- Jarv & Thief, The Boiler Room
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Jarv is part of the Windsor hip-hop crew Maiden Voyage, a group that spent years building a reputation for high-energy live sets. It's a prolific group. All of the members of MV crank out solo material, but none more than Jarv. He's a standout talent onstage, too, so a solo career was inevitable.
While his latest, The Boiler Room, will cement Jarv's reputation as one of the state's best rappers, that's not exactly news. Thanks to YouTube and Reddit, he's been amassing a loyal following for years now. He's currently on a nationwide tour with Long Island hardcore legend R.A. the Rugged Man — for the second time, no less.
Released last year, his first project, Jarvage Vol. 1, was very much a mixtape — haphazard but full of potential. The Boiler Room is his proper debut: cohesive, confident and professionally done.
On his latest, Jarv remains playfully inventive with the flows, but his delivery is more refined. He channels influences to great effect, summoning the dense narratives — and chopping speed — of Eyedea on "Love & Loss." It's a complex mix, equal parts Aesop Rock and Fu-Schnickens.
Which isn't to say the young man is doing cover songs. He has mastered his instrument and there are no poses here. Jarv is a cerebral, introverted party animal who loves to rap. His acrobatic patterns sound most comfortable over upbeat, funky bangers, and there is no shortage of those.
The production is fairly magnificent. Thief is a creative beatsmith with classic taste. At 21 tracks, the album feels like a guided tour of the vibes that made the golden age of hip-hop so great. From the G-Funk melodics of the Aftermath era to the breezy, elevator-music aesthetic of MF Doom, Thief nails it every time.
The Boiler Room overflows with ideas, harking back to the sonic collage work of early Public Enemy and Beastie Boys. (In fact, Mike D even gets looped into the hook of artistic manifesto "Commercial.")
The album is also gloriously nonchalant about sample laws, dropping easily a hundred clips and loops that could never get cleared without a monster budget. Serious hip-hop heads are advised to break out the good headphones for all the sly references Thief weaves into the mix. This is the kind of unconstrained creativity that can only happen on the internet.
Like early Hieroglyphics or the De La Soul classic 3 Feet High and Rising, The Boiler Room is an unambiguously fun album. When it all comes together, as on tracks such as "Hot Yoga" and "Slack-Jaw," the result is timeless.
Impressively, Jarv mixed this himself and did a hell of job. Thanks to the expert mastering work of Future Fields' Jer Coons, it sounds as good as anything major labels have to offer.
And that is pretty much the point. Jarv isn't making a local rap album; he is setting his sights on hip-hop, period. The Boiler Room is a clear statement that he's got the tools for the job. Stay tuned.
The Boiler Room by Jarv & Thief is available at jarvmakesmusic.bandcamp.com.