Willie Isz, the collaboration between former Goodie Mob member Khujo Goodie of Atlanta and forward-thinking Philly-based producer/MC Jneiro Jarel is a sonic pairing few would have ever envisioned. Yet united, one of the most distinct voices of Down South rap and one of the most unpredictable indie hip-hop producers on the mic manage to make a largely cohesive album with Georgiavania—a multihued release likely to surprise doubters.
This 13-track project, backed by a full range of live synths, guitars and other instrumentation isn''t the type of LP that smoothly unfolds into an easy-to-categorize experience. Every track is a fresh attempt by Khujo and Jarel to complement each other''s capabilities. And in most cases, their attempts catch fire. Perhaps the dreary and melody-deficient “Violet Heart Box” is the lone misfire here, while the slowly developing “Spiritual Gladiators” may take repeat listens to appreciate. But elsewhere the duo triumphs, taking on wild-style hip-hop (“Georgiavania”), futuristic funk (“Gawn Jet”) and quirky rock sounds (“U Want Some”). While Jarel often completely breaks the mold of a traditional hip-hop joint, he also proves with the bluesy boom-bap of “In the Red” that he and Khujo can make simple hip-hop just as easily. [3.5 out of 5 stars]