Album Review: ZotheJerk’s “Black Beach”

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“Black Beach” promises a spate of socially conscious songs and it delivers. There is hardly any fluff on ZotheJerk’s latest effort. He and producer Frost Gamble teamed up to create an album with thoughtful, relevant material.
 
Unlike some conscious hip-hop, ZotheJerk does more than give his tracks powerful names. At first glance it’s obvious that “Blaxploitation”, “Loyal Victims” and “America Made Me” are heavy-hitting songs. The content of the songs doesn’t disappoint. ZotheJerk stays on topic as he discusses police violence, generational wealth and other problems that have plagued the Black community for decades. In these songs, ZotheJerk offers a glimpse into the hard-living that many have experienced in their own inner city. For this rapper Detroit is the place that he has watched crumble and struggle to rebuild itself. And yet, ZotheJerk doesn’t dwell on the negative nor does he romanticize the struggle. He paints pictures of his America while hoping that she will change.
 
While the theme of the album is undeniably the Black struggle, there is still room for a few straightforward bangers. “Risk vs Reward” and “My Negus” are examples of lighter fare. “If ft. Boldy James” is a track that works as a representation of the whole album. The beat is catchy, the flow of the song is smooth and the lyrics are a blend of lighthearted jabs and social commentary. It’s not a club song, but it’s a song that could be played in many settings.
 
Thematically the album scores major points for promoting something other than the Trap lifestyle. Stylistically the album has a few miscues. ZotheJerk has a fine rapping voice; he combines a poetic leaning with vocals reminiscent of Philly-rapper Freeway. Sometimes, however, stretches of a song emulsify into a gelatinous mixture. On “Loyal Victims” a section of the song resembles a spoken word poem. Combined with the gospel-esque chorus and the song’s production, the track’s message is almost lost among its various parts. Other times, the verses aren’t quite as strong as they could be. The second verse of “Blaxploitation” lacks rhyme and rhythm; it’s a shame because the song has such a powerful message. Other tracks, by varying degrees, suffer a similar fate. Several tracks don’t quite have the punch that could propel them to become major hits.
 
“Black Beach” is ZotheJerk’s fourth album and his first album working with Frost Gamble. The duo previously worked together on a soundtrack for an unreleased documentary. The album was recorded in Detroit where ZotheJerk first rose to prominence. He worked as an extra on “8 Mile” and performed in local clubs before signing with Proof, the legendary deceased rapper from The Motor City.
 
“Black Beach” encapsulates the idea of resilience. Black Americans, citizens of Detroit, and ZotheJerk himself have remained resilient in the face of adversity. This album illustrates that struggle in vivid detail. The album offers social commentary while providing the listener with some easier tracks to throw on when their trying to unwind. The album is consistent and relevant and a solid listen.
 
Grade 3/5.
 
“Black Beach” will be available on 22 Entertainment on May 26th 2017.

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