This is the 3rd full-length album from Baltimore emcee Jay Royale. Exploding onto the scene with his critically acclaimed debut The Ivory Stoop, he would continue to gain more exposure during the 2020 COVID lockdowns by dropping a sophomore effort The Baltimore Housing Project that was also well received by critics & fans alike. But as the 3 year mark of the latter’s unveiling approaches in less than a couple months, Jay’s looking to close out the trilogy in the form of Criminal Discourse.
The title track is a somber boom bap opener promising to crack cases like Watson & Holmes when his homies get out from the pen whereas “The Calm” ironically keeps the dreary atmosphere going layering kicks & snares on top of the loop talking about drug deals on the phone. “Carlito & Kleinfeld” featuring Kool G Rap produced by Ray Sosa works in these hair-raising string sections getting in their mafioso bag fittingly enough leading into “The Alleged” featuring Willie the Kid plants crimes inside vocals with an intimidating boom bap instrumental from Stu Bangas.
“Dial Tone” hooks up some kicks & snares over an operatic vocal sample expressing his self-awareness that there are people who’re out to get him, but then “Slot Time” featuring Saigon is a piano/boom bap hybrid promising that 2023 will be the year that motherfuckers get overcharged. “Civillian Phones” calls out those who’re only built for exactly that over more keys, kicks & snares just before “Romello Skuggz” delves the sound present on the last 2 cuts even further seeking the reaper’s invitation.
Continuing from there, “The Money Phone Pic” gives off a shimmery boom bap flare dissing people who post pictures of them holding money to their ear saying it’s for their obituaries & after the “Bell Tower” interlude, “Jaw Tap” crosses over some pianos & strings laying down laws by sucker-punching jaws . “Land Lines” takes it back to the basement instrumentally filled with mob talk while “The Wise & Lakid” featuring Havoc brings back the keys, kicks & snares saying fuck school to get money with those wildin’
“The Shhhh Dialect” featuring AZ keeps it boom bap except for the glamorous loop throughout being cautious towards not speaking much on the phone being self-aware of the feds that’re trying to listen in on their convos while the funereal penultimate track “End Game” featuring Styles P talking about how the streets’ll meet you halfway in the end. “90’s Beeper Code” concludes the nearly 5-year trilogy on a dusty note explaining that the final chapter was to empower you.
The Baltimore Housing Project stayed on heavy rotation the summer it dropped when the whole world was shut down due to COVID & I still think it’s one of the strongest sophomore albums in recent memory, but he really saves the best installment of the trilogy for Criminal Discourse. You can really hear how much he’s evolved as an MC within the past 5 years on top of the boom bap production getting dirtier & a stellar feature list.