The Average Joe EP sees the rapper reflecting on his life: what it's missing and where it's going.
The first thing that will strike you when pressing play on this EP is the impossibly deep baritone of Jelani Blackman's voice. Apparently he makes it higher when speaking normally in order for people to hear him. The rapper, whose lineage combines Ireland, Sierra Leone and Barbados, just did a surprise drop of his new 5-track EP Average Joe, the follow-up to 2018's LockJaw EP. Blackman was born in London and grew up in the golden era of grime music—the influence of which has left its stamp on every single track though his vibe has more of an R&B lean.
Lyrically, Average Joe is a heartfelt album that reads like a diary. Blackman clearly uses his art as a method to sort through his feelings and his life rather than to imagine or create new worlds. A running theme is a sort of nostalgia for things he never knew, lamentations for people and places he's aware he's missed out on. Second track, "Brixton", is a kind of simultaneous love-letter and break-up note to the city he was born in but separated from—along with his father—when he was two. He doesn't know the city at all, and it doesn't know him; yet it is an integral part of his identity. Much of Average Joe explores Blackman's ideas about identity, race, gratitude, self-love and patience.
Jelani Blackman - Brixton (Official Video) www.youtube.com
The music, however, is a little more hard to pin down. Some tracks have dark, heavy-hitting beats that feel like the late hours of a party you should have left long ago ("Cheers") while others sound like a blend of early 2000's Timbaland and a bedroom piano session ("Nobody's Son"). Every track has an element that hits at some electronic manipulation that pairs well with his voice, giving a bit of a modern edge to something that sounds somewhat ancient.
Average Joe, dropped via Blackman's own label 18 Records. Stream it below and listen for yourself.