The move from Brooklyn to Staten Island doesn’t seem to have blunted the edge that typifies Jay Ax’s music. On the contrary 211 is loaded with all the grim reality of street culture and gangster moves and it is the perfect calling card for the album “Who Ax You” which continues the social commentary and stark realities that he is known for. Whereas many artists are happy to just deal with the aggrandisement of the power trip and position that the nefarious actions of underground city life brings, Jay Ax sees such things in a broader context and understands that every action has a reaction and that with such moves comes a shared responsibility.
Why the video for 211 is such a breath of fresh air is that rather than play to those stereotypes of ego and gangster culture it tells its story via visuals which look like a second life type game or the South Park artists designing a new version of Grand Theft Auto. It’s a clever move for whilst it doesn’t blunt the message in any way, the narrative of a drug hustle gone wrong, it does enable you to take the point on board without being bombarded with imagery that falls either too close to the grim reality of a CNN report or the posturing of an artist trying too hard to write his own mythology.
The difficulty of any act going into the studio is how you capture that live energy in the less expansive medium of the recording studio. Thankfully 211 bristles with slow burning intrigue and confident deliveries, it tips a hat to classic artists of the past and yet points the way to a bright new future via engaging concepts and fresh ideas. But it is the balance of underground cool and commercial potential which is his greatest asset, chart accessible yet cultish enough for those who like to act as the movers and shakers and stay ahead of the curve, mass appeal yet walking with a select minority, that’s the real art and in that sense Jay Ax is a elegant, not to mention eloquent artist.