Write hook

JoEl makes most rappers look ridiculous

JoEl and his big-ass brain.

JoEl and his big-ass brain.

Photo By dominick porras

Find JoEl on MySpace at www.myspace.com/joelakaaveragejo. And be sure to watch out for his crew, League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

Rap lyrics still suck.

Don’t believe it? Let’s examine a few from Lil’ Wayne’s recent disc, Tha Carter III, which prompted Rolling Stone’s Jody Rosen to ejaculate all over hip-hop.

His review refers to Weezy as “a dreadlocked dadaist poet” whose rhymes “are full of imagination and surprise.” (Geez, get a room, you two.) Here’s a taste: “Told her to back it up / like berp berp / and I made that ass jump / like jerp jerp.” How eloquent. And the rest of the album is riddled with ridiculous shit like that, which makes me wonder: Are critics out of their fucking minds putting a near mental retard at the highest level of hip-hop lyricism? That’s setting the bar pretty low, and it just goes to show: Nobody knows what they’re talking about, especially music critics.

But what about a rapper who can actually turn a phrase—someone who doesn’t see a girl walking down the street and blurt out “Jerp, jerp!” like an urban Raymond Babbitt? Is there such an emcee?

Well, as it turns out, we have one right here: 21-year-old Derek Murrey, a.k.a. JoEl of West Sacramento.

A few months ago, JoEl quietly tiptoed onto the scene and dropped Average Jo Mixtape Vol. 1. The beats are all jacked from other artists (because it’s a mix tape), but it’s his lyrics that are the highlight anyway.

From listening to the first few measures, it’s evident that JoEl has a lot going on inside his skull—which he expresses quite well. The wordplay on “Champion’s Theme Music” is just one example: “I’m good with the write but I don’t write books / and I jab with the left but I don’t right hook / I do write verses, do write songs / I do make hits / and I do write hooks.”

JoEl’s a lover of language. His lyrics utilize carefully crafted terminology—a far cry from Weezy’s “shorty wanna hump” version of poetry. He’s an emcee who lets his ideas simmer before he presents them to the public and will let his writing sit for a few days so he can think about it, to make sure he’s gotten his point across as effectively as possible.

In the song “Dreaming,” JoEl takes a conversational, poetic tone while thinking about what it would be like to go to heaven: “I see my grandma as an angel dressed in clean white / She smiles and introduces me to the king Christ / and Dr. King and / and Dr. King’s wife / Y’all wanna be fly but you ain’t rocking your wings right.”

If Weezy is a dadaist poet, then JoEl is the new laureate.

And his style is varied. On “Rollin (Off the Deep End),” he presents a Socratic dialogue, prompted by a vision of dying in a drunk-driving accident: “I started my engine / just like in my vision / but just like in my vision / that very decision meant my ending / but I’m tripping though because in that dream I was drunk / but I’m not drunk / I was just dumped by this cunt / and I had a few drinks / You can think what you want but / OK, I’m drunk / but not as bad as you think / vision’s a little blurry / but it’s not bad when I blink.”

It’s masterful songwriting that’s impact lies in the emcee’s intelligence, humor and unpredictability. And if you haven’t heard of him, that’s because he’s still trying to hone his craft, to become a better lyricist. “I don’t want to just be half-assed,” he says, humbly.

Damn. If that’s half-assed, then sorry, Weezy, your throne’s about to be snatched by a kid from West Sacramento. It’s about time you earned those teardrops.