Music+Clubs » Features

Jah Jr. returns to, and expands on, a homegrown concept

Dubbed Over



Still Dub, the new EP by Charleston rapper Jah Jr., doesn't refer to "dub," the reggae-spiked subgenre of electronic music. Rather, it refers to Dublin, Ga., Jah's hometown. On the 2018 album Back 2 Da Dub, Jah created a concept album of sorts, using his fierce, double-time raps and skeletal beats-and-synths to depict a weekend in his hometown. He moved from biography to braggadocio to a tentative reckoning with his turbulent family history over the course of 11 songs.

Still Dub, out on Oct. 21, is a continuation of that hometown theme, but it's not a direct sequel. Jah spent a year soaking in the reactions from fans and critics, including praise from Extra Chill and Dead End Hip Hop, and stretching his creative legs with some killer singles, like the eerie funhouse of a track called "POPMYSH!T" and a more conventional romantic song called "Vitamin Sea." Eventually, he went back to Dublin for a visit earlier this summer, and found that people wanted him to tell more of the story.

"I came across a lot of friends," he says, "and I had all of these conversations where they were telling me, 'You're shining a light on your city; you're not afraid to show where you're from. You're still representing the city and letting people know where you're from. And I had my friend [and Charleston producer] Black Dave say, 'You should drop an EP called Still Dub,' because it's one of the lines in the intro to my Back 2 Da Dub album. Because at the end of the day, I'm still dub."

But the new EP isn't a retread of the full-length album, and Jah Jr. makes that clear both with the lead single, "Uh-Huh," and its accompanying video, directed and edited by longtime collaborator Stan Green.

Above all else, the track (which Jah recorded in Dublin with engineer Gantt Ussery) is fun, taking a nimble mid-tempo beat, throwing a minimal, soothing synth line, and some sparse-but-heavy bass behind it. Jah's vocals mix angular, auto-tuned singing with a rap that mentions how "all the girlies used to call me nerdy."

The video takes a childhood-friendly concept and runs it through a psychedelic blender; Jah's running a lemonade stand (and selling CDs), but thanks to Green's washes of neon color and cut-and-paste aesthetic, things get considerably weirder, almost like an absurdist approach to childhood nostalgia.

Ultimately, that single is a calling card for an EP that mixes Jah's rapid-fire, ultra-confident raps, and hard-but-minimal beats with deliberate, but never forced, experimentation.

"'Uh-Huh' is a happy, high energy record," Jah says, "and it's about more things I experienced growing up in Dublin. But I wanted to show a bit more versatility in my lyrics and songwriting. I'm not usually one to get on the 'happy-bounce' record that involves singing, but I can do it. I can do a pop record, I can do disco, I can do R&B; I pride myself on showing my work ethic."

As for the video, Jah says he trusted Green to take "Uh Huh" to another level. "We were brainstorming about the lemonade stand idea, and he's always wanting to try new things in terms of shooting and editing," he says. "I value my friendship with Stan and his overall work ethic so much. When it comes to working on videos, he'll ask if it's ok for him to try something, and I have to tell him, 'Man, you ain't gotta ask me no questions! Whatever you want to try, please do!' This one here, the colors, the editing, it's amazing."

Other than "Uh Huh," the vast majority of Still Dub is actually the result of an intensive four or five month home-recording stint at Charleston musician/engineer Martin Grooms' house. That informal (and inexpensive) setting allowed them to take their time, to the extent that they actually came up with more than 60 songs.

"It felt like home because we were recording in his crib," Jah says. "It had a homey vibe. It's a major difference compared to being in a professional studio when you're spending so much money. He's wanted to work with me, I wanted to work with him, and when it's a mutual thing like that, it's that much better. It's been a pleasure working with him through the entire process. And there was no quality drop-off; that was my main concern. It's all about whatever works for you."

So, given that he had so much music recorded, why an EP instead of a full album? Well, let's just say that Jah Jr. will drop no track before its time, regardless of the modern musical appetite for content.

"I manage it by not giving a fuck," he says with a laugh. "I don't get caught up in what other people are doing. I have to work at the pace that works for me. Social media is programmed that way, where you'll see people doing great things and you think you should be doing more, but in reality, you're doing everything that you should be doing. I knew the way people's attention spans are set up that they want more from their favorite artists, but you have to work at your own pace and let what you put out resonate with people. You have to give it time to marinate. I drop stuff when I want to drop it; it has to make sense."

Add a comment