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Jermaine Campbell flexes lyrical dexterity and songwriting on his debut single

Okay, okay, given: this will not be an objective review. Then again, if you want to debate me on objectivity in creative pursuits, then pull up; I want all the smoke. Speaking of smoke, Amsterdam-born jack of all trades Jermaine Campbell brings the heat on his first single ADIOS FREESTYLE /// KILLA. This is a PSA to keep your eye out for this dude; the pen-wise lyrical scribbler bringing flows with bravado. Exactly what the Netherlands has been waiting for.

We crossed paths at the music studio I was renting from his cousin Desmon aka Axewood Custom Music (who joined us on March 11th for a DJ set at Oedipus). They were working on some tracks, during the heatwave in the Summer of 2020, cooking up soulful and gritty head-boppin' beats. While I was listening to some of the tracks they were working on, a chord struck. Enticed by his cadence and the way he used his voice was very refreshing. Since then, I was eagerly waiting.

Patience was asked of me. As Jermaine spits, he's a jack of all trades with a passion for culture and creativity which means a lot of his endeavors ask time and dedication. He's involved with House of Knowledge, a foundation that aims to foster performing arts talents and advance the cultural sector in Rotterdam. The foundation is supported by and included in the subsidized Cultuurplan 2021-2024 by the Rotterdam municipality. Great projects like these help create a more healthy and fruitful cultural scene, something the Netherlands really needs after suffering from the downfall (flexibilization) of the culture industry during the mid-2000s.

But surely, during this time and even before, Jermaine was already crafting his skill as a producer and sharpening his pen. There seems more on his mind that he has to share about the characteristics of life's complexity. As he explains "In retrospect, I always felt the mighty pen would become my preferred weapon of choice". I rejoiced when he popped up as a feature on an EP by Camille Antoni.

On par with Dutch heavyweight Pete Philly, he provided a laid-back verse. It is not that difficult to hear he put care and time into this verse, every word, intonation, and flow seems so carefully thought out. Since Jermaine is an MC whose heart pounds faster by telling stories, following along is easy. It was everything I hoped it would be and the potential I see in an artist like this hailing from the Netherlands. Not to disregard current Dutch MCs rapping in English, but this hasn't been heard IMO.

Then this Friday, he suddenly hit me up (after I asked him to join an Armand Hammer concert next month) gladly sharing the news that his first single dropped. Mannnnnnn. Just listen first.

That bounce to the beat. The piano and violin samples creeping up on you, the distorted voice effect on the adlib, the bravado, the interplay between lyrics, the interlude-esque outro. There is so much going on within these 2:27 minutes. Give it a couple of spins and listen to the way he flows on the beat and carries the lyrics over the first bar of each 4 measures. What caught my ear was the flow on these lines:

"The minute I capture the feelin' of laughter, finishing after mimicking, practice / Never spilling my craft of writing limitless chapters, lyricist / Swimmin' in spiritless, lack of competition, I master every division, Campbell kickin' it faster "

It feels exciting, while also giving contemplative energy. I'm not gonna front: this is what we need from the Netherlands and as a hip hop head Jermaine makes make me feel proud hailing from Amsterdam.

Student of the game

What also stands out to me (both the feature as the single) is that you can hear this man is a student of the game. Drawing influence on styles contemporary rappers with the lineage they emerged from, Jermaine twists it up and adds his own flow, cadence, and signature voice to it. Whether it's Kendrick or Elucid from Armand Hammer, mainstream or underground, Trap or Boom Bap, South or NY, Jermaine takes it all in and has flipped through the pages of the book called hip hop and annotated it so that he knows what to take and what to improve. Of course, he has devoured the prequel books of hip hop, that is Jazz, fuzzy Soul, Funk and the like, as well. Just take a look, mans out here doing Jazz standard too. Jack of all trades, I told you.

I remember back in 2020 being amazed just by those 15 minutes being in the studio with Jermaine and his cousin Desmon / Axewood Custom Music. They took their time to perfect the craft and create a piece that will put Jermaine on the map. Desmon's diverse production skills make me wonder if being a jack of all trades runs in the family. Either way, we're happy to see and hear the EP, which will release in late spring.

Jermaine, we're rooting for you!


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James Brown
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