Rapper Justin "Jonezy" Jones has the necessary bravado to rock the mike with authority, but he never lets his ego — or his rock-star-size dreams — get too big. The first two tracks on CO$TOMBS refer to his soul-sucking day job and being broke in a manner that's both funny and refreshingly realistic. This undercurrent of anti-materialism gives the disc its distinct flavor. "CO$TOMBS" (pronounced "costumes," in case you missed Ke$ha's dollar-sign-as-consonant lesson) rides on a florid sample of classical stings and an almost Tom Waits-ian chorus that asks, "How much does that costume that you're wearing cost?" It may not be a Zen riddle, but the social critique permeates much of the disc without becoming overbearing.
Jonezy persistently rails against style over substance — the hard-edged "Intrinsick" reaches for hip-hop's brass ring of authenticity by questioning the genre's status clichés while rapping atop the disc's most blasé and by-the-numbers beats. It's unclear if the irony is intentional or not. He's better off with more adventurous samples such as the slinky horns that give a nice pivot point to "Blow It Up" or the Bob Marley licks that give a little Clavinet-fed funk to "ExitUS." The sluggish and cavernous drum-machine beats on "It's Now Time" produce a narcotic effect, and the bellicose guest verse by Tef Poe contrasts with Jonezy's more relaxed flow. Across thirteen tracks, 45 minutes and precious little fluff, Jonezy shows he can work in multiple styles while speaking truth to power and — amazingly — not sound preachy in the process.
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