Dan & tha Damaja

By the

January 18, 2001

Touching down in DC this Saturday night will be a hip-hop show like no other: Jeru the Damaja on the mic with Dan the Automator doing deck duty.

At first the two seem like an unlikely couple, but it’s really not all that surprising that the Automator has hooked up with the lesser-known Jeru, whom he has never worked with. The record that broke Dan as a producer, Kool Keith’s 1996 Dr. Octagonecologyst, brought a bizarre new approach to making records that Jeru has obviously studied extensively.

Dr. Octagon’s nasty sci-fi fantasies are arguably somewhat of a precursor to such recent Jeru tracks as “Billy Jean (safe sex),” in which Jeru describes a one night stand with said Jean, which is interrupted mid-coitus by an enraged Michael Jackson. Hilarity ensues. Jeru, vouching for the story’s validity, apparently adds punch to his claims with the phrase: “Word to Bill Clinton’s mother.” This track, on Jeru’s most recent effort, his self-produced Supahuman Klik, is a prime example of his increasingly weird tastes of late; exactly the type of stuff the Automator loves.

Jeru’s early work was mostly with DJ Premier and has many of the same strengths and weaknesses as most Premier projects. Premier’s incredible knack for effective production often stagnates MCs he works with; they tend to find a format and stick with it for years. Thus, Jeru’s first two albums are high quality, but somewhat interchangeable. Originally known as somewhat of a straight-edged MC with more focus on moral themes, Jeru’s flow has since become less prophetic. Like many MCs who have tried to use the mic to promote respect for women, he seems to have given up.

If Dan The Automator, the self-proclaimed “king of alternative hip-hop,” has done anything, he’s failed to seriously live up to his apparent potential. Since producing for Kool Keith, the Automator (aka Dan Nakamura) has unfortunately been involved in very few projects. He did pair up with Prince Paul for one of the more unique hip-hop projects in recent memory; as Handsome Boy Modeling School they produced the 1999 release So?How’s Your Girl? The record is incredibly varied but inconsistent and features guests from far and wide. It includes one of the greatest downtempo jams in recent memory, “The Truth,” in addition to tracks with guests as diverse as Miho Hatori and Alec Empire.

The Automator’s love affair with Kool Keith doesn’t appear to be over, either; he has a new CD out (A Much Better Tomorrow) featuring several unreleased tracks from the Dr. Octagon sessions. In addition, Automator recently collaborated with Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Kid Koala to produce an album under the moniker Deltron 3030. Thematically the project resembles Dr. Octagon, but Del’s rhymes have a pretty distinctive feel that sets the whole thing apart.

Saturday night, check it out: Dan the Automator and Jeru tha Damaja at the Black Cat.

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