Before Jemini joined forces with producer Dangermouse to record Ghetto Pop Life (Lex, 2003), he was just another up and coming emcee reppin’ Homicide Central, East New York, Planet Brooklyn. Recognizing natural talent, the folks at Polygram/Mercury Records were wise enough to add him to their roster in 1995. They even took the step of pressing up a limited number of official-looking vinyl promo copies of his Scars and Pain EP, presumably to generate hype for an imminent long-player release. Although this EP boasts a full picture cover and heavy-duty tough work beats by Minnesota (“Brooklyn Kids”), Organized Konfusion (“Funk Soul Sensation”), and Buckwild (“Story Of My Life”), the LP was never-to-be. The project was inexplicably sabotaged and judging by this electrifying introduction to Jemini’s wonderfully schizophrenic self-presentation, we are all worse off as a result.
“Funk-Soul” sensation is a brainy party groove that showcases Jemini’s tandem personas, one a high-pitched and slightly nasal party rocker and the other a baritone corner cipher spitter. In the hands of another less clever emcee, the concept may have devolved into corny gimmickry, but Jemini’s old-school charisma and child-like enthusiasm is contagious. Jemini is very much a product of the mid-90s New York scene – nimble-tongued and long-winded even when throwing his A-level game at the honies on the simple and sultry “Batyflo” – and yet the EP is as eclectic as it gets. Although each beat is fairly distinctive and bangs hard, the EP remains both accessible and cohesive. The boom-bap breaks are in full effect, but in the cleaner drums and minimalist tracks one hears a subtle homage to pre-1987 production values, which complements Jemini’s impassioned park jam styles.
As its title suggests however, Scars and Pain is more concerned with exposing the miseries of ghetto life and securing moments of uplift and redemption than glossing over ills in joyous ignorance. “Story Of My Life” is a melodic, sometimes ecstatic, sometimes pained, ultimately optimistic song, reminiscent of Organized Konfusion’s “Maintain” or O.C.’s “Born 2 Live.” On this cut, Jemini employs the half-singing, half-flowing style that he later perfects on Ghetto Pop Life. On “Brooklyn Kids,” Jemini relates a soberly poignant depiction of poverty and crime in central Brooklyn’s blighted neighborhoods in a more straightforward but no less impassioned style. He wraps his reflective yet anguished verse around the pulsing, urgent track and forces you to feel the vibe in real time. This honest and emotive approach separates Jemini’s EP from the pack of poorly executed contrivances present in any era of rap – by the close of this short recording most listeners will recognize the art (and artfulness) of his two-faced exc