"My mom named me Jesse, Hebrew for emcee
Majestic since birth, quick as a jet ski"
And so begins the opening track on Manhattan-born Jesse Abraham's debut EP, coming on the heels of several 2010 mixtapes that garnered respect among the New York underground hip-hop community. It doesn't take long to realize that Abraham is not your typical emcee; one can probably count the number of white Jewish rappers on one hand. In no way, though, is this meant to suggest that he is unworthy of blessing the mic. Growing up during the golden age of hip-hop gave him a deep passion and appreciation for hip-hop and the culture that surrounds it, and these old-school influences can definitely be heard in his beats and rhymes. Simply put, Abraham has been a hip-hop head from day one (he claims to have written his first rhyme at the age of nine), and his understanding for the music itself allows him to come across as an intelligent and well-versed rapper.
The EP's main single is titled "Spiderman on Vitamins" (a name that is still a mystery to me) and features a funky acoustic guitar pluck over a heavy set of drums. Any doubts of whether Abraham can match the fast paced nature of the beat are put to rest 1:50 in, as he kicks it up a notch with a verse that showcases his impressive flow and lyrical dexterity. It's not often you hear a rapper spitting about his childhood memories from Hebrew school – whether it's chasing girls or questioning the idea of God – and "Spiderman on Vitamins" has a fresh and unique feel to that is hard to ignore. "Play On" also sees Abraham chronicle his grade-school exploits and later romantic endeavors, this time over a driving bassline and menacing piano with a high-pitched synth in the background. He isn't afraid to hold anything back as he spits about past failed relationships, rapping:
"If love is blind, then I was Helen Keller
Or Anne Frank, a cellar dweller
Afraid of independence, for years she seemed so heaven sent
But it was evident that merriment was missing"
Abraham continues to flaunt his skills on the mic on "I Wanna Hear Y'all," as he effortlessly spits tongue twisting lines such as:
"I'm improper like a fraction with friction
I'm magic with diction
I'm practically flipping phonics backwards
Rippin' and robbin', rockin' and rollin', stoppin' and strollin'
My rhymes got you pausing often like commas and colons"
At this point, it may seem as if Jesse Abraham can do no wrong, but unfortunately this is not the case. While he does a good job switching his flow up to keep things from growing monotonous, his voice and delivery are simply not well-suited for some of the more hardcore tracks on the EP, such as "Written While Sittin' on a Hammock," and "Figure It Out." And while he does have a knack for spinning stories, there are a few times where it seems as if Abraham is too concerned with showing off his speedy delivery by merely stringing together words that rhyme , rather than taking his time and slowing things down with more meaningful lyrics.
There are still certainly a number of bright spots, though, especially when it comes to instrumentals. "Connections" has a more new-school sound than the rest of the album, with a set of pop/R&B synths driving the track, but remains true to the EP's roots with hard-hitting drums, and a flowing grand piano and a chorus from Jeanette Berry give the track almost a majestic feel. "One Day" features a raw, old-school drum loop over an electronic-esque sample that sounds like a high-pitched electric piano sped all the way up, making for an interesting contrast that allows Abraham's flow to shine through. On the other hand, "Life Is A Free Throw (Remix)" has a much more upbeat feel, with strings and a simple guitar loop to complement a deep bass, and is one of the catchiest tracks on the EP.
The bottom line is that "One Day" is a solid effort from an up-and-coming New York underground emcee, nothing more and nothing less. There are times when Jesse Abraham seems like a pro on the mic, and there are times where his delivery fades and his lyrics grow repetitive and tedious. If nothing else, it's interesting to hear his background and unique perspective as a rapper incorporated into his lyrics, and this alone makes his debut EP worth checking out. And given the old-school feel of a number of tracks, those looking to resurrect the golden age should at least give a cursory listen to the "One Day" EP.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: March 15th, 2011