It’s refreshing anytime a hip hop artist hailing from NYC doesn’t strive to be a carbon copy of the "Golden Era" rapper prototype. Even when a young artist manages to do it well, their music still lacks the feeling of authenticity - the best case serves up sounds reminiscent of their direct influences. The fact that 19-year-old Jimi Tents isn’t following that impressionist path is something he can’t stop being complimented for. While many of his contemporaries still look to resurrect what once was, Tents seems aware that innovation is needed on the NY scene more than ever and is working hard to become a catalyst for that.
While it's what Tents isn’t doing that has helped him grab our attention initially, what he is assures us we’ll be listening for a long time. I was introduced to Jimi through his debut single “Elmer Fudd” earlier this year. From the opening chorus of the track, he exercised his ability to cleverly compact so much of the harsh realities that many people of color in this country have to deal with on the daily into each line without ever sacrificing the melodics of the song. As the year progressed, his cut “Landslide” and the fact he had collaborated with our friends Nate Fox and Kembe X made it clear he was heading in the right direction.
Last week, Jimi let loose his 5 O’Clock Shadow EP, providing an extended look into the style he’s been cultivating. At the core of the tape is a tone that’s honest, aware and introspective. His lines continuously have multiple layers of meaning, but rather than overemphasizing that in his delivery Tents’ casual cadence adds replay value. Each new listen you can catch subtleties that slipped by during previous plays. Like you hope to see on an artist’s first project - Tents tests out a variety of styles and moods throughout, but maintains an anchor that keeps things cohesive. A strong effort throughout, the EP definitely earns a ‘must-listen’ stamp of approval from this writer.
Despite the honesty of his music, there isn’t too much out there about Jimi Tents just yet. Piecing together a few scattered quotes he provided to a handful of media outlets throughout the year, it seems the Sleepercamp representative really took the leap to make this music thing his full time pursuit. Humbly dealing with low funds and long hours that come hand-in-hand with the first stages of that process. With 5 O’Clock Shadow we see the fruits of that sacrifice, and see it as the first milestone in what we expect to be a promising career for Jimi Tents.