Two years after his directorial feature-length film debut, The Harder They Fall, multifaceted creative Jeymes Samuel returns with a new movie, The Book of Clarence, produced by, among others (including Samuel himself), JAY-Z.
Soundtracks of recent day often subscribe to the ‘less is more’ adage, overstuffing tracklists with forgettable fodder (think Space Jam 2). Jeymes, however, took a different approach with his latest flick, crafting the soundtrack himself, billing it as “a Jeymes Samuel album” with a carefully curated guest list.
Nailing the curation to perfection, he finds captivating hooks for multiple swaths of listeners. The album’s arguably highest apex, the rewind-worthy “Hallelujah Heaven” featuring Lil Wayne, Buju Banton, and the always noteworthy Shabba Ranks, is a collaboration built to cause niche excitement for a certain generational pocket.
Likewise, “JEEZU” featuring Def Jam-affiliated afrobeats star Adekunle Gold, Kodak Black and Doja Cat — who continues to prove she can stand toe-to-toe with the top MCs of the day — appeals to an entirely different audience. Her energy is palpable, as she spits: “When you got integrity, there’s no room for apologies/ Now they actin’ kind to me ’cause I ain’t in economy/ Cats dogmatic ’til they see I got the dog in me.”
The diversity of the soundtrack is its greatest strength. Jeymes doesn’t just play to the strengths of his guests, he brings them into his world of eclectic, focused funk and soul vibes. His duet with famed Brazilian singer Jorge Ben Jor and his collaboration with Yemi Alade take listeners on a top-to-bottom musical excursion, fusing genres in the best way possible.
One quasi letdown is the D’Angelo and JAY-Z featured “I Want You Forever”; though an obvious bucket list notch in Samuel’s belt, it doesn’t live up to the “soulful biblical bliss” grandeur he promised previously. Sonically snug in the playlist, D’Angelo sounds great, yet he is boxed into repetition. With nine minutes at their disposal, there could have been a lot more variation.
JAY-Z, on the other hand, delivers a verse so laid-back and lacking in energy, that it’s easy to imagine he dropped it halfway through a bottle of bourbon from an armchair. The song is reminiscent in its approach to OutKast‘s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” though it features Hov rhyming rather than speaking, which makes him sound slightly off-kilter at points. However, when he starts overemphasizing in the latter half of his verse, he begins to hit his stride.
Jeymes himself offers a few of the project’s most intriguing moments all on his own. “Dear Heaven” and “Nazarene” exude an inescapable new-age Curtis Mayfield vibe, with his distinct, soulful voice — not to mention his pen game — sparkling like a VVS diamond.
Other big names join the set, like Kid Cudi, who provides a dazzling performance on “Godqueen,” and Jorja Smith, whose silky vocals on “Champagne” feel like chicken soup for the soul. With Jeymes and JAY-Z both working in a production capacity for Cudi’s upcoming Netflix film Teddy, it’s intriguing to imagine if “Godqueen” might be a precursor to that movie’s soundtrack.
Ultimately, The Book Of Clarence stands as an incredibly solid soundtrack, worthy of multiple spins. If you’re someone who gets lost in the sea of sameness, it’s a brilliant introduction to some new sounds and artists worth digging into further.
RELEASE DATE: January 12, 2024
RECORD LABEL: Geneva Club/Roc Nation
Listen to The Book of Clarence Soundtrack below: