“Jessica Gets Jealous” looked intriguing, not necessarily because I find the sight of a shiny blade hiding behind a well-shaped feminine lower back intriguing (I do, for some strange reason), but because it carried the promise of an actual story. At least the teaser sounded promising:
Smoov-E is a carefree bachelor about town with a spun out libido and a tongue of gold. His sexual thrill seeking ways have finally led him into the clutches of the wrong mistress, and soon she reaps revenge upon all the new women he scores. If she can’t have him, no one can! Rap Entering Another Level (R.E.A.L.) presents Jessica Gets Jealous, featuring the thrilling sounds and elements of classic horror films from the 1980s. Smoov-E puts the kool back in killing with his unmistakable production and searing lyrical imagery. Jessica Gets Jealous paints a gripping tale of a young girl with a passion for vengeance. She’d kill for one more time!
Turns out, it’s exactly like one of those trailers that lure you into the theater to watch a movie that falls completely short. You’ll be able to identify the two main characters in some of the scenes, but Smoov-E’s narration is way too disjointed and his acting too one-dimensional to create the kind of illusion Hollywood and hip-hop are able to capture our imagination with. Vocal effects would potentially be a helpful ingredient, but they are used so excessively that all the chopping and filtering only makes the performance more monotonous.
Like previous effort “Breakdance,” “Jessica Gets Jealous” musically takes place in the 1980s, except that the dance momentum largely comes to a halt. Instead producers Eli Meltzer (Smoov-E’s real name) and Tony Manfre engineer slow- to mid-tempo electro tracks that are appropriate insofar as electro funk traditionally works with a contrast between intimacy and alienation. So while there is no one-to-one transfer of actual movie soundtrack samples, the sound does have widescreen qualities, although – as almost always in rap – obviously bound by the dominant rhythmic structure. But where your average beatmaker with ‘cinematic’ ambitions simply shoves some kicks and snares under epic samples, the musician in Smoov-E understands the importance of pace in a plot. There’s a dramatic edge to most of his tracks, mainly through those late ’70s/early ’80s bass and synth lines. The instruments are always a precise fit yet the arrangements are frequently stirred up by track shifts and even unexpected extras such as a hard rock guitar solo or organs and strings. Occasionally the funk gets the best of them, but across 13 tracks Meltzer and Manfre display a remarkable dedication to their mandate to come up with a visual, steadily reeling soundtrack.
If only the same expertise would have been applied to the rhymes and the rapping. There was a distinct funk renaissance in rap music on the West Coast around 20, 25 years ago. Artists such as Too $hort, Digital Underground, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, E-40, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Coolio and The Coup updated the sound and philosophy of P-Funk in particular for their generation, and the West’s lasting loyalty to funk could be heard in hip-hop for many years longer. Smoov-E operates in that same tradition, but something is missing from his method. Imagine a E-40 or a Tech N9ne over these beats on the same subject and you’ll see the difference.