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According to everything that I can find, the word “Saudade” is a Portuguese word, difficult to translate into English. As I can best understand it, it is a heartfelt longing for something that is unattainable or non-existent. Such a strong emotion would seem ripe for musical expression. Who better than Mr. J Medeiros, one of hip hop’s pre-eminent poets, to take that feeling and turn it into an album?
As you might have guessed from the definition of the title, there is a thread of melancholy that runs through this album. From the plaintive vocals of Bekah Wagner on disc opener, “Fear and Safety”, to the mournful trumpet of J. Kyle Gregory on the closing track, “Shower Curtains”, there is a depth of feeling on this album that is sorely lacking in hip hop. Medeiros is no stranger to laying his heart bare, and he does it in spades on this album. Don’t let the word “emotion” scare you, though. This is not Air Supply or Michael Bolton disguised as hip hop. This is hard hitting stuff, both lyrically and sonically. Tales of exploitation and heartbreak abound, and will make you think while you’re nodding your head.
The production, handled ably by The Stare, a producing “super group” consisting of Medeiros, his former Procussions partner, Stro the 89th Key and Luke Atencio, is varied in style, but never in quality. There’s a little bit of everything here, rock, metal, jazz, but all done with a hip hop mindset. The music is beautiful, and the instrumentation sounds great. Drums throughout the album are thick and crisp. Piano and strings are either played live, or are some of the highest quality samples I’ve ever heard. The guitar tones go from heavy driving power chords to searing solo licks. There’s even some really great scratching…on a hip hop album. That’s weird, right? In addition to the work of The Stare, there are some great guest musicians that help Mr. J out. In addition to his work on the closing track, J. Kyle Gregory adds his beautiful trumpet sounds to the track, “So”, while “Stand Down” features the chunky guitar work of A Mouse Named Wolf (aka Seth Medeiros). The varied musical styles combine to form a musical stew to fill you up.
The production on the album is great, but it’s Mr. J Medeiros who is the featured act. I’ve always thought that his voice was a strong instrument dating back to when I first heard the Procussions’ As Iron Sharpens Iron. He puts it to good use on this album, communicating not only with his words, but his vocal tone. Whether it’s the playfully positive vibe of “Depression is a Liar”, the aggressive rasp featured on “Stand Down”, or the heavy emotion of the poetry on “Fear and Safety” and “Shower Curtains”, Mr. J understands what a lot of rappers don’t necessarily seem to…that words are not the only component in a rapper’s communicative toolbox. That’s not to say that Mr. J doesn’t have great lyrics, because he does. Intelligent lyrics and rhyme schemes abound, as always. I’ve always been a fan of his flow, especially when he ups the tempo, as he does toward the end of “The Sailor” and other places on the album. In addition to Mr. J’s typically excellent rapping, there’s some really good singing on the album. The track that has quickly become my favorite is “The Weak End” which features Mr. J singing a hook that would not be out of place on an Abandon or Seabird album. Stro the 89th key lends his more than capable voice to two tracks, “Neon Signs” and “Serious”, while Logan James impresses with his r&b vocals on “Swallow”.
Saudade is a great album. If you were a fan of The Procussions or a fan of Mr. J’s earlier solo work, you won’t be disappointed. If you’ve never heard his music before, I highly recommend you give this album a listen. You might have found your next favorite MC.
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Label: De Medeiros LLC / Fat Beats
1. Fear And Safety feat. Bekah Wagner
3. The Weak End
4. Nothing Without Providence
5. Depression Is A Liar
6. Stand Down feat. A Mouse Named Wolf
7. I!ll take it
8. Swallow feat. Logan
9. The Sailor
10. So feat. J Kyle Gregory
11. Neon Signs feat. Stro
12. Serious feat. Stro
13. This Is Not A Home
14. Shower Curtains feat. J Kyle Gregory