Five Best Songs From Jeru The Damaja’s ‘The Sun Rises in the East’ Album
During the West Coast’s rise to prominence in the early ’90s, New York rap was on the ropes and needed some rejuvenation.
Classic debuts released in 1993 and 1994 from the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan (‘Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers’), Nas (‘Illmatic’) and The Notorious B.I.G. (‘Ready to Die’) among others are often credited with leading this renaissance, but one album is often overlooked in this discussion.
Jeru The Damaja‘s 1994 debut album, ‘The Sun Rises In The East,’ featured powerful lyrical content and a monster of a solo single (‘Come Clean’) from a rapper hailing from the streets of East New York in Brooklyn.
Jeru delivered one of the better rap albums of that year. Having DJ Premier on the boards exclusively didn’t hurt either, as some of Premo’s best work can be found on the album and helped further his own legend with the release.
Being that today (May 24) marks the 20th anniversary since the release of this underrated gem, The Boombox decided to pick the top five tracks from the album and rank them. Feel free to pull out your Timberlands and army fatigues for the occasion.
‘Jungle Music’ sees Jeru giving us an audio history lesson in the journey and exploitation of Black music. Rhyming, “We went from pyramids to the ghetto, still my sounds makes devils tumble like the wall of Jericho / Chant my power to devour all the snakes and rats, extra sensory perception to avoid all traps.” Jeru drops science with a distinct air of pride that is felt throughout the record. Social Studies and Issac Hayes samples never felt so right together.
Jeru hooked up with Gang Starr Foundation affiliate Afu-Ra for what what would be Ra’s first appearance on wax on the track ‘Mental Stamina.’ The duo waste no time, trading rhyme volleys with the precision and ease of a veteran duo over a sample of Roy Ayers’ ‘Sensitize.’ No scratched hook needed for this one (let alone a hook at all) as Afu and Jeru’s lyrical blows do enough damage.
Serving as the album’s opener, ‘D. Original’ sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly. Lines like “Not stressing Five-O, hot hand in cee-lo / Live in the land of crooks, yes, Brooklyn’s the borough / Homicide central, East New York, where all the manic depressant psycho murderers stalk / Walk, like a ninja on the asphalt, here, talk is cheap, ya outlined in chalk / And there’s more hard times than on Good Times and most n—-s dedicate their life to crime,” he raps. Jeru details the way of life in East New York and gives you a tour of the grimiest soil Brooklyn has to offer.
Taking a break from the more heavy subject matter, Jeru turns his attention to the scandalous females out in the world on ‘Da Bitchez.’ Before making sure to differentiate from the more respectable women holding it down on the hook, he holds no punches from the jump, bluntly spitting, “Now, a queen’s a queen and a stunt is a stunt, you can tell who’s who by the things they want / Most chicks want minks, diamonds, a benz, spend up all your ends, probably f— ya friends.” While the Fugees may have held umbrage with this track, the beat is smooth as parque and as they say, the truth often hurts, but makes for great music.
DJ Premier and Jeru teamed up for what is regarded as one of the quintessential boom-bap singles of all time. D. Original Dirty Rotten Scoundrel leader’s off-kilter rhyme style instantly captivated listeners and critics alike, cementing him as one of the leaders of New York’s musical resurgence in the first half of the ’90s. The icing on the cake was the masterpiece of a track Premo cooked up. Not even five seconds into the record, you knew s— was about to get real. While Jeru would go on to add a few more memorable bangers to his catalog, this selection stands as his finest moment. With the flip of a Shelly Manne sample, Premo also raised his stock exponentially and adding another Brooklyn anthem to his untouchable catalog. Chinese water torture has never sounded so enticing.