Honestly I wanted to rip Reverend Jim’s album, “Day That End in Why.” After listening to it for a day or two, I found his voice to be more irritating than Roseanne’s, and his offbeat rhyme schemes lacked the natural flow of Kool Keith’s. In other words, the guy sounded like an amateur. Then I gave it one more listen during a long car ride, and suddenly everything on the album began to gel. It wasn’t like the LP morphed into a certified classic, but you almost had to forgive the several technical faults of the album, because when it came down to it the record was real. Picture R.A. the Rugged Man as your friendly next-door neighbor and you get the gist of who Reverend Jim is. He exposes his weaknesses as a person, and while that doesn’t make up for his weaknesses as an emcee, it allows this album to become a very personal work that can put all of our problems in perspective.
The intro actually features Reverend Jim showing off his skills on the turntables, and there’s no rapping at all. Nevertheless, he manages to incorporate samples that reflect who he is in the midst of his scratches. After listening to the samples used, it’s safe to assume that he’s been on drugs in the past, but now he “kicks ass for the Lord.” It’s a unique way to introduce himself as an artist, and since he’s so obscure, the distinctive intro helps his work stand out immediately. It’s also an early glimpse at Reverend Jim’s production style, which is the creative force behind eight of the album’s eleven tracks.
Jim spits his lyrics at a rapid pace on “Del Sol,” the record’s first actual song. He sounds exasperated when he raps, which gives his words a sense of urgency, but an actual message behind his quick change-of-pace rhyme schemes is hard to decipher. Like Jay-Z once rapped about Nas, “Just because you don’t understand him don’t mean that he nice.” So while Reverend Jim flosses a professor’s vocabulary, his words coupled with his minimalist production don’t add up to a dope opening song. He tries too hard to catch verbal wreck, and his flow sounds forced.
The next track is “Waxworks,” featuring another unknown rapper named Dro. This song is a perfect example of how grating Reverend Jim’s voice can get. It’s a tribute to old-school, throwback hip-hop, and if someone like CL Smooth put down the chorus, rap heads everywhere would be nodding in unison. Reverend Jim, however, gets caught up in the spirit of the song and loses any sort control over his voice that he may have had. While losing oneself in the emotion of a record is usually appreciated, in Reverend Jim’s case it’s the exact opposite. He recites his verses with a higher pitch that just isn’t compatible with his normal tone, which is comparable to that of Aesop Rock. It’s a bad sign when his own song sounds three times better when Dro is on the mic. While Jim sounds like he’s trying to prove his hip-hop roots, Dro simply is hip-hop, gliding through the instrumental’s chopped-up piano samples and subtle bass.
Therein lies the album’s biggest problem. Of course the audience wants a cat to spit his heart out, but it’s not worth it when he does so and ends up sounding worse than nails scratching a chalkboard. It’s almost like he’s trying to annoy listeners with the way he talks. At his worst, he overstresses syllables, and jams bars with so many lines that he ends up rushing his verses instead of riding the beat.
To understand the enigma that is Reverend Jim, however, one must look beyond all of his technical deficiencies and his lack of charisma. Once that’s accomplished, listeners will be able to tell that the dude doesn’t care what you think – he raps to express his emotions and for his own pleasure. So while he has his setbacks, songs like “Hope” are an example of how he can appeal to the common man, simply because he has problems that everyone can relate to.
“Just another day and just another date
With a bitch that I’m probably gonna grow to hate
Just another day and just another buck
Just another silly way for people to say I suck
Just another day, just another drink
Life passin’ me by every time that I blink
Just another day and it’s just some more work
Tryin’ to squeeze another cent out of just another jerk
Just another day, just some more lies
A little more drama for these cats to deny
Just another day and it’s just another bath
That I have to give to my elderly dad?”
Reverend Jim obviously knows which guest rappers work well with his beats, because his cohorts Kenshiro and Imperial shine on “Writer’s Block.” The Reverend is outclassed by both of them, which leads me to believe he has a better future as a producer than as an emcee. The somber guitar and drum arrangement provides a platform for the emcees to flow about God, broken dreams, and how rhyming helps them cope with the ups and downs of life. Imperial lives up his name on this track, using his fluid baritone to deliver the last verse and the song’s poetic chorus:
“When I write it’s therapeutic
My words are executed
By my pen to the page, it’s like I’m electrocuted
But I didn’t die
Now words spill off the page
Cause damaged nerves in my brain got me writing crazed”
Things get even more personal on the album’s closer, “Sunday Drive.” The soulful piano loop creates a carefree canvas for Reverend Jim, who waxes poetic about his simple days as a youth. It’s not as engaging as other nostalgic tracks like Ludacris’ “Growing Pains,” but it’s still a refreshing way to end the album. It seemed like Jim was purging his demons during the first ten songs, which allowed him to finally relax on the album’s finale.
“Day That End in Why” will not climb the SoundScan, and it won’t start any sort of underground buzz for Reverend Jim. If you find this album, however, and it feels like you’ve had more than your fair share of trials lately, give this record a listen. Don’t expect a virtuoso performance; Jim is far from a hip-hop genius, and the album has its flaws. What you’ll receive is a wake-up call that you’re not the only one going through problems, and that the Everyday Struggle is real for ninety-nine percent of the world’s population. In this day in age of rap, albums like these are hard to find, not just because of its obscurity, but also because of its honesty.