April 7, 2017

ruler rebel

Alex Dwyer invented witch trap.

By the time NPR invited him for a Tiny Desk concert in 2015 to promote his lauded album Stretch Music, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah had already blown his trumpets on stages in and out his native New Orleans for around 15 years (as evidenced by this Tremé fest video taken ‘round about 2001).

He wasn’t new. He wasn’t a jazz outsider. But for an artist deliberate enough to have each of his trumpets custom made, he was also determined to test the malleability of jazz itself. Having already been smoothed, stridden, and straightened-ahead, Adjuah stretched it. Rather than fusing traditional jazz rhythms and instrumentation to modern sounds, he pinched and elongated them. Stretch Music blanketed hip-hop, indie rock, and Latin vibes in jazz. In the process, he asked questions of his own LA-to-L.A. dislocation and broke hearts with his trumpet.

Now he’s at it again.

Adjuah dropped Ruler Rebel, his ninth studio album last week, and the first in a trilogy of records to be released this year. Over what has he stretched jazz this time? Ruler Rebel’s bandcamp liner notes put it this way:

“The first release in [The Centennial Trilogy], Ruler Rebel, vividly depicts Adjuah’s new vision and sound—revealing Adjuah to the listener in a way never heard before via a completely new production methodology that stretches Trap Music with West African and New Orleanian Afro-Native American styles.”

Yes. Adjuh has now stretched jazz across trap—which, thank the soundcloud gods, is nothing like the similarly-named jazz trap (to experience the nightmare advertised, please see: Summerfuck, Jazzy Twerk, and Girls That Dance).

From the haunting title track to the throbbing tiny tortures of “The Reckoning,” Adjuah’s use of trap is subtle but pointed: a rough stationary on which to appraise modern urban life, where the jazz—mostly Adjuah and his siren/sirenettedoes the town-halling. The effect is most pronounced when you play his last album’s opener “Sunrise in Beijing” alongside its stretch-trap accompaniment “Rise Again.”

Of course, Adjuah’s music has a high nutritional value in its own right. The non-trap musical excavations inside Ruler Rebel nod at his Afro-Native American and New Orleanian roots in equal measure. Still, if he can make the snood of jazz and the juvenility of trap get along together, it’ll be exciting to see what the next two installments of The Centennial Trilogy offer.