Having released his debut, the Sun Rises in the East, in 1994 alongside DJ Premier, many would believe that Jeru the Damaja’s prime could be far behind him. However, undeniable charisma and talent thankfully prevent this from being the case. The show that he put on was as energetic, and more entertaining, than that of many artists who were born the same year his debut was released. Age may not be a factor but experience most certainly is. Performances such as this one prevent Jeru from fading into obscurity and cement his legacy as one of hip hop’s greatest performers.
Many artists can claim veteran status in rap music at this stage. Anyone who released an album in the 90s that resulted in some form of acclaim tends to do so. However, it is rare that this title is as applicable to anyone as Jeru the Damaja. He controls the crowd at the Sugar Club not just with ease, but with a high level of professionalism, one that is often missing on his peers’ behalf. He even stops an over enthusiastic fan from being kicked out, highlighting and enhancing the control he holds over the crowd and the entire venue.
Mixing an array of new material with classics and results in a ferocious set. When he’s not impressing with his flow and wordplay, he jokes with the crowd about racism vs prejudice, Irish stereotypes and eh.. his “large black shillelagh.” His good mood is absorbed by the spectators and is reciprocated tenfold. Competitors should notes on how to genuinely and consistently create laughter amongst an audience, something that is slowly becoming a lost art form in live music. The DJ duties, provided by ChoiceCuts own DJ Scope are more than suitably handled. Scope either knows Jeru’s set like the back of his hand, or is incredibly good at rolling with the many punches that the set delivers.
As soon as it’s over he’s straight to the smoking area to sell copies of his latest album. It only goes to prove that work ethic is essential to any hip hop artist, regardless of your stature. Some would view Ireland as yet another easy pay check for 60 minutes work, but Jeru at least gave the illusion that he had immersed himself in our culture to some degree. Whether he’s giving us his best effort at speaking Irish or talking about his ‘gaff’, it’s clear an effort was made on his behalf to try gather somewhat relatable material to entertain the crowd between tracks. Fair enough it can verge on patronising at some stages, but if you drop the patriotic facade, you begin to realise that he is genuinely funny regardless of who he is poking fun at. It is not a show that packs hit after hit into 60 minutes but the enthusiasm shown by the crowd and the act prove that that may not be as big a necessity as previously thought.