Lil Jaye – ‘Rare’ review: star of Melbourne’s 66Records proves his crossover potential

Three years after breaking out with ‘Choppa Make Her Dance’ and a Juice WRLD support slot, Lil Jaye delivers bright, bouncy bangers and a positive, ambitious outlook on his debut mixtape

It’s been three years since Jordan Yermian broke out as Lil Jaye with the single ‘Choppa Make Her Dance’ and a support slot on Juice WRLD’s tour of Australia – the beloved rapper’s last before his premature passing. His debut mixtape, ‘Rare’, showcases his growth and bodes well for the future.

Jaye opened for Juice in 2019 alongside Eco$ystem, his labelmate on Melbourne collective 66Records, and The Kid LAROI. The latter strategically consolidated his fanbase with mixtapes – and Jaye is doing the same with ‘Rare’. He hasn’t approached it as an art-rap concept project, but rather a collection of seven songs demonstrating his musicality. Opening with ‘Live In The Moment’, graced by a soulful sample, he leans into the melodic trap Juice and Trippie Redd popularised.

Even Auto-Tuned, Jaye’s voice is expressive. But, despite moments of vulnerability, Jaye isn’t overly angsty or nihilist – his outlook remains positive and proactive. The bouncy lead single ‘Can’t Even Choose’ has the sincerest lines, Jaye declaring that, “I don’t stress no more I know that life is beautiful” and “Aiming for the stars I’m finna go higher than the moon / I won’t go out sad so you know I’m gon’ bust a move.

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On ‘Rare’, Jaye doesn’t illuminate his Cameroonian heritage or how he grew up in Paris before migrating to Australia as a teen, settling in working-class Collingwood. Nevertheless, his lyrics deal with themes that reflect his personal journey: self-motivation and self-validation. In ‘From The Mud’, featuring Eco$ystem, he raps about pursuing his dreams even when off-radar, the beats evoking a cinematic Lil Uzi Vert: “I didn’t wait for nobody / I came the bottom I just gotta do it myself.” In ‘OnlyFans’ Jaye indulges playful humour, flexing but also questioning a girlfriend’s loyalty: “I ain’t playing no games but I’m playing for keeps.”

With ‘Rare’ Jaye proves that he can deliver bangers to match those of any international super-rapper on radio or streaming platforms. Still, stylistically, he’s reproducing American trends instead of exploring or generating his own. The most transfixing and promising songs are the ones revealing unexpected instrumentation, evidence of sonic experimentation: ‘No Time’ with its eerie piano; ‘Play My Song’ with lilting guitar.

Australia’s fresh hip-hop wave has largely been identified with Western Sydney. Yet Lil Jaye and 66Records are fronting a Melbourne vanguard while quietly honouring the legacy of Diafrix, who repped diasporic African voices in the early 2000s. 66Records was founded by John Nelson and Abraham Poni, who created the ​​African-Australian hip-hop label in the basement of a housing commission block in Collingwood in 2018. That September, the label’s launch party at the Gasometer Hotel made headlines for a fight that erupted and critically injured a teenager. Sensationalist and racist media coverage (not to mention an opportunistic radio weigh-in by then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison) marred what should have been a triumph for a local diasporic community and ascendant artistic collective.

66Records has continued to forge ahead, announcing in 2020 a game-changing joint deal with Warner Music Australia. And now they have released Lil Jaye’s ‘Rare’, which is steeped with the cocky charisma of a crossover star (and will be expanded in December with a part two). No doubt hip-hop heads in Melbourne and beyond will be bumping it over summer. Lil Jaye is about to go big.

Details

Lil Jaye - Rare

  • Release date: November 17
  • Record label: 66Records
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