It is no secret that Ireland’s relatively primitive hip hop scene has been steadily building momentum. Rejjie Snow preceded the more recent successes of Hare Squead and Kojaque and it feels as though the timing is right for Jafaris to headline this new wave.
There is a certain weight of expectation that comes with ‘Stride’ and the Zimbabwe born, Dublin raised MC is keen to lean on no one: enlisting no features on the album.
Often projects with more sonically diverse pallets can face problems with appropriate pacing and the order of tracks. However, in this case it’s managed expertly. This conceptually tight piece is strengthened by the decision to keep production in house with his label Diffusion Lab, resulting in a firm consistency in sound and a healthy balance of emotions despite the variation in tone throughout.
The often punchy instrumentation and boisterous lyricism found on tracks such as Found My Feet are impeccably balanced with softer more introspective moments such as My Brother’s Keeper.
Balance is key not only sonically on ‘Stride’ but thematically too as the Dublin spitter reminds us to take “Time for yourself, get up, get out, go find your peace”, in the self care anthem Time.
Other themes follow a rather predictable and linear path with the album containing many clichéd tropes of potential problems with ego, fame and fortune, rife in today’s music. However, the candid honesty on these themes is what makes the album so relatable.
Jafaris wears his heart and his influences on his sleeve, boldly talking his hopes into existence over an eclectic mix of pop, afrobeat and hip hop infused tracks. The previously dubious confidence described in the opening track is blown away in the celebratory banger Found My Feet, where in regards to his self assurance he states you “don’t gotta confuse it with arrogance”.
He later wrangles with the warped vocals of his ego that stretch the sonic boundaries of the album in Shanduka. This back and forth acts as a reminder to not get ahead of oneself, expanding on Gucci Mane’s cautionary reminder that one can get “lost in the sauce”.
His down to earth approach is incredibly endearing and his admirable sense of self and foresight is ingenuous as he probes the benefits of money on God’s Not Stupid. These pensive reflections continue throughout and the unashamed recognition of his flaws on Keeping Brothers, touches again on that idea of balance. His self confidence comes from an acceptance of all his traits, “I know you don’t know me, you might think you do when I’m on your street, I know you don’t cause I’m not fresh or squeaky clean”.
His growth, technically and sonically speaking is evident on ‘Stride’. The versatile delivery teased on the ‘Velvet Cake’ EP is taken up a notch throughout this debut album. Dishing out his most engaging word play to date, Jafaris demonstrates his lyrical talent most poignantly on Shanduka as he effortlessly rhymes across bars whilst switching up his rhyme schemes.
Ghost notes his personal growth and pre-emptively reminds us to take care of personal relationships and ensure you leave positivity behind you. Jafaris is conscious of expectations and similarly to the release of Kojaque’s ‘Deli Daydreams’ last year, this feels like a genuine moment for Irish Hip hop. ‘Stride’, is a confident forward step for Irish rap’s rising star, who while conscious of the opportunity is ready to headline rather than be overcome by it.