Jet Age of Tomorrow - Journey to the 5th Echelon
Before I get to the music, I have to acknowledge what an amazing job hip hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All did in building an Internet hype machine. Without any serious label support (Tyler, the Creator recently signed with XL), they’ve spread their music and videos virally, giving away the albums for free via their Tumblr page. After a short period of time, this L.A.-based group of kids (none of them are old enough to drink) convinced the right people that they’re brilliant, landing praise from such publications as Pitchfork, Fader, LA Weekly and Rolling Stone, and securing a performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. After the Fallon performance, the Internet buzzed with discussion about this new group. With this in mind, I try to tackle the latest release from this collective objectively.
From the opening beats of the album, I’m actually intrigued. It’s a spaced-out down tempo jam, reminiscent of Kool Keith, N.E.R.D., or something from Ninja Tune. All stuff that is right in my wheelhouse, so I’m eagerly anticipating what my come from this promising start. Unfortunately, it never really gets any better from the opening bars of the album. Though nineteen tracks long, it feels like one long note. They are all about the same tempo and there’s very little in-song development happening. Jet Age aren’t bad at finding decent starting points, but little is done from there. While I’ve made it several times through this album, I’ve yet to complete all nineteen tracks in one sitting. Somewhere around track ten, I usually need a break to regain focus. I don’t feel so much like I’m listening to a fully-realized album so much as some rough demos. As a result, I often forget what the tracks sound like.
While the majority of the album is instrumental, we do get verses from Hodgy Beats, Mike G, Vince Staples, JQ, Kilo Kish, Casey Veggies, and Tyler, the Creator. No one here is a particularly impressive emcee - there aren’t any interesting rhyme schemes, no clever wordplay, no good story telling, and no emotional investment happening here. I think their biggest problem is that they were noticed for their shock value. What they weren’t taught is the difference between being thought-provoking and empty provocation. If this was the case, powerful words like “rape” would not be used so casually in such a derogatory manner. If they were actually concerned with sexual violence or homophobia in our society, I’d like to think they’d be more careful with the words they choose. As it is, I can only hope that these young emcees haven’t yet comprehended the consequences of their words. There are small moments that make me wonder if they took the time to hone their craft that they could be decent emcees, but they definitely aren’t there yet. Laying some truth on somebody can shock a person to their core and affect them in a positive way. This is something I can say of many of my favorite emcees. You don’t need to look any further than El-P. When he says something controversial, it’s to make a specific point and to make his listeners think and form opinions, not just to make everybody go “Did he just say that?” When you say things solely to get a rise out of people, the shock eventually wears off and you’re left with some ignorant and awkward rhymes.
Time was spent with Jet Age of Tomorrow, and I’m disappointed. There’s more potential in the music than the lyrics, but neither reach an enjoyable level. As a result, we’ve got a release that desperately needs to be pared down yet are full of ignorant and weak rhymes. I’d like to excuse at least part of this to age and hope for maturity, but until more people stop buying the hype and holding them up to higher standards, I’m afraid that they’ll just keep appealing to the lowest common denominator.