Jason and the Beast | Birth of the Beast (s/r)

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cd_jason-beast.jpgJason Braun has fathered one of least wack releases to come from the St. Louis scene in some time.







Sometimes you gamble and lose, but let it be known that Jason Braun played the odds and won. Birth of the Beast is in some ways a spiritual successor to his former outfit Jupiter Jazz, and in other ways a blurring of lines that will draw praise and criticism with the same fluidity. With a plethora of local musicians behind him and a mini comic book inked by Matt Kindt, Braun has fathered one of least wack releases to come from the St. Louis scene in some time.

Concepts always have the potential to weigh down an album, and cynics will say that choosing the sonnet form comes off as a fast grab in the nearly empty bag of hip-hop gimmicks, but it's hard to objectively hate what's going on here. Rarely, if ever, does the structure cause a lyrical obstruction, and it's a good thing because with the "man versus self" element and the mini comic also at play, it's not hard to imagine things becoming inaccessible. Thankfully, they're kept in check. To some, they'll be enthralling and to others framework and garnish. It's refreshing Braun didn't let things get out of hand.

Braun enlisted members of Arts and Sciences and DJ Uptown, among others, to provide the beats, and the result is somewhere between Blackalicious and Atmosphere. Braun's flow is strong and the production isn't Saturday morning hip-hop; there are no songs about ill vacations but five introspective tracks that are definitely inspired. For a first release, Birth of the Beast is more than what anyone would expect.

With an LP release due sometime in 2009, Jason and the Beast have set themselves up to catch ears and minds alike. The only thing missing are the beat poet segments that pepper their live performances...but that's not calling Birth of the Beast a table with one short leg by any means. B | Bryan J. Sutter

RIYL: Saul Williams, Sage Francis, early Anticon

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