If you pay attention you can watch an album get A&R’d and recorded in real time on your timeline. A few months ago Jersey producer on the rise JWords posted a video of her constructing a beat to twitter, as she is wont to do. I often wonder what becomes of the beats made live on the TL, and whether they’re conscious throwaways just meant as advertisements for their craft or if there is a hope that the beat might live past the tweet. Oakland born, Brooklyn based rapper Nappy Nina saw this particular beat and made sure it’d outlive the first tweet at least to another, and dropped a quick freestyle on top of the bouncy electric instrumental. She said she was feeling anxious and ambitious when she decided to ‘steal’ the beat and those two emotions make perfect sense because JWords’ dancy production can be too fast paced and overwhelming for a rapper who doesn’t understand what they’re diving into, but Nina was more than ready for the challenge. The pair’s joint charisma was immediately apparent; Nina dexterously weaved through the beat like a seasoned boxer dodging punches with her cool confident monotone cadence, to the point where it looked like JWords was dancing along to her raps instead of just the beat.
That twitter track ultimately was rerecorded and became “Table Set” from Nappy Nina and JWords’ new collaborative album Double Down, and in my head I like to imagine that tweet was the catalyst for the entire project. “Table Set” sounds even better in its properly recorded and mastered form, as Nina raps with mantra like precise repetition, “Is the table set yet, grab me a chair for some air round the cable set, lets air it all out now, let’s table it, y’all telling tall tales, tryna fable it” over JWords pulsating rhythm. The beat is sparse but soulful and when coupled with Nina’s repeated chants is absolutely entrancing.
Nappy Nina uses quick repetition to tap into the hypnotic elements of JWords ethereal dance production throughout the tape. Nina doesn’t try to overpower the instrumental with her choruses but rather mesh into JWords’ sonic universe, using her voice like a metronome. On album opener “Messy” Nina repeats “The therapist won’t text me back, what mess is that,” as the beginning of the repeated chorus. The feeling she creates is less like a panicked crisis over where her therapist is and more like the ever present low level anxiety that bad communication from someone you rely on for mental stability will naturally cause. On the album’s lead single “Real Tea” Nappy Nina raps “I on I’m gone I’m wrong moving along // I’m based in place of grace up on this song // Mercury is murking me it’s wrong // Let worries sturdy me until it’s dawn,” over and over until it becomes one with your subconscious. Stas the Boss kills her guest verses on the track as well. Stas slides over JWords glockenspiel and synths, closing the track off with a hundred mile an hour flow that ends with Stas repeating, “Niggas is so off kilter,” as the beat runs its course. The track was accompanied by a fun music video where Nina, JWords, Stas, and some artist friends all dance around and drink some real tea. It’s a tea party filled with a bubbling group of off kilter artists all pushing one another to be great and having a great time in the process.
The most impressive song on the tape however has to be the following track “Scrd”. JWords drops a beat choppier than the ocean before a hurricane, with a stopped and repeated sample loop that sounds like JWords might be throwing it in reverse in real time. Nappy Nina is more than up for the challenge, warning us at the onset of the track, “Grab onto something grounding,” before going on to ride be beat like a seasoned bull rider on a bucking bronco. Nina rips the beat to shreds with double time flows rapping, “something growling inside of them they see in me and they scared.” It’s just an impressively assembled song where JWords and Nappy Nina seem hellbent on one upping each other, leaving us with a track that only the two of them could possibly have assembled.
On Double Down JWords and Nappy Nina are running the craps table till they get kicked out of the casino, with JWords rolling the dice and Nina calling the shots. In my head the pair decided to ‘double down’ on a full album after the “Table Set” tweets and in the process went on a nine track gambling hot streak without a miss to be found. JWord’s instrumentals create a distinct vibe that Nina is able to groove right along with. JWord’s sparse, bouncy dance inspired production is a match made in heaven for Nappy Nina’s fast paced flows and straightforward rhythmic cadence. With this tape JWords continued to prove herself as among the most eclectic and unmistakable rap producers out today, and Nina continued to prove herself to be among the most thoughtful, reflective, and thought provoking rappers rapping. Here’s to hoping the two talented artists choose to quadruple down for the sequel sooner rather than later.