JERU THE DAMAJA The Sun Rises In The East (PayDay/FFRR)

With its cover image of the World Trade Center in flames, there’s something prophetic or pathetic about this 1994 album depending on your point of view. Considered a cornerstone in the resurgence of East Coast hip hop, its construction from spindly, near amusical loops is reminiscent of what Wu-Tang Clan were doing at around the same time. The samples are drawn from jazz (Lou Donaldson, Shelly Manne, Ahmad Jamal), soul and funk (Michael Jackson, Isaac Hayes, Funkadelic) and even hip-hop itself (N.W.A., Wu-Tang Clan, Jungle Brothers). Once Jeru The Damaja works the standard issue braggadocio out of his system over the course of the first few tracks, he turns his attention to potentially more interesting subjects. The sociosexual politics of “Da Bitchez” are marginally more advanced that its title might suggest, “You Can’t Stop The Prophet” stages a comic book battle between good and ignorance and “Ain’t The Devil Happy” laments the insidious rot of black-on-black violence. “Come Clean”, powered by what sounds like the sound of a xylophone falling down a staircase, admits “I blow up spots like the World Trade Center”, a line that sounds rather less clever now than it might have done at the time the album was released.

Unusually short (at less than 40 minutes) for an album pressed as two 33rpm discs, “The Sun Rises In the East” doesn’t make much sonic capital from all the extra space. It sounds reasonable enough, but no better than that.