The Battery (Peace586 & Jurny Big)
Label: Illect Records
Released: September 27, 2011
Distributed: Quality Junk
By Jon I. Gill
By Jon I. Gill
Available on Bandcamp:
Available on ITunes:
Get the physical LIMITED editions of One
The Battery “Break” single video
LPG (Jurny Big and Theory A.K.A. Dax) feat. Aceyalone "Pen Player" (Live Version)
Plain and simple. If you do not know who Jurny Big is, you are just the hip-hop connoisseur that I need to evolve into a more complex phase of their hip-hop human literary evolution. But fear not, for I am here to tell you about the supreme renowned yet unrenowned austere asshole MC of Christian hip-hop. An asshole that you should have known about much sooner were it not for stupid religious record labels having no clue how to market hip-hop of this ilk. Many of your favorite underground MCs are well aware of him. He probably would eat through a good number of them, and they know that too. If you don’t know who this figure is, maybe it’s about time that you do.
Make this introduction/reintroduction as short as possible I will. Jurny Big, the superior unsung West Coast Southern Cali lyricist could be called the more animated GZA of the dynamic collective Tunnel Rats, hosting members such as Shames Worthy, Propaganda, Triune, Zane One, and many others. Jurny in his prime was infamous in the Cali underground scene and feared in the pussyfooted playground of Christian hip-hop for uttering lines such as “Depending on which pen I use, you’ll end up black or blue, so choose”, or “The spots I be in the so called hardest Christian rappers get discarded/And it’s odd 'cus when I’m at they shows they claim they ain’t no joke/But two people map Project Blowed and they be in the back straight takin’ notes/Fool I rock both, my pendulum swings on each arena. I’m elevating Gospel rap from Nashville to West Covina.” Collaborating with and many times outshining everyone from Ahmad to Pigeon John (one of John’s first appearance was actually on a Tunnel Rat album by the TR subgroup LPG entitled Earthworm alongside Jurny), this wordsmith’s lyrical prowess has always enabled him to stand out on any track his pen shattered. If the records him and his crew released would have received more distribution outside of the Christian market, he would be one of the most known and reverenced MCs in the battle and conceptual forms of writing.
After a lengthy hiatus from the game (2003 was the release of Jurny’s solo album The Biggest of Them All on the now defunct Uprok Records as well as the release year of LPG’s The Gadfly), Jurny is back, but not with a vengeance. The fire of “…buggin’ out and taking out everyone around me” is still there. However, followers of the MC will notice in his latest project with original Tunnel Rat producer Peace586 (you may remember him from Freedom of Soul in the early 90s) that this combustible energy is now stored and distributed in more merciful doses toward the aim of building something more than just the competitive smash your shit open rhymes that Jurny is known for. What stores energy and rations it out in such a way? Ladies and gents, I present Jurny Big and Peace586 as The Battery, and their six-song EP entitled One.
The album opens with The Battery: Peace586 and Jurny Big Peace stirring up an atmospheric and dark instrumental as he introduces himself and Jurny as mainstays who have twenty years experience making substantial underground hip-hop music. The record continues with “The First 48,” where the Gospel asshole fights to creep out as Jurny enters the arena, firing some pretty well constructed punchlines that would rip through some of your favorite MCs as Peace provides a nasty and semi ambient up tempo boom-bap vibe, showcasing his signature gritty textures, unusual chord combinations, and tight snare/kick arrangements. Bars like “Dudes take worryin’ ‘bout this club thing too far/Need to get back to killin’ them bars that’s up to par/They touch screens and it’s over for ‘em when they score cheese/Now they in a thug scene and end up in a cell like 4g” are excellent, and I won’t even quote the best just so you go to hear this spectacle firsthand. “Break” shows us a different, evolved side of Jurny, where he surveys much of his rap career from a bird’s eye view. Over an enchanting and groovy yet edgy Peace beat, Jurny declares in three verses and amidst DJ Aslan scratches that his repertoire embodies not only combat rhyming but a grown man’s take on his own past and how it has both influenced and transformed into his stance as a father and mature writer. He says, “But I got a family now and silly as it seems/The only battle now’s with my son’s skinny jeans.” If die hard fans are somewhat surprised by the direction that Jurny heads in the latter portions of this short EP, this track should answer the question.
Vincent Reynosa,” a symbolic ode to Jurny’s grandfather, is reminiscent of Saul William’s “Ohm,” with Peace’s drums coming in and out of the sonic equation. Some of the most devastating lines appear in this portion of the album. This song is Jurny’s introspective look at himself as well as a prophetic rebuke of the current state of affairs in hip-hop, and this remedial low to no talent arena of Christian hip-hop in particular. The theme of hip-hop not holding his central focus due to “grown man issues” emerges yet again. But in lines like “My plate too full to let this rap game get on it/ But when it does jump on kid, yeah, it’s beyond tectonic.” Wordplay reminiscent of Jurny’s performance in tracks such as “Wackness Like” and the classic “Chance to Meet You” shows up in the verbiage as well as his response to the Christian naysayers of battle rap who ask him and Peace “Why there ain’t much ministry in what you spill/This bragging gon’ kill the youth for real.” His response is, “Well, well, to be honest, it does less harm than the garbage that you let fall/You target Christian kids ‘cus they ain’t hard to please at all/In fact, I know I have some fans if only by default/They heard I’m on a Gospel label so they called/This some Cain killed Abel raps/But don’t kid yourselves, you ain’t able/You ain’t able like Peace is/To prevent you from getting blown to pieces/Yeah, Jesus is my savior, yeah I said it/But whether I did or not does not dictate where I am headed/For that simple fact, so many dreaded….my reenlistment.” Nuff said. Almost.
It’s evident that from this overview that I, the reviewer, am a long time connoisseur of both Peace586 and Jurny Big. I am a former church kid, who was immersed in the “Christian” hip-hop scene, a realm where the Tunnel Rats reigned as conceptual geniuses in a land of religious ignorance. The fact that they fearlessly questioned the norms of their cloistered Christian rap context and were revered in the secular rap arena of So Cal as formidable was a key element in my own questioning of the religious situation I inherited, leading to my own current atheism, to state simply my ever evolving and never stable position on ultimate reality. Neither Jurny nor Peace would have desired their music to be influential in such a way. But, they also wouldn’t turn their nose up at me like many of these bitch ass Christian MCs and record label owners do nowadays. Fuck them, and I hope they burn in the hell they tell me I am going to. Pussies with spiked dildos inserted, equipped with rotating iron fan blades traveling 2000 mph. Jurny Big is one of my favorite MCs. Hands down. His grasp on the literary aspect of rapping from arranging words to concepts is impeccable. Admittedly, he is my teacher through the many recordings of his I have ingested from the mid-nineties until now. And he still teaches me. With such a history and reputation behind him, he sets high expectations for himself. Honestly, the first few times I heard One after I acquired it, I enjoyed it but expected more of an edge. Repeatedly, I asked myself, “Where is Jurny? You know, that Jurny who was “…devouring punks weaker than 1-68 hours.” There were glimpses of those characteristics, but the technically flamboyant lyricist I was expecting to erupt blatantly in front of my ears was not there. It was only as I was preparing to write this review that I really understood. As I took a magnifying glass to the words of this project, I saw the Jurny of old in every fabric of every line. But what is different in this project is the breadth of his vision in One. He demonstrates that with maturity comes balance, creating a colleagueship between hip-hop and life where neither is sacrificed for the other. Life is not a battle rap, It is hip-hop, family, responsibility, justice, equality, and art, to utter a few facets of the multifaceted existential situation that we can never hope to concretize by language. Once again, my teacher teaches me. Selah.