Unless you lit candles at the altar of a chipmunk-soul era Kanye West, you may not remember Bump J. The Chicago rapper and Yeezy affiliate was all set to be a 2000s-styled superstar before armed robbery got in the way. Bump moved around a cell block until 2017, but spits like he — and the 2000s — never left on his first post-prison project. I Don’t Feel Rehabilitated is a passionate journal entry from a seasoned street soldier who refuses to take off his body armor.
Bump J was one of the best corner-store MCs around, which is a compliment to his rhyming abilities and a detriment to his mainstream appeal. He cares little about blowing up the charts with vague chest-thumps over rolling drums. Rather, J stays in the lane that made him (briefly) famous and serves up gems for hustlers. The slow-burning “Diesel” finds him advising trappers on how to succeed in the drug game and bolsters his advice with authentic tales: “I know a nigga used to table bag it/Without a mask and glove, rushin’, he had major traffic.” Slice-of-life rhymes like these elevate Bump above rap-by-numbers thuggery and are convincing enough to mirror the slightest resemblance to the man who inspired his name: Bumpy Johnson. “CDL” is a rare exception that finds J pushing bland bars like, “I got coke, I got dope, I got loud and this shit smoke” over an underwhelmingly minimalistic beat provided by DY.
However, more often than not, J largely enlists producers who provide nostalgia of the XXXL white tee variety. Cardo supplies upbeat strings and Gospel cries to match Bump’s luxury-laden rhymes on “Fast Life.” Money Motivated Music creates an overload of soulful wails and stutter-step drums on “CEO” that would have sounded at home on a Jeezy joint circa 2005. These odes to the 2000s fit not only because Bump sounds so comfortable on them, but because they match the feel of his lyrics. For instance, Bump goes step-for-step with the beat on “CEO” by inspiring girls to aspire for offices with glass walls. That’s not to say J doesn’t flirt with new styles; he sounds impressively at home with The ANMLS’ ominous keys and trap drums as he swaggers his way through “Rolling.” Whether the music is wistful or modern, I Don’t Feel Rehabilitated abounds with ear-grabbing production.
The nine-track album’s major hindrance lies in its poor structure. “Foe Phones” is a solid opener, but the project would have been better introduced by the following “Fast Life,” which sets the tone for the vibe of the album. Similarly, the final track’s vibe is misplaced. “My Dawgs,” a downbeat ode to Day 1 homies, is endearing in its message but trails off the album with an anticlimactic finish. The song would have been better suited to switch places with the lively “OvaFocused,” which would have been an appropriately optimistic way to end the mixtape.
These structural shortcomings don’t affect the songs themselves, yet it’s 2018 and I Don’t Feel Rehabilitated will likely come and go without much fanfare past Chicagoans or those who remember the “Move Around” fame.
Still, in the wake of this admirable release, the anticipation for his upcoming Kanye West project has been justified.