Four years ago, 21-year-old Jazz Cartier was basically the Asher Roth of New England prep school rap. The Indian Mountain alumnus blipped the blogosphere with his mixtape Losing Elizabeth, which he put together while studying at Connecticut’s Avon Old Farms. Marauding in Paradise, Cartier’s long-awaited followup eschews that sophomoric aesthetic for a tempestuous and ambitious new style dubbed “cinematic trap music.”
Jazz (or Jacuzzi, depending on his mood) rips through verses with the confidence of a man whose spent years refining his style. Stipped of the uniformity and miopic scope, Jazz more deftly escapes the restrictive adjectives of novelty hip-hop. He goes from leaned-out Rich Homie Quan bursts to bullet-fast chew-throughs and all the way back. The sheer depth of style is impressive, leading Jazz to analogize himself to the Notorious BIG, a comparison that isn’t too far off.
Producer Michael Lantz gave Noisey the breakdown on every single song on the album, discussing how most of what erupted was apropos and fluidic (though he never explains the extended Anton Yelchin sample on “Rose Quartz/Like Crazy”), and much of that can be felt in the pair’s sometimes rambling sessions. The opening two songs feel like a conversation between the two that ultimately solidifies into a cohesive collaboration on “New Religion” — the booming third single from Marauding in Paradise.
“‘New Religion’ is me at my lowest wanting more,” Cartier told Billboard, and the Toronto emcee wears the hunger well. He interjects glamor, proudly strutting his devotion to the grind. Part of that grind is distinguishing himself from fellow Torontonian Drake. Where Drizzy’s emotive hustling reflects the Uptown Toronto aesthetic, Cartier embodies the brutal and wild Downtown, as showcased on “The Downtown Cliche”, Marauding in Paradise‘s more intense entry. Siren-like keys create a sense of panic played up by Jazz’s ferocious delivery. Marauding in Paradise is a poor companion to If You’re Reading this It’s Too Late for the sheer fact that it totally subverts Drake’s fantasy city with Cartier’s gritty portrayal.
It’s no mistake that Marauding in Paradise has been the most buzzy release of the early year — there’s much to unpack in Cartier’s sprawling portrait of his adoptive city, but luckily the reformed private school mascot has made it free to the public.