In 2012, Jefe released mixtape, Law. Then in 2013, Jefe put out mixtape, Law 2, a direct sequel. It featured Migos, Yo Gotti, Kevin Gates, Starlito and others. Come 2014, Jefe released his mixtape, Young Jefe.
The latter had hit single, “Awwsome”, which turned into the biggest song of Jefe’s career and peaked at number 45 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The A$AP Rocky and 2 Chainz remix got more than 750,000 streams on Soundcloud, in the first week it was released.
Under this more current guise, Jefe has released debut EP The World Is Yours, which came out today (January 6). Jefe’s style is hip-hop very much in its modern incarnation.
Opening gambit, “Get Money 4Life”, features YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and starts grave and foreboding, with what sounds like church organ. Then there’s the rattle and clap of drum, and the singsong raps begin. “I’m big dog, you a lower n*gga” is like a statement of intent, and apparently his stage name is defined, funnily enough, as “a boss or leader; a person in charge of something”.
An interesting aside appears just past the midpoint in the form of piano, piano that eventually swirls skywards into the ethereal.
Jefe’s “Errywhere”, and it, in turn, swirls, before fatal piano tinkles its melody and forces your feet to remain firmly on the ground. The clap of the drum lends further feel of the moody, a brooding track. A lyrical highlight is, “I come from DC, ask about it, we ain’t scared/Take them pistols errywhere”. Putting their city on the rap map, indeed.
Perhaps the listener is the “One”, which also has piano prominent, though hinting towards happy rather than desolate and frustrated. The bass slides up and down, like the ignition cough of a super expensive sports car.
The imploring “Give It Up”, featuring 3 Glizzy, sees the EP turning towards a more serious note, again. The singsong raps appear to have a hint of autotune, not excessive but noticeable. The echo of the backdrop fades in and out, the only constant the rapped vocals.
It goes on to seemingly ring deeper than before, really doomy. Another lyrical highlight appears in the form of, “Made a promise to my mama, we gon’ live it up”. You can’t accuse the rapper of not loving his favourite woman, his mother.
Seeming sequel, “Take It Off”, sounds menacing, which’s strange given the largely tinkling backdrop. Akin to the shimmer of The Exorcist film score, in some respects. Like the track previous, it seems to concern itself with the ladies. Asking them to give it up and take it off.
The urging of “Love Me”, featuring Ralo, has an interesting vocal melody akin to singing with the rhythm of a rapper imploring, “I just want you to love me”. The backdrop really seeks heavenwards, your soul ascended not the whole way because your work on Earth, however testing, isn’t over.
Second from last is “Over The Hills”, featuring Kash Doll, and has an epic backdrop, as if to signify striving towards aforementioned ascension. “Now, n*gga, be real with me/Would you kill for me?/If sh*t got too real, would you steal for me?/If I’m hungry, would you share your last meal with me?” arguably some of the best lyrics on the EP, courtesy of the cameo appearance. Kash’s is probably the best verse so far.
The World Is Yours ends with “Congratulations”, and is like striving against all odds, with an air of tragedy and suffering.
“When you’re shinin’ too hard, you can see it in they faces/Still standin’ on them couches, with no muhf*ckin’ aces” seems to imply having no backup plan, no rabbit in the hat. Almost, perhaps equalling, Kash’s lines from the song before.
“I came from the bottom, had to muhf*ckin’ take it” perhaps best displaying struggling and striving from nothing.
The key tracks are “Give It Up”, “Take It Off”, “Over The Hills” and “Congratulations”. This is a good return, half of the entire project, for an EP. An only slight criticism is that, from the highlights selected, it’s very much bottom heavy and you’re waiting the duration of three songs before it really kicks off.
Indeed, track four, “Give It Up”, is when it truly starts for this reviewer. With things turning serious, again, by this point, you know there’s a good mix of light and shade. The echoing backdrop fades in and out, almost complementing the vocals with its intermittency. The lyric of, “Made a promise to my mama, we gon’ live it up” perhaps a tad refreshing in the genre as of late.
Following track, “Take It Off”, asks the ladies, partly, to give it up and take it off. The seeming paradox of the largely tinkling backdrop, like the shimmer of The Exorcist theme tune, courtesy of Mike Oldfield, is intriguing. The way it’s paired with the track prior isn’t exactly a progressive feat of sequencing or theme, but is satisfying enough when you make the connection from previous to current.
You only have to quote the following to justify the selection of “Over The Hills”, courtesy of a cameo appearance arguably stealing the limelight and upstaging the main artist: “Now, n*gga, be real with me/Would you kill for me?/If sh*t got too real, would you steal for me?/If I’m hungry, would you share your last meal with me?” The delivery is so unlike much of the album, she spits forth pure rap.
To be fair, the last track, “Congratulations”, sees Jefe redeem himself: “When you’re shinin’ too hard, you can see it in they faces/Still standin’ on them couches with no muhf*ckin’ aces”. Lyric-wise, especially the last segment, expertly conveys not having an ace in the hole, just sheer determination. “I came from the bottom, had to muhf*ckin’ take it” a summation of his life story.
Even elsewhere, with first three tracks “Get Money 4Life”, “Errywhere” and “One”, there are examples of sequencing and linking theme, in particular. “Get Money 4Life” at midpoint has a soundscape swirling. “Errywhere”, in turn, swirls similarly, too. It also, with fatal piano, links to following track, “One”, which also has prominent piano. In fact, all three have piano to some extent.
Last track to be covered in any further detail, “Love Me”, also helps sequence and link theme. Its backdrop seeks to ascend, but not getting the whole way. Follow-up, “Over The Hills”, has an epic backdrop, indicative of striving towards aforementioned ascension. In fact, the general story of struggling, striving, suffering and tragedy before success, with minimal help, is repeated throughout.
Jefe and his certain strain of rap are usually something quite alien to this reviewer. In fact, a lot of it can be quite irritating. Thankfully, the autotune is kept to a reasonable minimum, and you don’t find yourself cursing Nelly too much for the scourge of the singsong rapper. The balance of singing and rapping’s a lot better than you’d expect. Jefe’s The World Is Yours EP can be purchased on iTunes, here.
Words by Andrew Watson