JyellowL: 2020 D|Vision review – Clever wordplay and precocious wisdom on thought-provoking debut
Hip-Hop & Rap
Irish hip-hop has never dazzled so brightly. The problem now is that the quickly expanding market is becoming so abundant with talent that it’s gotten difficult to pick out the acts offering something different.
Step forward, Jean-Luc Uddoh. The 22-year-old, born in Nigeria of Jamaican heritage and raised in Ireland since the age of 14, has steadily gained ground on the UK and Irish scenes over the last two years, with his song Ozone featuring on the Fifa 20 soundtrack. Earlier this year Uddoh put both his social conscience and his politics degree from UCD to good use when he found himself an accidental spokesman for the Irish Black Lives Matter movement.
Despite his academic background, and even the title, JyellowL’s debut album isn’t as political-leaning as you might expect. Under the guidance of producer Chris Kabs – himself a key player on the Irish scene – this is largely a personal snapshot of an average young man’s life, insecurities and vulnerabilities going toe to toe with bravado, a suave sense of ambition and an undercurrent of plucky persistence.
Some songs, such as Hypocrite, combine all three: a sneering call-out of peoples’ double standards that accepts he is just as guilty of the same crimes. Soulful opener 2020 is one of several soul-searching tracks, with Home continuing the thread of identity and belong.
Doesn’t Feel Like is one of the only tracks to tackle racism in an overt way, referencing both the H&M “monkey” controversy and acknowledging the number of times that he has been “told to go back to [his] country”.
‘Elevate the youth’
Despite JyellowL occasionally succumbing to bluster and bombast, there’s a hell of a lot of heart on this album. Neighbourhood Nip is part-tribute to late rapper Nipsey Hussle that ratifies his same desire to “elevate the youth” and show them a more righteous path in life. Patience eschews the value of a college degree and hitting the big-time over real-life smarts and making his mother proud.
And tere is plenty of levity to balance the “life lesson” tracks; on the laid-back finger-snap of Call It What You Want, he is just “the guy in his 20s with a ’90s vibe”, while Say! momentarily drops the swagger for a dissection of romance and relationships. Juddering standout Tunnel Vision and the guttural menace of Mademoiselle, featuring the aforementioned Kabs, lay out his blueprint for global domination.
Given his clever wordplay and impressive vocal dexterity throughout, you’d be ill advised to bet against his plans. These could easily sound like hollow sentiments in someone else’s hands, but the heart and precocious wisdom in these songs makes for an eminently smart, thought-provoking debut album.