Essentials: The epic Odyssey to Jesse Jagz’s ‘Odysseus’ album

Continuing a flirtatious dancehall experimentation

Odysseus and Jesse Jagz share many qualities—eloquent speakers, ingenious, cunning with words, influential legends of their own rights—but Odysseus didn’t start drumming at age 7 like Jagz did. The Odysseus namesake is a provocation, a mystery, a sly acknowledgement of fans’ anticipation since taking a self-imposed three-year album break. The most convenient conjecture given the wait, the album’s title and a series of releases like pre-released single, “Best In You” and pseudo-religious album hype song, “New World”—missing from the eventual track list—Jesse seems poised to deliver knowledge. But we can all now lay that speculation to rest.

Thanks to features from Style-Plus, Hot Ice, Cynthia Morgan, Melon, R 2 Bees and Burna Boy, Odysseus blends comment-corralling, zeitgeist-feeding hip-hop lines with sparse dance-pop numbers through the concise 10-track album. Despite the thinkwave of essays, social media chatter, and podcast discussions on the waning supply of critically acclaimed rap albums, Jagz is confident enough to continue his dancehall flirtations —an artistic change of tide that was initially criticised upon release of Jagz Nation Vol 1: Thy Kingdom Come. Though Odysseus is built on a predominantly hip-hop foundation, tracks featuring undercurrents of Carribean riddim and patois-infused rap are perhaps emblazoned with some of the most potent works on the album.

“Genesis” the opening track takes us through Jagz’s mind as he reminisces his life’s epic journey from how he “Came From The Ice Of Fire” and how he has conquered; “For Those Of You Trying To Doubt Me/ The Outcome Is All The Hit Songs On My Album”. Jagz raps over the ambient layers of angelic vocal harmonies to match the song’s gospel theme—Jagz metaphorical messiah for hip-hop narrative.

Things can go so terribly wrong with experimentation, but while the trilling trap beats and Jagz’s pop chorus over the stark mesh of bass, drums and snarling hushed vocoders are far from a new discovery, “Dirty” listens like a sonic breakthrough. Hot Ice more than makes up for Jagz’s preference for T-Pain like auto-tune cooing on the track. And though the singing carries on for more parts on the album than most conservative fans of the rap genre would prefer, tracks like “Ghetto Youth”“Awake” and “Violation” stay true to the hip-hop genre Jesse Jagz has built a reputation for.

But perhaps the most Hip-hop track on the album, “Wide And Blue” is also the most unlikely one. Asides the unassuming sample from Reggae duo, Chaka Demus & Plies’ “Murder She Wrote” and it’s long history with Hip-hop —most recently on French Montana and Nicki Minaj’s “Freaks”— “Wide And Blue” embodies classic Jagz hip-hop tropes from coming to terms with his mortality, sex infused drug metaphors, reminders of the grind, the glamour and jewelry, the state of the hip-hop today, and pseudo-religious messages of truth. But the disjointed narrative between the verses and the hook makes the lyrics unconvincing and the rhymes lacking of the cumulative effect classics like “Jargo” had.

Odysseus isn’t a genre blending masterpiece worthy of Yeezus status nor hip-hop enough to be Illmatic, yet, its aspiration to somehow draw parallels with such projects is admirable enough to be applauded. Only addendum here is, the context would be entirely different if the artist that dropped this ‘aspirational’ album wasn’t Jesse Jagz —one of the few Nigerian hip-hop brands we have grown to expect more than fair quality from.

You can stream the Odysseus album below.

Featured Image Credits: Instagram/jessejagz

You are meeting Debola at a strange time in his life. He wandered into a dream and lost his way back. Tweet at him @debola_abimbolu

Watch the video for “Best In You” off the ‘Odysseus’ album here