San Diego indelibly colours the music of Jonny Dee. His musical base, its remnants of Summer of Love transgression spill over into a crate-digging gusto in “The Human Experience”, whose title’s universalism is matched by its musical diversity. The album veers from retro synth-pop—“Ticketless Trip”—to breezy G-Funk—“Luna’s Lullaby”—and even elements of the languid, percussive spaciousness of trap in “Feedback”, all delivered with an off-handed insouciance.
Dee’s strengths, on this album at any rate, are solidly as an MC rather than a lyricist. His sing-song, lackadaisical flow at times echoes Slick Rick, but his delivery is also dexterous and fluid at faster tempos even if his enunciation, crucial for a rapper, is slightly patchy. However, he is also adept at constructing myriad musical landscapes; in a bold move that is perhaps indicative of his perception of himself as a fully-rounded artist rather than just an MC, he doesn’t appear vocally at all on final track “Cosmic Poem”, instead supplanting himself with Hendrix-esque flurries of guitar.
Nonetheless, for all its disparity “The Human Experience” is a surprisingly accessible project. “Summer’s Song” is easy to envision as the sort of thing blasted from car stereos of tipsy teens across the nation, weaving hazy, submerged vocal samples through flickering webs of hi-hats. However, the strongest prospective single here is “A Ways Away”, whose sugary chorus recalls the more radio-friendly moments of J. Cole. However, Dee is equally able to integrate the jazzy fluency of the verses into this poppier musical milieu, meshing together the different facets of his musical identity with ease.
The production of “The Human Experience” is admittedly dated at times, the pitched-up synth line and clipped, precise beats of “Live Thursday Night Groove” simply rehashing old G-Funk tropes rather than housing them in any new musical context. The manic “Rhythm of My Life” interpolates cheesy club classic “Rhythm of the Night”, but gets away with it by splicing its vocal hook into a dense musical landscape of breakneck tempos and glitching synths. Although his musical experimentation can be slipshod in execution, with the discordant electric guitar of “In The Sound” jarringly clashing against the track it finds itself in, Dee is largely successful in blending a variety of styles into a coherent whole. Although “The Human Experience” could never live up to the grandiosity of its title in terms of the diversity of its musical escapades, it certainly qualifies itself as the San Diego Experience. One to watch. CO
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/iamjonnydee/