'Come clean' & instrumental, Jeru the Damaja, prod. DJ Premier (The sun rises in the east, PayDay/FFRR/Polygram, 1994)

My knowledge is full of holes, more often than not I come to things from another direction, this is perhaps the key virtue of having a lot of time these days, long may it last, to follow my interests, with no external pressure: living within a total 'beginner's mind'. This track is a case in point, as I listened to (and loved) the instrumental first and then came to appreciate the track - an undeniable classic, according to the critics and half the planet - with the vocals.

Now, I'm a fan of Jeru the Damaja - most recently listening to his second record, Wrath of the Math an album with a lot of depth, passionate intelligence and humour (at times). What immediately struck me when listening to this track (and reading the lyrics at the same time) is the way he plays with language in such a creative way. 

Control the mic like Fidel Castro locked Cuba
So deep that you can’t scuba dive

I like the way he uses pausing here, allowing some of the word to disappear almost in a way that goes against the grain of a standard style of speaking, as if it's an after-thought when it's the key idea of the sentence. And then he links words to create rhymes, running words on ...

Pseudo psychos, I play like Michael Jackson
When I’m busting ass and breaking backs
Inhale the putrified aroma

so that 'breaking backs/In .. hale' makes a connection with the earlier Jackson. There's a lot of skill here, captured in these details, a kind of elegance even if the subject covers (relatively) familiar territory, not that that is a problem.

But as I mentioned, I came to this music via the DJ Premier-produced instrumental which is something else.

Immediately it made me think of gamelan music from Indonesia, or John Cage ...

Now that striking, so distinctive sample in fact comes from the drummer, Shelly Manne's Infinity (1973) reinforced up by a very popular Funk sample, used by many hip-hop producers over the years. The way in which DJ Premier manipulates this sound, alongside that moment where there is a kind of explosion of noise & nuttiness ('Oh-oh! Heads up 'cause we're dropping some shit') is unexpected and inspirational.

Here's a video from Complex where Jeru the Damaja talks (with others) through the process of recording 'Come Clean'  ..

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