This Week in Hip-Hop and R&B History: Jeru the Damaja Releases His Classic Album, The Sun Rises in the East

This Week in Hip-Hop and R&B History: Jeru the Damaja Releases His Classic Album, The Sun Rises in the East

– Although an obscure and often forgotten figure in hip-hop, Jeru the Damaja slated himself as a major contributor to the culture with the release of his debut album, The Sun Rises in the East.

Jeru the Damaja, born in Brooklyn, NY, began fine tuning his rhyming skills at local block parties as a youngster. In 1992, he connected with his high school friends DJ Premier and Guru of Gang Starr on “I’m the Man” from their album The Operation. Over the years, Jeru the Damaja continued to collaborate extensively with the duo.

On this day, May 24th, in 1994, Jeru the Damaja released his debut album, The Sun Rises in the East, produced by none other than DJ Premier. This album is often regarded as Jeru the Damaja’s best work and was influential in reviving the East Coast hip-hop scene in the midst of West Coast gangster rap’s booming growth. It did this alongside early 90’s releases from other legendary artists such as Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – 1993), Black Moon (Enta Da Stage – 1993), and Nas (Illmatic – 1994).

The Sun Rises in the East received mostly positive reviews for a number of reasons. For one, this album was the first non-Gang Starr project fully produced by DJ Premier and he doesn’t disappoint. DJ Premier provides some funky vibes with the help of some well-placed samples, perfect scratching and mixing, and the gritty backbeats that bring NY hip-hop to life. The young Jeru the Damaja then matches DJ Premier’s greatness with exceptional, yet organic, lyricism, delivery, and flow. He also does this while highlighting the struggles of inner city life on tracks like “Ain’t the Devil Happy” or the fear of hip hop’s rise on “Jungle Music”. Jeru even took a bit of criticism from the Fugees for his track “Da Bichez”, despite dropping the line, “I’m not talkin’ ’bout the queens…not the sisters…not the young ladies,”.

Take this time to reminisce on some “Golden Era hip-hop”, and, if this project is new to you, go ahead check it now. Jeru the Damaja was far ahead of his time with topics including the denigration of “melanated people” or people with melanin – a term that has become strongly popularized in recent years. That being said, you’re bound to discover something new despite The Sun Rises in the East being 23 years old.

Written by DJ Robinson


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