Soul. It is what defines an artist. Staying true to yourself by making music that resonates with matters that reside within you and in the minds of your audience is the difference between a true Carolina artist and those who do it solely for glory. If there’s one thing our North Carolinian artists have plenty of, it’s soul, and Jrusalam’s 3rd album, Lugalan, is covered in hot buttery soul. Lugalan is not just about witty lyricism and the love for local hip-hop, rather, it’s a story about how growing up in Carolina and finding your family can inspire you to express your most personal thoughts. For Jru, this album is a rare blend of catharsis and high-spirited energy.
Produced by King Leaf, Jrusalam’s gritty vocals over hard-hitting lyrics draws you into the mind of a man who embraces his past to explore himself spiritually, is confident enough to be vulnerable, and is clever enough to give his punchlines a unique twist of humor. Not to mention, the beats sound fresh, often with dark melodies under fat 808 basslines and well polished drums. Although the production is sweet, King Leaf is not afraid to stray away from his hip-hop foundations to let Jrusalam lay down vocal melodies. A few of my stand-out favorites off the new record include Hibachi, BM, Lady Luck, Free Luv and DN& (DNA). Hibachi is the macho introduction that pulls you into Lugalan. From aggressive ad-libs to daring mantras like “my dearly are departed, they’re the angels that I carry” the track is dark, honest, audacious and incredibly fun. Lady Luck’s sultry melodies lets Jrusalam share his interesting perspective on how the best things come and go at the moments you need them most. The visuals for Lady Luck go hard too, check ‘em out on YouTube. DN& is a song that everyone in the Carolina hip-hop scene can appreciate as it represents finding your family, whether that be a group of artists who inspire you *cough* the NC State Cypher *cough,* or finding your estranged relatives who also turn out to be musicians. DN& is my favorite off this record as I believe it is one of the more personal songs and displays Jrusalam’s prowess as a introspective lyricist.
Following the theme of his first two albums, Lugalan represents the 3rd Amulet of the Starbody Handbook. This theme that exists throughout gives the album a layer of spiritualism and a desire to self-reflect that you don’t find too often in mainstream hip-hop. Lugalan speaks volumes not to just the integrity and growth of our local scene, but to the tortured and talented few who use music as an outlet to cope and a platform to share how they’ve overcome their life experiences. Picture a young 20-something, struggling to deal with the hardship of never having met a side of his family, having his god-brother die in a car accident and recently getting out of a relationship, still pushing his avid desire to make it as a musician. Taking all your frustrations and laying it down on tape. Now that’s Carolina.
Jrusalam puts together an album that is cohesive and speaks to the heart of Carolina hip-hop. The motivation for this album is far different than Jrusalam’s first two records. Lugalan is a celebration of family. Don’t believe me? Take it from Jrusalam himself. “It represents finally finding my family, and not just that, but they are artists just like me, and we connected and made a whole vibe for it. I got to speak my heart and achieve a sound I had only dreamed about. It’s something for the family more than anything, vibes my brother might like to hear up in heaven.”