Shawn Jackson, Brand New Old Me
Shawn Jackson’s second album riffs on underground striver themes: surviving the mean streets of “Lah City,” toking on “purple swishas,” taking “Starget Practice,” and going on “T!LT.” The beats explore well-worn niches, too, from K-Salaam & Beatnick’s Kanye-styled chipmunk soul (“Good Writtens”) to Beat Maker Beat’s future soul funk (“Izichu”). The L.A. rapper negotiates these paths with aplomb, but his lyrics often reveal a disarming vulnerability. On the title track, he admits, “Lately I’ve been living with this monkey on my back/ Put my soul into the music but no money for the tracks.” Jackson has a nice flow, but he may have trouble standing out amidst the blogosphere’s mass of rappers that have also mastered the technique of rhyming, if not necessarily the trickier art of songwriting. Brand New Old Me presents his modest strides forward in the latter department.