Def Jef

Just a Poet with Soul

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Raised in Harlem and the Bronx, talented rapper Def Jef hung out in the same neighborhoods that gave listeners Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, and the Treacherous Three, and he was exposed to their music at an early age. When he moved to Los Angeles and signed with Delicious Vinyl in the late '80s, the influence of hip-hop's old school remained. Jef's debut album, Just a Poet with Soul, wasn't as big a seller as the albums Young MC and Tone Loc had recorded for Delicious, but jams like "Droppin' Rhymes on Drums" (which employs Etta James as a background singer), "God Made Me Funky," and "Give It Here" made it clear that his rapping skills were first-rate. Jef is at his most interesting on the excellent sociopolitical offerings "Black to the Future" and "Downtown," both of which suggest that he should consider devoting more time to message songs and less time to boasting lyrics. But even so, Poet with Soul is exhilarating and relentlessly funky. [Delicious Vinyl's 2012 reissue adds a bonus disc of 12" and instrumental mixes.]

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