I’ve said it before regarding Jelani Lateef and I’ll say it again, it’s been a minute, since hip hop has been able to incorporate the mindset (and words) “well-dressed gentleman” into its vernacular (besides Jidenna of course). So when an artist comes along who harkens back to the “conscious lyrics” of 90s rap, I don’t just take notice, I tend to keep track of them. Perhaps, if Lateef were prone to be a bit more eccentric in his appearance, he wouldn’t be out of place at Wondaland.
But Lateef didn’t just get my attention, with positive reviews in Allhiphop, Black Minds Magazine, therapsheet and The Source, it’s good to know that hip-hop connoisseurs (which although a fan, I am not) are taking notice too. And how could they not, as they have already acknowledged Lateef’s trademark social commentary and clever rhymes are indeed, “a breath of fresh air” on the current horizon. His music is often themed in overcoming obstacles and winning despite the odds. Former fan favorites like "Forward Advance" showcase that type of motivational message. Lateef’s latest offering "Cold Days and Dark Nights", revisits the theme of personal experiences. He also raps long and hard about hip-hop’s changing landscape, and the spoils of fame with its more negative effects. The mixtape’s title track's video intro, starts with a quote from Fortune (aka Charles S. Dutton) in the movie Rudy.
His music is a true reflection of his life and lifestyle. Born and raised in Chi-town, Jelani Lateef aka J Fury’s career spans more than a decade. Within the Chicago rap community, his witty wordplay and signature thoughtful lyrics are a mainstay. As he points out “I paid dues, even kept the receipts, so you can audit me. They can stick to trends, I’m gonna stick with bringing quality.” Now, he’s expanded from rapper to producer and CEO of Manhood Ent. His vision was to create a company (and brand) that represented and encourages men to “step-up.” Now, there’s a novel idea!
The company’s mission statement explains it simply; “to be a popular source of music and entertainment, while portraying men in a positive, powerful and inspirational light.” Jelani doesn’t just talk the talk, he’s committed endless hours to outreach and mentoring young men and women, in hopes of inspiring them to lead positive and productive lives. Which I for one believe rap needs a lot more of these days.
To understand his message and motivation, take a listen to what he has to say.
*NB All images courtesy of Manhood Ent, and Jelani Lateef, unless stated otherwise.