There’s always more than meets the eye. Hip Hop out of any genre of music seems to be the most contradictory of musical genres. Nearly every rap song contains enough lyrics to be it’s own short story, yet at the same time it’s incredibly blunt, honest, and real. There’s no paragraph upon paragraph explaining why the protagonist is infatuated with a woman because of her beautiful hair. It strips away that bullshit. Because let’s be real; who the fuck falls in love with a woman for her hair? Now seeing a girl’s boobs through her white dress…that is believable.
Yet even if you strip away the beautiful poetic verses about a woman’s hair, or how a girl has perky titties, and a nice pussy–you’re still going to have the same problems. In JUICETHERIDDLER’s CLEAR you see an honest depiction of what it’s like to be a man in 2019. Whether it’s trying to impress your Dad, escape your peers to become a bigger success, dealing with vices, or having something as tragic as somebody cheating on you. It’s all presented with this brutal honesty that doesn’t hold anything back.
It’s the depiction of these problems that is where the contradiction lies. While at one point saying that he doesn’t want to have sex with someone he can’t connect with, the next he’ll rap about hooking up with some freaky chick with braces. There’s genuine introspection about his life, all of his goals, aspirations, hopes, and dreams–yet there’s this thing gnawing at him. It’s what gnaws at us all. And in this review we’ll look into what this “thing” is, and how JUICETHERIDDLER does such a great job of showing us these issues that surround every Millennial.
What a better place to start than My Life. Which is a perfect opener for this album because it does a great job of introducing us to JUICETHERIDDLER. The opening begins with these shimmering synths that sounds like a crib’s mobile, and this ethereal amorphous background. Then there’s this amazing bass, pitch perfect beat, mixed in with these faint vocals. The faint vocals appear throughout the entire album, which sounds like a choir of ghosts. Depending on the track they can either be literal samples of older music, or just be ambient vocals. Either way they do a great job of thematically showing us the past.
Which is what this track is, a reflection of the past. Or if this were a movie this would be the opening montage. We see the life that JUICETHERIDDLER had “Before the storm” we understand and empathize with his struggles. For me, personally, the line about wanting to be a doctor to help his Dad in pain does a great job of showing what kind of person JUICETHERIDDLER is. One being a doctor is an incredibly bold, and ambitious aspiration. It’s one of those societal benchmarks that shows that you’re a big shot. And two, the reason he wanted to be a doctor was to help his Dad.
This is the central drama within JUICETHERIDDLER and it’s laid out bare in this opening track. At one point you see the ambitious drive within him. You see how he wants to escape his surroundings, chose better friends, and get on the right track. Yet with ambition there is always baggage. Being a doctor is an automatic sign to people that you’re well off, smart, and hardworking. Yet how do you measure that success with music? With hot women, money, sex, power, etc. Yet at the end of the day JUICETHERIDDLER still aspires to something greater, something more noble.
Then we get to Family Ties, which starts off with that choir of ghosts. Which is fitting to the subject matter of the song which is basically the story of anybody who is going through the struggle. Either from foreclosures, poverty, financial hardships, family problems, unrealized potential, the pain of growing old etc.
It’s so blunt, honest, and raw that it’s songs like this is when Hip Hop is at it’s peak. Hip Hop has such a unique ability to tell long stories in a short amount of time. Yet with this increased verbosity, the stories that are told are so stripped down. It’s not something that you need to analyze to death, you either feel it or you don’t. Yet what JUICETHERIDDLER does here is something very unique and special. That is the “Slice of Life” samples. Whether it’s arguments, pieces of advice, or the emotionally honest ending, in which JUICETHERIDDLER just says what’s on his mind. It’s this technique that does an incredible job of relating what JUICETHERIDDLER’s life to that of the listener.
I can’t understate how incredible these samples are to this album. Let’s take the Smiths for example, nearly everyone of their songs have this day in the life kind of drama. But with Morrissey’s great lyricism, nerdy quotes from obscure references, and dramatized retelling of events–it adds a lot of style to these otherwise mundane events. Yet at the same time as an artist it’s easy to write a song about being a bigmouth and comparing yourself to Joan of Arc. But it’s incredibly hard to rap about your family, bring up deeply personal issues, have samples from your real life, etc. This is what separates Hip Hop from most other music genres. While most hide behind smoke and mirrors to deliver their message, Hip Hop cuts through the bullshit and says what’s on the artists mind.
Then we get to N***** Ain’t Your N*****/No Good. This is where I’ll have to mildly critique the album. There are about 5 tracks, that are in actuality two separate songs. While the production does a really great job of seamlessly blending each track, the tracks are each about 7 minutes long. Now unless you’re doing some avante garde piece, or are writing an orchestra, 7 minutes is a long time to listen to a song. Regardless of how well produced it is, most listeners will develop listener fatigue, and just give up a quarter way through the song. Which is a shame and a terrible thing, yet it’s the truth.
So with that out of the way let’s look at N***** Ain’t Your N*****. While the first two tracks introduced us to JUICETHERIDDLER the next two tracks introduce us to his environment. Immediately the tracks separates itself from the two preceding it, by placing more of an emphasis on the synths. While the other two were this amorphous ethereal atmosphere, the synth cuts through that. As though a bright light is being shown on JUICETHERIDDLER’s environment. Which is compounded by the slice of life lyrics of N***** Ain’t Your N*****.
Each one of these snapshots of his surroundings, and JUICETHERIDDLER’s maturity shows the pitfalls, traps, and barriers that he has overcome. Yet it’s told in a way that is both highly personal, and yet easily accessible. Let’s say that some guy who lived in a lap of luxury his whole life, grows up and goes to an Ivy League school. Or scratch that, he even is able to work as Vice President at his Dad’s company without a college degree. Eventually there’s going to be a point in his life where he realizes that not everybody is after his best interests. Not only that but they are willing to do anything to him to best serve their interests.
It’s when JUICETHERIDDLER gets venomous with this track that it becomes so cathartic for the listener. Because when we all go through that rat race of life, we’re all eventually going to be fucked over. Yet it’s this song that gives a voice to that, a release of that pent up frustration. Because whether it’s your group of friends, the streets, or a corporate board office–everybody eventually comes to terms with the fact it’s a dog eat dog world.
So we continue this slice of life with No Good. Immediately it begins with the ambient sound of people shopping. Then you hear it. The alarm that goes off when something hasn’t been scanned. Or when something has been shoplifted.
Immediately as a listener you’re on edge. After all when an alarm goes off it’s supposed to alarm you. Then when the heavy distorted bass, and open hi-hats start playing. It’s a sound that is a sound that is on edge. It’s not a celebratory sound, rather it’s one of danger, and caution. When JUICETHERIDDLER says, “Hoes give em’ top watch them like a hawk.” You feel that sense of why he says that from the production alone.
Yet while I complained about the combination of songs into one song, N***** Ain’t Your N*****/No Good may just prove me wrong. Because we see the surroundings that JUICETHERIDDLER is in, and how that has shaped his perception. Take for example one of the more tragic lines, “I thought she was my right hand, she ended up sucking n***** with her left hand.” Is thematically perfect for these two songs. When JUICETHERIDDLER asks you in N***** Ain’t Your N***** if you’d be willing to murder for another person. In No Good we get the answer to that loyalty: which is that the girl who is your “Right hand,” returns your loyalty by blowing a bunch of guys.
Now let me remind you that this kind of perception that’s laid out is even more tragic. It’s tragic because this is the same guy who wanted to be a doctor to help his Dad. It’s tragic because you can see that JUICETHERIDDLER is someone who wants something better. Yet there’s something there that’s gnawing at him. And to figure that out we have to go further in this album review.
The next song, Friends with Benefits. Is the rebound song. It’s got those stereotypical triplet hi hats, with the swirling pads, auto-tuned vocals, everything that’s pretty prevalent in Hip Hop today. Which isn’t a complaint. If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Yet the juxtaposition of the lyrical content between this song, and a few others is where the contradiction lies. Where before there was a desire to form a relationship rather than just having sex. Now there’s the desire to just say, “Fuck it, let’s just fuck.” Now if we were to employ the K.I.S.S. method it could be that this song was written before the events described in the previous tracks. Or maybe they liked the subject matter. It’s anybody’s guess.
I’m not a mind reader, yet when an artist chooses to include or exclude something from an album there is always an underlying meaning behind it all. This is where the album now becomes smoke and mirrors. Where before it was brutally honest, now it’s become a little more guarded. Why? Well Susan Sontag said, “It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared; but suffering that degrades.”
When placed in an environment that is depicted in N***** Ain’t Your N*****/No Good, everybody is eventually going to be humiliated. It’s a fact of life. If you’re in a dog eat dog world, eventually you’re going to get eaten. You can’t escape from it, you can’t run from it, it will eventually happen. Yet it’s how we cope with this that separates the wheat from the chaff. For JUICETHERIDDLER he coped by making art, and if some of that art is him bragging about hooking up with chicks. That’s a very valid form of expression.
The problem lies with this track, and a few others in isolation. If I didn’t know JUICETHERIDDLER from his previous songs, I couldn’t write a review on his music. Mainly because there’s more to life than pussy. The other reason is that it doesn’t interest me. Yet his emotional honesty, in his previous tracks, are so brutal and so honest, that even if you’re a snob like me you can’t help but enjoy every aspect of this person’s music.
The next song, To The Party, I’m not even going to lie–I love it way too much. It’s that flute, combined with the beat, and even some of the lyrics that are just way too fun not to enjoy. He could literally be rapping about Chef Boyardee and I would still be in love with this song.
I know I set it up in the previous paragraph that songs about partying/pussy/seeing boobs through a white dress, is something I look down on. Yet I’m also the person who knows that staying up all night smoking, playing video games, and eating Dominoes pizza is bad for you; yet I still do it. I believe that the reason I like this song so much, is that it psyches you up so much for a good time. When I instantly heard this song I already felt like I was in a party. When he’s got lines like “Rolling up to the party, looking like Illuminati.” How can you possibly top that? You show up to a party looking like a global cabal of people who control the world. Doesn’t that psyche you up for a party? Don’t answer, because it does.
Next up we have Bitch/Pull Up (WYA?) which furthers this party kind of vibe from the previous tracks. It dials up the bravado to 11, and while it does really interesting production techniques, specifically with the reverse tape loop of the previous tracks. Yet this is one of the times where the combining of two songs doesn’t really work. They don’t really tie in to each other thematically, other than they’re both hype songs.
While I’ve addressed JUICETHERIDDLER’s lyrics. I haven’t delved into the technical aspect of his raps. Mainly because Hip Hop is at a plateau of sorts. When everybody praises Eminem for Rap God, Busta Rhymes was doing long before Eminem, and was far more technically adept. It’s at a point where rock was at with singers, guitarists, drummers, etc. Where it became overindulgent and as a result, newer and younger artists scaled back the virtuosity to deliver something new and original. So when looking at Hip Hop, technicality has to be judged as it is in Rock. Where, yes, Freddy Mercury can sing his heart out. But Kurt Cobain’s scratchy, marbled mouth vocals hits me in the feels and that’s all that really matters.
Which brings me to a critique, and something that I hope doesn’t discourage anybody but just a point in the right direction. Pull Up (WYA?) is technically proficient. It’s an incredibly clever, technical, piece of lyricism. Yet the delivery is where the problem is. Female vocals can add a lot to a track. Since,well women have a lot more pleasing voices (generally) then males do. Yet the lyrics are delivered in such a deadpan emotionless way. It could be due to nerves, production flaws, or focusing on the wrong aspects of a song. Yet if you’re bragging about yourself, you need to exude confidence. If that falls flat, then the whole song falls apart.
Next up we have BOD. Which starts off with this amazing loop of a guitar. It’s a guitar that is both sensual while at the same time maintains this sense of melancholy. JUICETHERIDDLER does an excellent job of using this soundscape to weave such an interesting and tragic look at relationships.
Now BOD could mean two things, it could be an acronym for blacked out drunk, or it could refer to somebody’s body. Both interpretations are equally valid. Yet this is where JUICETHERIDDLER gets back into form. I’ve said before how he vividly he described his surroundings in N***** Ain’t Your N*****/No Good. It’s in this song though he manages to describe all of our surroundings.
What do I mean about that? From the looped guitar, to the bleak lyrics, it all paints a picture of the current dating scene. Imagine if you would, describing Tinder to somebody back in the 90’s. Everybody would think that you would be describing some Sci-Fi dystopian world. Yet it’s the world that we find ourselves in. Where we are all connected to people all across the world, and yet most people can’t find a single date on an app that has millions of users on it. It’s a world where people would rather do drugs, than connect. That would rather be blacked out drunk, then to have a meaningful relationship.
Then JUICETHERIDDLER adds even more salt to the wound. That chicks would snort cocaine off of the floor, that they would sell their soul for more drugs, and through all of that, it’s only when they are high that they can show love. Then he reveals that they won’t even remember when they did show you love because they were so fucked up. If that’s not brutally honest then I don’t know what is. Now you could switch genders, and blah blah blah blah. Who cares? The point is that this track doesn’t portray drug addiction as some glamorous thing, it cuts through the bullshit and tells you how it is.
Now we go from the social to the personal in the next song, It Has Been A Min. Where we see the response that JUICETHERIDDLER has to this apocalyptic dating scene we find ourselves in. With the looped vocal samples, melancholy keys, and heavy distorted bass. It has this heightened sense of danger, yet at it’s melancholy, and has an almost introspective kind of sound.
This is compounded by the fact that JUICETHERIDDLER describes in vivid detail about a girl he’s with. How she is able to attend college, when he’s unable to, and he sees her change into a different person. She loses a bit of the innocence that she once had, as time goes on, and the song progresses we see how the distance between them grows greater. Until at the end when we hear the chorus, “It’s been a minute.”
This track has a lot of great aphorisms inside of it, my personal favorite is, “Love is not a noun, it’s a verb.” All of these little quotes, little slice of life dramas, are absolutely done in a perfect way. It’s like the Smiths except without the celibacy. This is where JUICETHERIDDLER is at peak form, and when he gets it right, he absolutely nails it. This song in particular does such a great job of nailing the dating scene for millenials/zoomers/or whatever.
If you think about it, the only difference between them both is that one went to college, and the other didn’t. But from that minute detail, that minor change of life, has completely changed a person into something they’re not, or at least shouldn’t be. Where before in Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone has this almost mythic story about a girl who has it all, and loses it all. Here in this song it’s told in a more realistic way. It doesn’t require beauty, wealth, genius, or whatever to lose your soul. Even if you go on the right track, go to college, get a degree, get a job, get married, etc. You are still capable of losing your integrity, who you are, and even your soul.
Next up we have another 2 for 1 song, 4eva Scarred/Love? 4eva Scarred has one of those great vocal samples that I just love. It has that choir of ghosts kind of sound, and the fact it’s looped throughout the track accomplishes this repetitive kind of misery. It’s misery that bangs on your head over and over again, like a thought or regret that you just can’t shake off. Which is furthered by the lyrics that deal with heartbreak.
Heartbreak is something that everybody has to go through. It’s one of those events that changes boys into men. It’s the event where you reevaluate yourself, and who are. Even the opening lines ask, “Why am I saying goodbye to you?” It’s that thought that gnaws away at you. That scrapes away your insides, emotionally gut punches you, and erodes all of your bravado. It strips you naked, makes you vulnerable, and even questions who you are. Are you still the same guy who, “Made that pussy purr?” Because if you are, then why are you saying “Goodbye?”
No matter how tough of a guy you are, a breakup is an ego destroyer. You’ll do anything you can to rebuild any resemblance of dignity in the face of the adversity. So when we get to Love? it’s the process of building yourself up. Not through bravado but through virtue. Where the morality of being in love is being assessed. Where before JUICETHERIDDLER has rapped 75% about the girl he’s with, and 25% about himself. In this song it’s a brutal reflection of what he was like in that rare state of mind we call “Love.” Where even though his heart was in the right place, his actions spoke differently.
Males have a variety of ways to deal with breakups, you can go hit up the clubs, binge on tinder, have one night stands, going on a drinking/drug binge, etc. All very unhealthy ways to go through the healing process. Yet when JUICETHERIDDLER goes through Love? we see the healthy alternative. Which is to see things as they are, to evaluate in brutal honesty who you were, who you are, and who you want to be. It’s in this song that we see that process unfold.
Then we get to Loose Ends. Which does an even a better job than Love? in my opinion, to illustrate how to deal with heartbreak. Throughout this album we’ve been hearing from JUICETHERIDDLER’s perspective. Now with this introduction from a female British poet, we get a broadened view of what love is, and what love can be. Because after all, if you’re trying to figure out the answer to love within yourself, it’s going to be like drawing from a poisoned well. This poet sample in particular seems like something that JUICETHERIDDLER or really anybody would use to help navigate the hostile mental landscape of what a breakup is.
Then there’s the actual music, the beat is at it’s peak in this track, the kick is phenomenally produced, and the snare is just so aggressive. Then there’s the amazing vocal samples, that sound like the choir of ghosts. Combine the samples, with the heavy beat, and it sounds like JUICETHERIDDLER is escaping his past. He’s moving past the breakup. While yes there are moments when he does relapse into thinking about his ex, trying to get back with her, and even at the end is this wonderfully produced phone call, there’s a sense of momentum. That while yes, it was painful to go through, it’s still painful to be going through it, eventually you’ll move past it.
Midnight Drive on the other hand, shows the ugly desperation that everybody will go through after a breakup. While the previous track had these really aggressive kicks, they seem more muted in this track. Even the snare which seemed to cut through everything seemed dialed down a bit. While the reverse open hi hats does the same thing as the synths in N***** Ain’t Your N*****, in that they have this harsh kind of tone which shines a light to this desperation.
Whether it’s making a scene at an Applebees, driving alone at midnight, or bawling in the front seat of his car. This shit is painful to go through. While other artists in other music genres try to dress up a relationship in this kind of grandiose romantic tragedy, JUICETHERIDDLER isn’t afraid to say, “Yeah I made a scene at an Applebee’s and right after that I was bawling in the front seat of my car.” That takes a LOT of bravery to write about a breakup in such a clear, vivid, and emotionally honest way.
That’s the first part of the song, the second part of the song is where I nerd out. Anybody who was alive at the 90’s immediately recognizes that DBZ sample. Which is a perfect kind of counterpoint to the rest of the song. I don’t think there is anybody who has watched DBZ and immediately wanted to be Goku. But it’s not just wanting to be Goku that is important, the escapism that Goku provides. That if you could just turn Super Saiyan, have the ability to destroy solar systems. You wouldn’t even need relationships. Fuck that. You could rule the world, have harems, all the money in the world, and all the power right at your fingertips.
Yet remember when I said that JUICETHERIDDLER was contradictory? Mainly because there are points in this album where he will state how deep his love is, and yet want to fuck random freaky girls. This is where it all clicks. That if you could just be more successful, if you could just have more power, money, and fame. Then you wouldn’t have to go through things like heartache, seeing your house foreclosed on, your Dad in pain, family troubles or any of that. You could just escape if you just became successful enough. Which what I believe gnaws at JUICETHERIDDLER just like it gnaws at me, you, and everybody else in this world.
It’s then when we get to songs like Hard To Trust. The ghostly choir is gone. We’ve moved passed the past, and now we’re in the present. Where we see the struggle, whether it’s going through a fight, and then right afterwards the girl says she loves you. Does she mean it? Is it sincere? There’s so much conflict, and even though there seems to be reconciliation, there’s still so much bullshit to put up with. “Forgiveness is the focus,” yet there’s so much baggage. The grudges are still there, it’s still a struggle.
Then we go to the escapism of Juss Wanna/Fiji. Juss Wanna is incredibly sensual with that looped soulful music. This song out of all of the songs is baby making music. There’s no denying that. Then there’s the lyrics, “I’m the king where’s my crown?” If this was a movie this would be the typical, “They Lived Happily Ever After,” ending. Where all of the issues that was addressed in CLEAR has finally been resolved. All the haters are gone, his girl calls him in the morning because she’s horny, his riding around in his car like a king, and his dad is proud of him. This is the ending JUICETHERIDDLER wants his life to come out to.
Then we get to Fiji which shows the counterpoint to JUICETHERIDDLER’s vision. In the opening seconds of this song we hear samples of a woman talking about some games she’s about to play on the guy she’s with. This is where the saying, “No man is an Island” that no matter how beautiful your vision is, no matter how great for both parties it is, you have to deal with other people. Other people with their schemes, their plots, their petty games, or even their own individualized grand visions. In which they’re the king/queen of their own world.
Then track opens up with this frantic flutes loop, frantic hi hat triplets, and even congas. The congas, I’m not going to lie, surprised me since it’s not something that’s typically used in Hip hop. Everything in this track is produced to create this frantic sort of feeling. It’s a desperate kind of sound. While the lyrics are about making a girl’s pussy so wet, that your dick slips in and out like water. The sound tells a different story. Put these two contradictory sounds together and you get the feeling, that while at face value it’s a typical rap bravado kind of track. Behind the smoke and mirrors it’s the wish of someone who is trying everything he can to salvage a relationship. To rebuild whatever chemistry they had, to have the relationship they once had together.
Then when we get to Special the hyper-sexuality increases. Whether it’s due to a guest rapper, a song written before the breakup, after the breakup, or whatever. Regardless the same principle applies. That if it’s included, it was by the artists’ design. This time instead of focusing on rebuilding the relationship, it’s the same kind of escapism that every straight male faces. The opportunity to hookup with a chick. Just some freaky chick, to get it out of your system, no love, no strings attached. I mean anybody who watches porn does this exact same thing.
It’s universal principle, to perhaps, all people. We all want to be loved, we all want to be in a happy relationship, and have our “They Lived Happily Ever After.” Yet there’s that lizard brain in all of us, who just so desperately want to fuck every girl that walks on two legs. To abandon those higher values of fidelity, marriage, having kids, and all of that. Just to be able to have sex with some freaky chick. Yet JUICETHERIDDLER like all of us, just can’t do that. We can’t go fucking all the time, there’s something deep inside of all of us that compels us to be something better.
I’ve mentioned this before in a Hip Hop review. Where I mentioned C.S. Lewis, and it applies here as well. JUICETHERIDDLER could just go around fucking chicks, and not give any thought to a relationship. He could just abandon all reconciliations, and go around being a fuckboy. Yet there’s something that compels him not to do so. There’s some higher purpose that he knows that he’s destined for. Even when his surroundings bring him down into petty squabbles, he still aims for something loftier, something with more substance.
C.S. Lewis proposed in his Christian Apologetics, that the reason we feel this way, that life somehow loses it’s luster. That it’s meaningless, hard, brutal, and just plain vicious. Yet we all sense that there’s a higher purpose, a grander journey, something that we haven’t yet encountered here on Earth. That really we are all waiting for the day when our souls leave our bodies, and we are greeted by St. Peter. We all have souls, we all seek higher meaning, and we will fight tooth and nail to see that higher meaning fulfilled. With JUICETHERIDDLER we see that struggle come into fruition.
So finally when we get to Comeback Season/Clear we are immediately greeted by this fantastic guitar intro. Then we hear JUICETHERIDDLER’s most vicious vocal delivery. This is where JUICETHERIDDLER finally confronts his demons. He puts all those who stood in his way in the crossfire, and it’s at this point where he sees things clearly. He’s no longer seeking escapism, he’s coming onto his own, and fighting through his struggles.
With Clear we the razor sharp focus that he has developed through the struggle. If this was a Rocky movie this would be the final round. He’s been beat up, bruised up, has 10 seconds on the clock, and we see JUICETHERIDDLER focused. Ready for that knockout punch. He’s ready for that moment to shine. After all that we’ve seen him go through in this album, it’s impossible not to root for the guy. Yet this isn’t a battle for success as it is for meaning. He knows what he wants out of life, who he is, and how hard he will work to make that dream into reality.
Then at the very end, when the curtain falls, and the audience applauds–we hear a sample. An ambient sample of birds chirping, cars driving off in the distance, and it’s a tranquil sound. A sound of someone at peace. At peace with themselves, their surroundings, and who they are and who they want to be.
As I’ve said before this album was contradictory, which it is at face value. Yet it’s not. It’s a story of a man who tries to rise above the magnet tar pit trap of modern life to be something better. It’s the story of someone who rises above his surroundings, and his struggle. Who no longer stares down at the dirt, but looks up to the heavens.
Though there are a few minor problems I had with this album, I truly believe that JUICETHERIDDLER will blossom into a wonderful rapper. With his brutal, and fearless honesty he has created a work of art that has cut through all the bullshit, and gave a voice to all of us going through the same struggles.
With this incredibly long winded review out of the way, I give this album my full recc. Because let’s be real if I write 5,000 words on something I’m not going to not give it my recc. Please check him out, and support him on apple as well as spotify!