In the wake of Daniel Dumile’s passing there’s been more time to examine his extensive catalogue of hip-hop music as a soloist and in collaboration with other artists. One of the more confusing chapters in the book was his work with Jneiro Jarel. I’m going to be as diplomatic as possible when I say that had it not been for MF DOOM, I never would have heard of Jarel. He obviously earned enough respect as a producer to get a deal with Lex Records, and in the wake of his partnership with Dumile launched his own imprint (Label Who) distributed by Ropeadope Records to further the unique musical vision he wants to bring to light. That’s all good but when I look at his discography the DOOM projects are the only ones I recognize.
Jarel seems to be aware of this conundrum as that rap union has been revisited multiple times in multiple different ways. It started with their original “Keys to the Kuffs” duet in 2012, was followed with an updated “Butter Edition” to appease unsatisfied DOOM fans in 2013, and even when that release came out an EP was promised for people who just wanted the new “Butter” tracks without having to buy the album twice. For whatever reason it took four years for the vinyl to drop, by which point I had honestly forgotten it was even announced. For those who didn’t want to wait the digital version of “Bookhead EP” dropped in 2014 and as promised it was all the additional songs that didn’t make the original “Kuffs” release.
“It’s not wrong, it’s weird” says Del the Funky Homosapien on “Viberian Son.” He’s right. Jarel and DOOM were definitely A-alikes who see alike when it comes to unconventional beats and rhymes. When Dumile produced his own tracks though he put a STANK on it that was uniquely identifiable. He loved digging through old records and finding new things to sample, flip, loop and pitch up or down. He could layer things together like the most delicious sandwich that left your mouth watering. Jarel’s music isn’t like that. He’s more like a piece of licorice. The taste is incredibly strong and by its very nature polarizing. If you hate it you can still give it props for being so bold, but you’re not going to want another piece.
That’s the unavoidable truth of the “Bookhead EP.” What really makes this a must listen isn’t just the extra “Butters” that weren’t on “Keys to the Kuffs,” it’s the remixes like the BADBADNOTGOOD revision of “Guv’nor” a/k/a “‘Ello Guv’nor.” I miss the hilarious samples from Regular Show, but the new beat is great and the samples of conspiracy theorists add to the ominous tone. Equally worthy of your time are the stripped down folksy Beck take on the rapid fire Dumile delivery of “Banished” and eerily slow and echoing Clams Casino revision to “Bookfiend.” It feels stretched out like using the YouTube controls to play a video at half speed.
In summary the “Bookhead EP” simply isn’t necessary if you own the previous two versions. If you have neither it’s actually the best place to start. If you want to cop the vinyl edition released in 2017 though, forget about it. That was a short print run to begin with and since Dumile’s passing the collectors have sent the price soaring into the stratosphere. Digitally it’s going to set you back less than 10 bones. That’s the way to go.