You can purchase and stream ve·loc·i·ty on BandCamp.
Since rap began in the South Bronx almost 50 years ago, the DJ and vocalist combination has been a long-heralded duo of sonic setter and master of ceremony. From Gang Starr to Mobb Deep, rap music has no shortage of performers and producers whose combined powers seem to bring out the best of each other. ve·loc·i·ty, the first project from Brooklyn vocalist maassai and New Jersey electronic producer JWords as H31R, continues in this age old tradition. These inspiring team ups often don’t come in the form of two women musicians and we over at GSC are hyped as hell we get to live in this timeline. The project finds JWords picking right up where we left her. Since her interview with GSC back in May, the Jersey beat maker and producer, born Jennifer Hernandez, has also dropped dancepackvol.2 making ve·loc·i·ty her fifth release of 2020. While JWords has worked with an array of vocalists in the last year from MIKE to Koncept Jack$on, her partnership with maassai finds her settling into a groove that never eases up over the 12 song, 29 minute project.
Released last month with a cassette version from the Purple Tape Pedigree available for purchase, this project finds JWords collaborating in full soundtracking a powerful performance from maassai. The result is a necessary collaboration and crossover between dance and Hip-Hop that captures the mood of the moment: anxiety, distrust, and a bevy of self-reflection. maassai’s words flow effortlessly like a breeze over the high BPM JWords’ production. Influenced by the Jersey club sound of her home state, the project is an experimental sonic orgy of impossibly slick dance juke grooves over an array of meaningful lyrical exercises.
On album opener “antisocial” maassai sets the tone letting her audience know, “I won’t smoke a spliff with you / I ain’t your big sister, honey that’s your big issue”. The Brooklyn rapper, who has appeared on songs with Mavi this year, is unquestionably DIY. In a world where fans and artists can be found standing side by side at the same show inconspicuously, it is easy to feel a connection with any relatable artist in a way that makes them feel almost approachable. maassai, however, is not with the fake acclaim or over the top behavior admitting, “I be bored with the facades / love to overcompensate but never pay respect” over a sparse beat that builds with electronic glitches on the outro.
A young Black woman growing into adulthood, maassai is plagued by the burdens of being a dope woman in the public eye, seemingly fighting off more suitors that Penelope did while waiting for Odysseus to return from war. Unlike Penelope, who entertained the fools to create goodwill, maassai eviscerates these men telling them, “want me on some coy shit / cause they on some boy shit, bullshit / niggas all talk, never pull shit” on stand out “precious silence”. With a beat that sounds like it belongs in a rap battle, maassai’s repetition “precious silence, hard to come by it” to end the song is a feeling that anyone living through these turbulent times can empathize with.
While some boys are all talk, some are “on my page lurking for days like the feds with ya” when maassai warns they should be “[taking] control of your own shit” on “take a hold”. The frantic beat from JWords gives maassai the space to flex over dizzying beats that take you out of your body and into an inescapable rhythm.. JWords, an inherently trippy girl, gets the nod from friend and collaborator Nappy Nina on “accountabiity” when she raps “maassai likes the spins cause she say she feel trippy”. As maassai admits, “My day was lovely except for the vultereous nigga who say that he love me” on “whatweleftwith” you have to wonder how she has developed the patience to deal with fuck boys and toxic men at the absurd clip.
To be fair, Black women remain the backbone of the Civil Rights movement and fight in 2020. With aptly titled tracks like “accountability” and “toxic behavior”, maassai is clearly focused on the theories and work that are necessary to create a better space for Black women in not only the DIY music space, but also our country. When she riffs, “Y’all need to stop having seeds if y’all gon’ keep making cops” or solidifies her value with, “He try to bag it up, but I don’t do the plastic” on “whatweleftwith”, maassai is making a political statement about her self-worth and the lack of care about the community by those willingly choosing to enter the police profession.
maassai’s criticisms of her male counterpoints are fitting, with sly disses like, ““Don’t know loyalty, why you tatted for?” making me question my own silly “deep” tattoos. Her seriousness is never to be questioned. On “breathe thru it” she opens reading manifestations before launching into a tirade against men who simply cannot be trusted. For a male listener the line, “Niggas probably pulled up to the spot cause they knew your whole plot / posted on your block in disguise / you know they be on crazy timing,” could be read as an attack or jumping, whereas for ladies like maassai and JWords it is a constant reminder that men frequently have ulterior motives than simple fandom or friendship.
JWords does her part, giving maassai an ary of beats to run through, allowing for fast or slow flow, vocal experimentation, and the therapeutic release of saying what’s on her mind that may offend a male producer or engineer. On “sumshit” the soul sample feels straight out a 90s NYC rap hit, proving JWords can balance multiple genres with ease, befitting her multi-cultural identity as an Afro-Latina. “toxic behavior” is dance-floor ready, with a tight groove and call and response that could turn any late night shenanigans into an early morning regret. The energetic “big luv” with it’s catchy hook has catchy drum kicks that allow maassai to ask, “Why you on the socials throwing big subs?”. Over the braggadocious ready beat maassai drops a truth bomb, “It’s not appealing how you bigoted / love is infite, but mine’s still limited / it exists, but don’t extend it”. maassai is clearly going through shit, but don’t expect it to slow her down. As she reveals on “heavy on my crown” something “got me down, but I’m in high demand”.
With JWords already teasing unreleased H31R music on her Instagram, expect from the maassai and JWords camp sooner than later. In the meantime, head over to Bandcamp to grab your copy of ve·loc·i·ty. Article cover photo credit goes to Ang!e.