The music industry certainly had a wild year in 2020, but if there is a single genre that actually managed to come out on top on the other side of the craziest 12-months the world has known in decades, it’s hip-hop. Indie rappers have been simmering from inside of quarantine, and in 2021, they’re coming out of the woodwork with a forceful sound ala tracks like JLC’s “Emotions” you really need to hear if you love top-notch pop. JLC and Jay Bang are teamed up for an epic one here, and if you weren’t listening to either artist beforehand, something tells me that just might change because of this song.
There’s not a lot of tightness to this mix, but instead an airy, throwback-style feel to the vocal and the percussion that makes everything sound just a bit more fluid when it would otherwise rely on a rigid step from the beat. You could make the argument that this would lead to a shapeless hook nine times out of ten and be somewhat right, but that’s not what transpires in “Emotions” at all; contrarily, it makes the melodicism underneath the chorus here a little more tangible to the listener than it would have in another scenario.
This beat is never exaggerated, but instead made to be the bread and butter of the song that it traditionally would be asked to be. JLC and Jay Bang both use the delivery of their verses to pivot with the groove in “Emotions,” which takes a lot of the pressure off of the bassline and puts it back where it always belonged in the rap game – up front with the mic. Some players like to stunt with synthetics or just all-out mayhem from the percussive element in a jam paced like this one, but that sort of laziness has no place in this act.
The framework here might be a little retro – albeit only noticeable to an old-timer like me – but this hook is definitely ultra-modern and enough to tether the spirit of the performance we’re getting from JLC to the emerging trend in surreal hip-hop songwriting. There’s a harmony just itching to come alive in “Emotions,” and perhaps if remixed it could even become the centerpiece of the song in general. Subtle details like this hint at an experimentalism I want this player to explore more than he already has, mostly just to see what kind of magic it might yield in the studio.
You don’t have to be the biggest rap fanatic to love the swing of JLC’s “Emotions,” but if you’re an aficionado of the genre, there aren’t enough rough-cut, indie pieces quite as fine as this one is. In an era that features a lot of rappers more than willing to join up with whatever bandwagon aesthetic their crew is turned-on by at the moment, this OG is playing the game in a straightforward fashion and distancing himself from excesses completely unnecessary to the advancement of his message.
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