Must be a circus in town, cuz I’m surrounded by clowns, claiming that their mic skills are ridiculous.
– Jamal STEELE
Support the underground. A lot of heads are scared to jam unknown acts, but if my time as a writer has taught me anything, it’s that an open mind can expose your soul to some serious gems.
The Hollis Queens duo Run DMC were the the documented inspiration for many golden era acts, including legendary rapper Notorious BIG – and Atlanta-based rapper Jamal STEELE is no different. After seeing the visuals for their smash crossover hit Walk This Way, with Aerosmith, Jamal knew that hip-hop was something he had to do. He describes his career as a mission to “Impart, Influence, & Inspire” – sounds a little contrived right? See that’s the dope thing about this brother. It Isn’t at all! He’s extremely genuine. He gave me a copy of his semi-autobiographical new project Driving Toward Our Purpose, and I have to say, I was impressed.
I’m always supportive of cats who not only care about bars, but take the time to create cohesive, intelligent projects, rather than “choppy piecework”. I will pre-face this review by admitting that I’m a bit ignorant to his full catalogue, but I’m working my way through it. So here’s the goods: the album is sonically crafted by GlassC!ty, El-R, Ant Carter, DJ Quezs, Ta-Ku – a name that instantly peaked my interest –and Jamal STEELE himself. It’s 10 tracks, and has no filler or interludes.
The album starts with the hard-hitting Let It Go, where he he airs out clowns on the mic, and asserts the tone for the rest of the project. Some of the standouts for me were the “be yourself” anthem Do You, spiritual assertion Love Manifesto, the super lyrical Out There and the super soulful December Rain.
Jamal wears his heart in his sleeve: this album sees him sharing not only a healthy dose of well thought out social commentary and life experience, but also his faith. It’s a very honest, humble listen. I’m always drawn to cats who exist among radio, BET, MTV – and so on – and still manage to make a viable, non-commercial brand of hip-hop. Not to say that he doesn’t want to “blow-up”, he just isn’t dumbing himself down to do it. Salute.
Jamal is currently unsigned, but he’s definitely worth a listen. You can stream his Driving Toward Our Purpose project below, and you can also check him on