For all the alleged complexity of algorithms that govern our lives, the simple math behind name recognition is still one of the safest pathways to get actual plays. John Jigg$ was one of the key features on Grand Daddy I.U.’s “The Essence” project and BP is reputed for his full-length collaboration with Tragedy Khadafi, that’s how “The Madness” caught my attention, it’s that simple. Teaming up for “The Madness” might have been just as simple for John Jigg$ and BP, since they both call Long Island their home.
Running at a contemporary 26 minutes, “The Madness” showcases Jigg$’ penchant for boastful bars while also highlighting his ability to take deeper breaths when he contemplates his life and career(s). For the “Intro”, he establishes himself as an MC who likes to get going, kicking off a torrent of words that sometimes performers of this kind don’t fully manage to control. But he fares okay, even as the presentation is fairly standard taking into account BP’s sped-up vocals and plucked strings merging into a sound you might call anthemic.
Rappers are natural sceptics, and John Jigg$ is on average in terms of verbalizing his suspicions (“Don’t let the underground fool you, they just as superficial”), and of course he sees himself well equipped to beat the odds eventually: “You keep workin’ hard, they can’t ignore you […] As we continue to grind like an engine in need of oil”. After all, he opens the album with the proclamation “I always pictured myself as one of the chosen”…
To be honest, the complaint that “when these phonies get to makin’ up these lists / don’t acknowledge me as if I don’t exist” made during the hook of “Fear of God” applies more to his guest Ras Kass as John Jigg$ is probably not yet in a position to claim any listings. While Ras Kass’ presence on a track called “Fear of God” is no surprise, the way A-F-R-O fits snug into a short but spicy back-and-forth on the title track is the kind of solid impression these artists would be well-advised to reinforce again and again. Pillz joins Jigg$ for some “Long Island bullshit” (“L.I.B.S.”), unfortunately over an utterly functional dramatic backdrop. On “Killer” even the MC’s contribute to the cliché horror show with bloodless threats. Perhaps in reference to the grainy aesthetic of early Wu-Tang, “44th Chamber” is all about unadulterated rap performances Diabolic and King Magnetic vouch for. Yet it’s John Jigg$ who drops the most remarkable nugget with “Once you buy a Roley the planet become your oyster”.
John Jigg$ proves himself to be quite versatile with “The Madness”. His loudest presentations aren’t necessarily the most effective. When he tones down the volume to a conversational level and works out a plot instead of stacking up boasts he just sounds better adjusted to the modern era. This is even possible against a rock backdrop and M.O.P. samples, as “Coffin or Urn” shows.
The best example would be “Where I’m From”, where he slowly leads the listener to the realization that the reckless lifestyle that particularly rap music continues to promote begins to lose its luster as one gets older. After questioning the vanity of his teenage years in the first verse, he goes even deeper in the following one:
“See, we ain’t never had much ‘cept for some bad luck
So all we knew is bag up and go hit the ave up
And brought the dope to the ghetto as if it wasn’t bad enough
They grabbed us the same way they locked our dads up
It’s all manufactured, gotta withstand the rapture
Ain’t no tryina fight a case when your hands is tied backwards”
Aspiring rap artists are often good at envisioning things (success, mostly) but they rarely have a vision for their career or their art. John Jigg$ does. For now, he’s walking safely along the rails of traditional testosterone-driven hip-hop, going from gory battleground rap to “underground luxury” (a description he drops in the closing “Slang Original”), but as a clear-headed lyricist he shows Reef the Lost Cauze potential to one day really be “king of these rap peasants” who “lack presence”, as he says in yet another boom-bap-by-numbers tune that “The Madness” contains slightly too much of.