have on the future of the world – the youth.
With claims you do this for the kids, they wanna be you,
But you killing them slow cause you wanna be cool, damn
theMighty is overflowing with intellectual, thought provoking lyrics that examine the circumstances that shape the reality of the world Cazzie finds himself in.  Based on lyrics alone, theMighty stands out as an intelligent, creative, open and honest album.  Cazzie is willing to let listeners into his life and into his head in order to give them a better idea of who he is.  Beyond the lyrics, however, are the beats and overall production on the album.  The beat selection is absolutely on point.  On each track, the sonic backdrop helps to fortify the powerful lyrics.  Cazzie proves he is more than just a rapper with a number of self-produced tracks, including one of my favorite beats from the project, “Uncrowned”.  In addition to Cazzie, a number of other producers took advantage of the opportunity to shine – iLLA and Talen Ted, most notably.  I’m not trying to kiss ass, but there is not a beat on theMighty that doesn’t incite some sort of physical reaction.  Whether the music makes you want to get up and move – “Champions of The World” or “Ponyboy” – or causes you to sit back, bob your head and just vibe out – “Baby Boy” or “Black Caesar” – the variety of sounds helps cement theMighty as an incredibly well-rounded album, lyrically and in regards to the production.
Before writing this review, I wanted to obtain other people’s opinions about theMighty.  However, I did not want people to know I was writing a review – I just wanted honest, uninfluenced reactions.  In order to accomplish this, I let the album play when I was hanging out with friends in my basement.  There is always music playing and new music being introduced in the basement, so playing this album wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary.  As it played, I was honestly caught off guard by the positive reactions – people wanted to know more about who this guy was.  Once I was satisfied with the feedback I’d received, I explained to my friends that they had been listening to an advance copy of Cazzie Jetson’s most recent album, and I would be reviewing the album for StraightFresh.net.  People were impressed at the overall quality of the album – ‘legitimate’ and ‘professional’ were used by more than one person to describe the album.  The majority of them could not believe this came from an artist who exists outside the mainstream rap world.  Before revealing any details about Cazzie and theMighty, one friend even asked if “1980” and “Ignorant” were recent releases from the upcoming G.O.O.D Music album Cruel Summer.  Again, I don’t like making comparisons, but I would consider that a compliment.
I was asked to review Cazzie Jetson’s theMighty before I knew anything about the artist.  This album, with its honest and revealing lyrics, taught me a lot about who Cazzie is, where he came from, and what he’s hoping to do.  The album is satiated with intelligent, creative, clever and meaningful tracks that exhibit Cazzie’s intellectual depth, both as a musician and a human.  Despite being Cazzie’s album, theMighty is also a platform on which the entire purpVarsity team is able to display their talents.  I believe that adds a lot to the album – when all is said and done, purpVarsity is a family.  Individual success means nothing if you’re not doing it for – and with – the team.
If I had to take one line from the album that could sum up the project, and Cazzie, as a whole, it would have to be from “Powerful” -
 ≈Living for the moment, but existing for tomorrow≈

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