Junia-T Eye See You

Junia-T Eye See You
We've grown to champion the new musician do-it-yourself mentality made convenient by technology and necessary by shrinking profits. But too often, that same DIY ethic betrays the collaborative nature of music. Fortunately, Mississauga MC/producer Junia-T works well with others. Eye See You speaks to both Junia-T's talent as an artist and his vision in bringing good people together for a common goal. The result is one of the best independent Canadian hip-hop releases in some time.

Production-wise, Junia shows a healthy range while keeping to traditional hip-hop and soul beat-making styles. Sample- and drumroll-heavy, Junia frequently employs the help of musicians HMLT, Octavio Santos, Kiercy Rand and Marlon James. Fellow rapper/beatmaker LordQuest makes an appearance and assisted in engineering the project. On the mic, Junia demonstrates a relaxed confidence that at times sounds like an amalgamation of both halves of EPMD. Subject matters rarely stray far from rapping about rapping, producing and the usual vices, but it's all done well enough there's no risk of losing listeners' interest.

That interest begins with the slow cinematic build of "Head Nod," on which Bob Marley reflections on richness make way for a "Woo Hah!!"-era Busta Rhymes sample that braces us for Junia-T's entrance. Things take a more introspective turn on "How Can I" that darkly plays off of Mary J. Blige's "Be Happy." California emcees Yancy Deron and Tassnata join Junia for the oddly prominent flute-driven party anthem "LEGOLEGOLEGO (Get UP!)."

While the majority of Eye See You presents Junia-T as a solo act, a third of the album showcases his production chops for other artists. One of the best cameos comes from London's Little Simz and Toronto's Emerson Brooks on the butter-smooth "Sleep Paralysis." The same vibe is later carried over to the superb Jessie Reyez ballad, "Asi."

And yet even with a cast of skilled international collaborators, Junia-T is never outshone, his fingerprints ever present. While there are a couple of humdrum tracks, the vast majority of this album is a polished tour de force that solidly places Junia-T on the list of artists you should already have been checking for. Now's the time to rectify that. (Independent)