In his debut album, Higher Frequencies, LawJQ delivers a powerful retelling of the injustices he battled to find warmth in an all-too-cold world.
At 8 years old, Jontai McClain first heard DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and found that the striking and revolutionary 1998 New York-brewed album hit a little different. It’s Dark and Hell is Hot is an unhinged and dynamic piece of work; it airs out the dark chronicles of a man searching for solace while fending off the evils of the world and of himself. This album awakened a similar entity within McClain as his mindful, hard-hitting verses give voice to the silenced. At its marrow, Higher Frequencies is for the hardened souls–those who find themselves tethered to the harms of an unjust world, trying to survive.
In his debut album, the Bronx native champions the have-nots, the unheard, and the persecuted. On his first track, “Intro,” LawJQ spits in double-time over a blistering beat. Before he hits the mic with his brisk raps, he prepares us with a prelude: “Before the frequencies peaked there was another side of me, before I became what I was meant to be. You’ll see.” Throughout this 13-track epic, an unwavering resilience is unveiled. Higher Frequencies is the tribute of a dark past and the declaration of a bright future.
The second track, “Sin,,” reads almost as a homage to 2Pac. Pac’s commendable ability to divulge his afflictions in a way that never failed to captivate us lives within this track. Hi-hats and reverb guitars emulate that 90’s R&B-style sound; this lays the foundation for LawJQ, as he confesses his sins with grit. He raps, “I ain’t really have shit had to go out and get it/got some dreams for the winnin’ but poverty got me sinnin’.” It’s striking to hear this matter-of-fact tone as he spits about the hardships he endured just to get by. He underscores the frightening reality of income inequality and the insufferable lack of empathy that is shown to those who need it the most. He continues, “It’s hard to sleep, they done took the section 8’s away/same day the bills due how families gone pay?” As he details the grim realities of our callous country, the bruised but recovered rapper invites us into his world, where injustice ran the streets and bled him dry.
“Queen’s Plight” exists as the track that solidifies the crux of LawJQ. By exploring the narratives personal to women of color, the virtuous rapper sings the praises of the souls who walk the streets as double minorities–a hardship that a woman of color can speak on. Atop delicate yet sharp bells and 808’s, he raps, “I could never feel ya pain, but I’m swinging at your threat/double minority so it’s mandated that I protect.” The spirit of a fighter reigns through his every word as he acknowledges a battle bigger than his own. “Queen’s Plight” is a beautiful, powerful tribute that stresses the trials and tribulations, as well as praises the strength, of women of color. This is his oath to stand in solidarity with the queens of the world.
LawJQ directly addresses America in “America’s Nightmare.” A simple beat composed of a few drum kicks, feeble bells, and samples taken from an aged performance of “God Bless America” directs our attention to the heart of this track: the verses. He raps, “Our black is beautiful, but you labelled it evil.” The war on drugs, police brutality, income inequality and the backwards history of Christopher Columbus are all brought to the forefront as he hits every corner of America’s failures with haste. This track is a poetic whirlwind of injustices–LawJQ’s indictment against America.
From the Bronx to Boston, LawJQ runs a reel of the exploitation he’s witnessed, racism he’s braved, and sins he’s committed just to stay afloat. Higher Frequencies is potent and heroic. It is an album that enunciates the adversities of the maltreated, defends the defenseless, and stands with justice.