Some people don't let their hometowns go. Some people can't let their hometown go. Despite his status as one of Charleston's brightest rappers, Jah Jr. never lost his passion for his birthplace of Dublin, Ga. Fans won't know it from listening to his well-received 2016 mixtape Jah, but his hometown is a place that he's wanted to pay tribute to. "I started rapping when I was 16," says Jah. "In my 12 years of rapping, I never really shined a spotlight or shined a light on my city or shined a light on my upbringing, and so I became transparent with my fans and listeners as far as who I am as an artist."
The impetus for Back 2 Da Dub has been recounted before. After a conversation with his cousin, San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Darrell Williams, Jr., Jah realized that he didn't talk about Dublin in his music. Jah and Williams spent time brainstorming about their upbringing, how they spent time as kids, and what life was like in Dublin. With thoughts of childhood and adolescence as the basis, he hammered out lead single "Front Porch" before Back 2 Da Dub was really conceptualized.
That song influenced the album from beginning to end. Framed as a weekend in Dublin, Jah spends Back 2 Da Dub reminiscing and giving his hometown narrative. "It's a compilation of stories, in a sense," says Jah.
The eponymous intro track introduces the world and Jah as a character. He lives in a trailer park, gets good grades in school, and is fiercely proud of the world he comes from.
As he moves forward, Jah begins to think about being one of the first people to put Dublin on the map. "Sorry, it's the Jah in me/ A god is what I got to be so/ Don't ask for forgiveness, I ain't looking for apologies," he raps on "1st."
He keeps the Dublin love rolling as he weaves tales of meetups and hookups. "She know how it go/ I'm in Coleman Court, yeah/ Posted with my zo/ Worked at Ruby Tuesday washing dishes for that dough/ Yo girl say she like me, wanna fuck on the low," he spits on the freestyle "Coleman Court."
Album closer "On My Life" is set against the backdrop of one last ride around Dublin at the end of the weekend. Jah knows that he wants to move forward in music, but always carry Dublin in his rhymes. "You lose all watching you fall ya crew's bailing/ Too tall with a smooth walk, the dude's gellin'/ Who the hell is Jah, bruh the world gonna know/ Dubside worldwide on God I won't fold no no," he says on his last verse.
The feeling of Jah's previous life in Dublin is alive in every aspect of the album. Some songs are named after the city's streets, Jah's friends make brief cameos before and after tunes in narrations, and the rapper's accent gets thicker as the album progresses because he is spending more time with his Dublin friends and family.
On the penultimate track "Lately," many of the album's motifs come to a head for a touching and tragic song about Jah's parents. The rapper has a sound clip of his father talking to him as they ride around Dublin, trekking to the trailer park that he grew up in. His father lets him out of the car and Jah begins thinking of his mother's struggle with alcoholism, his father regularly cheating on his mother, and the effects it had on him as he became a man. Although his relationship with his folks is good in the present, he doesn't shy away from confronting them on "Lately."
The most mysterious thing about the song is that Jah doesn't actually put the full song on the album. Just as he begins to put his father's feet to the fire, he stops in mid-verse. He says that he's not ready for everyone to know the full story.
For the album's beats, he looked to the kind of music he listened to when he lived in his hometown. "Those vibes and those things that inspired me inspired this album," he says. "It has very much that era of '04-'07 trap vibes. That's when the trap era began, but it's me giving you my story, and just introducing the world that I came from."
Jah says that he's going to wait for this album to breathe a little before he gets cracking on the next project, but he knows there will be more albums about Dublin coming up. "This project really only scratches the surface of my experiences in Dublin, Georgia," he says.
Back 2 Da Dub is an LP that was built for Dublin. The music is comprised of dusty country trap beats and small town stories in big rhymes. But it's also a shift for Jah as an artist. The rapper found his lane by getting in touch with his roots, and the songs have a new honesty to them. "This is who I am," Jah says. "This is where I'm from, this is my story."