Flying Lotus once said that Brainfeeder is the sound of the seeker—the sound of someone trying to understand the universe through music, always on the hunt for something higher. That's why there could be no other home for Raw Money Raps, the debut full-length from Jeremiah Jae and an effort in which he explores his own complex existence with the kind of honesty and mysticism common to all of the label's signees.
The Chicago-born producer/MC/artist/healer is by no means a stranger to the Brainfeeder family; Jae's orbited around the vibrant LA beat scene for ages. After meeting FlyLo online five years ago, he decamped to the West Coast for a good six months and soaked up the mind-expanding sounds emanating from the venerable imprint. Soon he got signed, and after exploring soundscapes around the globe with labelmate Teebs, Jae finally abandoned Chi-town to make weird art-rap in LA full time.
Floating somewhere between dreams and reality, Raw Money Raps is a journey through the vast expanses of Jae's kaleidoscope mind. "In the waking life you are struggling trying to make money, or are pressured by gang activity, or a job," Jae told Resident Advisor last year. "The dream you is living in an obscure zone, where fragments of reality are met with infinite possibility."
There's a lot going on in there—you'll find the kind of abstract musings on freedom, motivation, and desire that ripped through Shabazz Palaces' 2011 masterpiece Black Up. At times, Jae sounds remarkably similar to Ishmael Butler, mimicking his calm, cool, "I've seen it all" demeanor and channeling his sense of ease with the universe. Spaced-out beats drive lead single "Money," a conscientious reflection on the material world. Jae mocks Top-40 rap with his most radio-friendly track to date, "Money and Food." ("What y'all wanna do?/Wanna be rappers?/Put 'em in that mag, 'cause the only way to do it is to turn up the swagger/Then you get some haters and you ask 'em why they mad for.") Jae's compositions become increasingly dream-like, comfortably settling into the semi-conscious realm before eventually delving deeper into something of a nightmare. Warped vocal samples on "Wires" go from strange to creepy in mere seconds, while a suffocating paranoia fills "False Eyes." Closer "Cable" recalls the unsettling happy horror of the Hausu soundtrack.
Raw Money Raps is fascinating and inventive, though not the game-changer many were hoping for. There are a handful of undeniably awkward moments. Jae's not a seasoned rapper; he used to hate his own voice, and those old insecurities resurface on songs like "Hercules Versus the Commune," where his vocals are masked by heavy distortion. Alternately, some of the more soulful, psychedelic elements on "Cat Fight" cut a little too close to Madlib's storied back catalog. And with 19 tracks, the album starts to feel a little repetitive. But Jae's so young, barely out of college—maybe his best is yet to come.