Black women’s bodies have always been an easy target in mainstream hip-hop. Our physicality is continually used as a tool to extract pleasure or inflict pain, and it is so pervasive that for a listener, the effect barely registers. The last few years, however, have signaled other possibilities (i.e. more feminist). In the era of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s rise to stardom – which of course is indebted to predecessors like Trina, Lil ‘Kim and Nicki Minaj – women’s sexual pleasure promoted through women is, almost unbelievably, commercially viable. At the same time, the commodification of female-led rap music – in an environment still dominated by men – has obscured the lines between agency and sexual objectification or positivity and sexual exploitation, to say the least. .
Texas-native Big Jade’s second album in Beaumont Pressure finds himself caught in the maelstrom of this identity crisis. Powerful men in the industry still openly adhere to gender norms, complicating the progress women have made in recent years. Two months before the album’s release, Jade revealed in a radio interview that she refused to sign a deal with Migos rapper Offset (also Cardi B’s partner) due to a stipulation of ” get [her] body made. Meanwhile, BeatKing, the first person to take a chance on Jade and the producer of seven of her album’s 10 tracks, specializes in club-ready, sex-laden bops that tell women exactly what to do with their bodies. . In the clip of a collaboration with Ludacris released earlier this year, BeatKing plays a doctor giving injections into the buttocks.
So where does that leave Big Jade? It’s a question Pressure hardly answer. Jade’s hard-hitting, lightning-fast raps, best featured in her home freestyle videos, are plentiful and perfectly delivered on the project, but often seem at odds with the languid and predictable production of the Houston Club God. Even when she explicitly does pussy poppin rap, she seems less than enthusiastic. The result is an album that displays great talent that struggles to find its place.
That doesn’t mean she has to choose between being sexy or hard. This kind of binary thinking only reinforces stereotypes. Jade’s first album Bsbbj (directed by BeatKing) was full of steamy tracks with fun, sexually fluid takes on pussy rap (“I hate a bitch that’s deceptively gay / Bitch, that’s not a play date,” she spits on “Period Pooh”). Likewise, on Pressure, “Dem Girlz” – a rare case in which an early flip (in this case, David Banner’s “Like a Pimp”) avoids appearing lazy and uninspired – recalls the playfulness of Jade’s previous project; it is all made for debauchery in hot weather. But the rest of the album indicates a desire to move away from twerk anthems. She can still tear the club apart, but lyrically, she seems more inclined towards a “Dreams and Nightmares” effect than a “Back That Azz Up” effect.
Most of Pressure reflects what Jade does best: aggressive, prisoner-free bars that assert her ability to bang your ass on the track and in person. His breathless raps on “Jade Wins” and his unhurried and almost relaxed threats on “Pressed” reveal his impressive range and vocal control over the rhythms playing with his strengths. Elsewhere, bland production restricts Jade’s raps rather than buttressing them. It’s too easy to ignore what she says on “No Hook”, especially after the rhythm has changed. “Up Now” is just plain boring, and the sluggishness of “Respectfully” is uncomfortable and could have used an extra verse from Jade instead of BeatKing’s standard strip club bars.
Big Jade may only be 5’2, but her freestyles have shown that she lives up to the nickname she has chosen. While Pressure does not match the bar set by its unique pieces, this asserts that it is bigger than the stereotypical club rhythms. That said, a real summer could finally be upon us, and I never wanted more than to dismiss it drunk. I’d happily do that at Big Jade, but I’d rather not be content with his music. I want to listen to her, and it is clear that she still has a lot to say.
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