On this day, May 24, in hip-hop history...

Payday Records
Payday Records

1994: Jeru the Damaja drops his debut album The Sun Rises in the East on Payday Records. The LP is produced entirely by DJ Premier when he was at his prime. The album peaked at No. 5 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart and No. 36 on the Billboard 200.

Recorded in 1993 at the legendary D&D Recording Studios, Sun Rises... is an artifact of purist boom-bap, a relic of a time when drum breaks and sample loops were all rappers spit over. Jeru wasn't quite conscious, but certainly more geared towards abstract issues than his gangsta rap cohorts who were taking over rap at the time. Then again, the lead single "Come Clean" from '93 included this in the first verse: "I snatch fake gangster MCs and make 'em faggot flambé/Your nine spray, my mind spray..."

His flow was unique, often stabbing at the beat instead of easing into it. As his name implies, there was also a Caribbean twang to his voice that connected him with the Jamaican culture that helped birth hip-hop.

In essence, Jeru was raw. Most of his rhymes were braggadocio bars about battling MCs, and on his second album Wrath of the Math he'd take shots at Bad Boy Records. But Sun Rises in the East remains his crown jewel, and over 20 years later the whole thing still knocks.

Read Michael Gonzales' excellent retrospective essay on this classic album for more info as well.

See 60 Hip-Hop Albums Turning 20 in 2018


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