Record review: Jahshua Smith, The Fourth Wall

Jahshua Smith, The Fourth Wall

An Emcee Cometh
: Once again, Jahshua Smith brings his street wisdom to politics, race, and love with The Fourth Wall (released on Friday, Sept. 16).

In hip-hop, nobody cares about your substance if you don’t have any style to go with it. The comments sections of rap music blogs are filled with mentions of emcees who couldn’t garner enough fans to go with their lyrical good intentions. Hip-hop is like that. It can be easy to make them bounce, but ya’ pen better be sharp if you’re trying to make them think.

Enter The Fourth Wall, the second installment of beats and bars from Detroiter Jahshua Smith. On his first album The Final Season, Smith creatively weaved in and out of social and street themes using the guise of a fictional sketch-based TV show. He’s brought more of the same this time around, but better. Production on the album was handled mostly by StewRat, but there re also contributions from the Sound Addict, KuroiOto, and the Race Card. Fellow artists PhourTheLove, Yellokake, Mic Write, Nolan the Ninja, Adam Reverie, James Gardin, and Red Pill all make lyrical appearances.

The album begins with the banger “Don’t Forget.” “Half of us is in the pot, but root for the kettle/That’s self-hating long hanging fruit for the devil. It's basic Adam and Eve shit/We all trying to live decent but still headed to the precinct,” Smith raps. The cut sets the tone as Smith goes into the ups and downs of life in the Big Axle and America as a whole.

“Zero Gravity” deals with the power of dreams; “Feel” is full of whimsical and feel good vibes; and “Super Powers” is straight hardcore rhymes over an R&B beat. Smith consistently changes pace and topics. “Play” is a groovy cut about a good DJ, a fly whip, good liquor, and getting the girl at the end of the night. Meanwhile, “Grey Goose Quesadillas” is a mild but effective Detroit party anthem.

“Josephine/Used to Have” is an LL Cool J-ish crooning cut for the ladies powered by an airy Amel Larrieux sample and the cool piano keys/melodic chorus from “Down” adds to Smith’s romantic prowess. Although Smith's versatility is commendable; the fire of the album occurs when he’s more M-1 than Fabolous. Smith’s own flavor of street consciousness shines on “December Rain” shines bright. "Blurred line tween the savage and scholars attract dollars/The street lights dim and detective catch collars/The soul of big business is as cold as the winters is/Corpses, dope fiends, that O.D. with no witnesses," he raps.

The addictive bassline and touches of violin help make “Black Diamonds” the best-produced cut on the album. It’s also the most lyrically creative. It's the ultimate homie cut with bars from Adam Reverie, James Gardin, and Red Pill. Smith closes things out with the same heat he began with in “Forever;” “I don’t know why the caged birds sing/Single mother broken feathers might exchange those wings. While the sun fights the tyranny of men/They fear me from within/Politicians steady serving up opinions on your skin.”

Ultimately The Fourth Wall wins simply because the production is solid and Smith can apply his poetic arsenal to any subject matter; especially those that hit home and trigger thoughts.