I hate to talk in clichés, but that’s all that’s left after listening to this album.
For the last five years or so, Canadian hip-hop has been struggling to find its place within the larger scope of the genre. A decade ago, the mainstream Canadian hip-hop scene was dominated by a strong West Indian influence and had a unique balance between the polarities of L.A. and New York. Now, the talent coming from Canada is looking at other scenes and regions to model their sound after. In that sense, Canadian hip-hop has become more assimilated into the mainstream hip-hop world. If you need proof, look at the prominent Canadian producers. T-Minus, Boi-1da, and Noah “40” Shebib all have aesthetics more in line with the mainstream heavy hitters (the Neptunes, Swizz Beats, and Timbaland) of the early mid-2000s rather than Canadian producers of the same time. It’s been the pervading issue since the emergence of the Internet as the main medium for music consumption. If A$AP Rocky did anything, he signaled the death of regionalism as the rule. Miles Jones’ latest work, The Jones Act (Part III), is a reminder that Canadian hip-hop, really all of hip-hop, no longer abides by that rule.
This is a good and bad thing. Defining Canadian hip-hop has never been as hard as it is now, with a great diversity in sounds. But Jones mainly falls onto the bad side. The problem with Jones is that his image and musical identity on this album are ambiguous. This album tells me nothing about whom Miles Jones is or what he’s trying to do musically. This leaves Jones’ album lacking the focus of a cohesive work that flows effortlessly from one song to another, while also having no originality. Usually it’s one or the other. Yet, somehow this album accomplishes both. Every song on the album sounds like a generic blueprint beat with a different mainstream trend in mind. He takes from so many different sources, but then isolates each source to its own song. This compartmentalizes his musical output making me wonder about what Jones’ musical outlook is unadulterated and unabridged.
For that reason alone, the album seems to lack sincerity. As a listener I’m not sure if this album is about Jones’ vision for great music or Jones’ desire for some sort of acclaim. Regardless, Jones isn’t able to capture the feel, or the point, of any of the sources he’s used to create this album. Calling them influences would imply that he has a genuine passion for those styles and I don’t know if that’s true. The evidence is how the album plays out. “Catch Me in the Rye” sounds like a Kid Cudi cut, except without the personality. “Catch My Breath” mimics the sparse instrumentation and hazy atmosphere of 40’s production for Drake. The only problem is the beat is far from that quality and Jones fails to match Drake’s ability to evoke emotion in junction with the beat. The dubstep charged “Sunshine City” is added in just to make sure the flavour of the day isn’t left out.
The only enjoyable part of the whole album is that Jones is decent on the mic technically. He shows moments of lyrical dexterity and flow adaptability. There doesn’t seem to be any overarching themes weaved throughout his work. Most of the time, he just rhymes to rhyme. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On tracks like “Scorpio” and “Maybe Tomorrow”, he sounds playful making Peter Pan references about Ruffio and Tinker Bell. But he does use a lot of clichés for his punchlines and his lines can come off as overplayed and trite. Ultimately, his overall end product still feels muddled despite keeping his musical sources separated. In theory, the album would sound cleaner without the streams crossing. Instead it comes off deficient of creativity, sincerity, and courage.