What’s the deal folks?! Back with another salute to an album turning twenty this year. These aren’t just regular albums that come and go with the wind. These albums that I’ve been saluting have had some sort of significance impact within Hip Hop in some sort of positive fashion. In ’96, there was a tonnage of classics and unbelievable albums that we still talk about to this day. This is another heavyweight album. The debut album from this gentleman in ’94 was among the most heralded albums of that entire era of Hip Hop. His sophomore album attempted to recreate that same feat of strength. Did it ultimately happen?
It was in ’92 that we first heard Kendrick Davis on Gangstarr’s crazy Daily Operation album. It was his verse on “I’m The Man” that heads were speculating upon when the debut from this protege of Gangstarr would drop. We got that answer in the form of “Come Clean”, which to this day is seen as Premo’s most original and most clever production piece within his nearly thirty-year career. We had no idea one could over Chinese water torture and a rugged drum pattern, but Jeru The Damaja pulled it off quite nicely. When he finally dropped The Sun Rises In The East, the album was in the most elite of east coast albums during that time period, along with Enta Da Stage, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Illmatic, and Midnight Marauders. The question was, “Could he do it again with album number two?”
During the time of ’96, we were seeing materialism reach a disturbing high within Hip Hop and was starting to replace knowledge, education, and gritty raps for more brand names like Versace, Gucci, Moet, and Cristal, that had been oversaturated by the likes of Puffy (Diddy), Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, and Biggie. Deeply bothered by this, Jeru had every intention to make an album that would bring it back to the essence in a very KRS-One type of style. The first bomb we heard was the venomous “One Day, which blatantly called out Puffy, Foxy, and Bad Boy over eerie Premo production, who just like The Sun Rises In The East, produces the entire album.
Before long, his sophomore album, Wrath Of The Math, was released, and it was clear he had more of a chip on his shoulder. While his debut was about establishing his position and taking his place in the progression of east coast Hip Hop, this one was more angry. Commercial Hip Hop got his gun clap in various tracks on the album such as “Scientifically Madness”, the Fugees-dis “Black Cowboys”, and “Whatever”.
This was a rasta cat that was utterly frustrated, as evidenced in “The Frustrated Nigga” in the direction Hip Hop was going in. Perhaps he had a right to be. He came up in a time when it was less about gimmicks and materialism and more about hunger and raw talent. During this age, while there was a lot of that still there, materialism was rising and people were getting sucked into it.
The main reason this album isn’t as noteworthy quite like his debut is because of how times changed rapidly during this occasion due to companies like Bad Boy and Deathrow. Conscious rap still had a place, it was just getting dominated by commercial Hip Hop, and that particular brand of the genre was selling millions and establishing stars. His topics were close to being dated and were starting to get seen as bitterness instead of constructive criticism.
Production-wise, this still stands as some of Premo’s best work. It’s a shame Jeru and Premo fell out because what us older heads wouldn’t do for a Jeru/Primo collar in today’s age. As it is, Wrath Of The Math was an album that was strictly for anti-commercialism, anti-formulaic Hip Hop and leave it The Damaja to let us all know what time it was. Now seen as an elder statesman, Jeru remains as one of Hip Hop’s true back to basics teachers.