- Jewelry Company, Cheap Drugs
I got my driver's license just before the turn of the century, and my first car only had a radio in it. Luckily, FM pop reached a true peak at the time and in the years that followed. Producers like Darkchild, Rick Rock and Timbaland masterminded the sounds of countless artists churning out monster hits. Because of this confluence, my brain is hardwired to associate the sounds of the era with the feeling of total freedom and bliss that comes with being handed the keys to a shitty brown truck at age 16.
I experienced a spark of that same feeling listening to Cheap Drugs, the debut EP from new Burlington group Jewelry Company. Their track "Mood" most pointedly rekindled my forgotten unbounded spirit. Its buoyant counterpoint synth melody recalls the earworm picked-guitar hook from Busta Rhymes' 2002 Mariah Carey-featuring track, "I Know What You Want."
Jewelry Company is composed of two young MCs/producers, Ezra Oullette and Manriel Grant. The latter is the nephew of Melo Grant, the Queen City's preeminent rap authority and host of WRUV-FM's long-running radio show "Cultural Bunker." Apparently good taste in hip-hop runs in the family.
Jewelry Company masterfully blend the trappings of second-wave Top 40 hip-hop with a strong emphasis on contemporary R&B. UK garage is another heavy influence, which itself harks back to club music popular in the '80s and early '90s. Oullette and Grant have a clearly curated and defined sense of style in their production, which is impressive given that Cheap Drugs is their first outing. They write well, too, often concocting lyrics that seem simple but are weighted with deeply familiar and relatable themes, such as the circular internal conversation heard in frosty track "Beltane."
"Isn't what you said / It's what you did / That's what clued me in / There's no reason to pretend / Yeah I just want / I want you / You to cut me in / Tell me how you been," Oullette sings on a loop like thoughts that won't abate.
Opener "Yharnam," named for a fictitious Gothic city featured in the video game Bloodborne, begins with a busy-signal synth pattern and Grant whispering, "On the ones and twos." It shifts into an up-tempo jaunt with smooth, Auto-Tuned vocals from Oullette. The combination of elements signals an affinity with retro culture, as well as contemporary youth culture.
"Clapham" taps into the acid-house sound that artists such as Zhu and Disclosure repopularized in the early aughts. Grant's filtered vocals spike into helium-inflated fits across flickering beats.
Closing cut "Bemuse" is a knee-buckling groove full of rubbery bass punctuated with spine-tingling pops and clicks. It slides into sexy slow motion midway through, landing in a velvety chasm that lovers of Sade should find appealing.
Jewelry Company make an excellent first impression on Cheap Drugs. Hopefully this prescription comes with unlimited refills.
Cheap Drugs is available at jewelrycompany.bandcamp.com.