De’Wayne Jackson. Photo: Mike Lev
It never ceases to amaze me on how deep the roster of Houston hip hop seems to go. In the last year, there’s been more hip hop artists pop off that have roots here in the H, and it just seems to just go deeper and deeper with each release. I’m not sure if you know Spring’s De’Wayne Jackson or not, but he’s been on a tear for the past couple of years, getting mentioned in national publications and getting praise from everyone who’s caught him perform. On his new EP Don’t Be Afraid, he takes R&B and hip hop and melds them together like no one else before. It’s almost as if he grew up on the likes of Jodeci and Prince, and then took to the mic to drop mad skills only to realize that he could just merge the two. Possibly one of the strongest new releases you’ll hear, this EP is fire from start to finish.
Starting off with the almost “What’s Goin’ On” opening of “Old Steps,” you should realize real quick that this isn’t your average hip hop release. Complete with a hand clap beat and a sultry guitar and Jackson spittin’ over the top, this gets met with his soft and almost sexy voice coming in to greet the mic spitter like a close friend. When he returns to dropping rhymes, his intensity and passion are hard to hear from so many other rappers today. It’s hard to explain other than to say that there’s a hook in the beat that you can’t shake and Jackson’s multiple vocals utilization makes you wonder why he’s not the biggest rapper going. Like a triple threat, it’s not like he’s a rapper trying to sing, it’s closer to a singer who can also spit. He follows this up with the sultry beginning of “Watchin” where he has a processor on his vocals, but they don’t deter you from his voice. Again he follows with a hard hitting rhyme flow that sounds like he’s rapping for his life or something more intense. The hooks in the stride of the song are ever present, and while the song is slower in speed, it’s still one you can’t help but want to hear again and again.
By the third track, “Do What We Want To,” you should be hooked. The more upbeat track complete with a subtle guitar and Jackson’s soft voice atop like an angel that gives you comfort, he heads into the bridge with a group vocal that feels anthemic in its delivery. He keeps this going on the fourth song, “Truth Is,” where that guitar comes back and creates a beat that you’re immediately on board with. Here Jackson drops a rhyme flow that’s hard but not so hard that it feels rough. In fact, as a singer who can rap, he seems to have one of the strongest commands of vocals I’ve heard in a good while, and the track is one of the many standouts of the EP. He closes things off with the slow but not soft sounds of “Coming Back Home.” There’s a sincerity here that you don’t normally hear in hip hop today, where it feels as real as it sounds, and makes it the perfect closer of the release.
I don’t think you can hear this EP and not become an immediate fan. By mixing genres and multiple vocal styles, Jackson proves he can perform on a higher scale without compromising content. You can catch De’Wayne Jackson when he headlines a set over at Warehouse Live on Tuesday June 27. The all ages show has an opening set from DJ Donnie Houston, and doors at 8 pm with tickets between $10 and $15.