Mereba Album Review: 'The Jungle Is The Only Way Out'
The 1995 Source Awards show was a pivotal chapter in the annals of hip-hop. This is the same show where the media-influenced East-Coast versus West-Coast rap beef came to a head. During this night Suge Knight would proclaim his infamous saying “Any artist out there that wanna be an artist, stay a star, and won’t have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos, all on the records, dancing—come to Death Row!'"Snoop Dogg, not to be shown up, followed up with his inquiry "The East Coast ain’t got love for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg?" Not lost under the two more prominent coasts and their spat were two artists getting booed as they received their award for Best New Rap Group, Outkast. During the thunderous roar of displeasure from the crowd, Andre 3000 grabbed the microphone declaring "The South got something to say!" Andre set the hip-hop world ablaze that night with a fire that still burns brightly today. This moment is arguably the genesis of The South's dominance in rap that has lasted well over a decade.
While she may not be a rapper, Mereba has something to say. The artist who was formally known as Merian Mereba is known for her association with Spillage Village, a grouped formed in Atlanta with artist like Earthgang, J.I.D, and 6lack. Although all the major press outlets don't cover her, her music on her debut studio album The Jungle Is The Only Way Out speaks volumes.
The project opens with the eerie-sounding track More, giving the feeling of a Mississippi swamp at night arranging the mood for the rest of the album. These notes aren't alone in setting the table; they're accompanied by the lyrics "Need to write more/ Freedom fight more" readying your taste buds for a conscious feast. The sounds of the countryside continued as Kinfolk began to play.
The warmth of a hot Georgia day encapsulates you as Mereba dances on top the guitar-laced track. Not only is her voice mesmerizing but she starts to drop truth bombs as early as the first verse "And the teachers keeping some secrets safe/While we read between the pages," speaking of the miseducation of Black children across the nation. The song centers around family, the title says as much, but she doesn't reference just her blood relatives. Lines like "Don't you see we got what no money could measure/And we could be free if we keep our hidden treasures," she opens it up to her brothers and sisters of like race. She is singing a rallying cry to all of her kin telling of the power they hold within themselves.
One of Mereba's most exceptional gifts is being able to make a song that relates to so many people deeper than a superficial level.
She reiterates the message of freedom escaping the shackles of this world with Free. Reminiscent of Negro Spirituals she invokes the ghosts of her ancestors as she sings "In need of more than just the check-to-check/ To get free." Mereba speaks to the souls of those who feel as if their stuck in the perpetual cycle called life. She preaches liberty to the downtrodden.
Midway through the album, she gives you songs like Black Truck, showcasing her ability to be entirely comfortable on a more typical R&B track. Produced by 9th Wonder, the hi-hats perfectly match with her as she effortlessly flows over the airy beat. She blesses the album with an extended version of the track where she showcases her skill to rap. Barring you up with lines like Obstacles like opps, gotta watch my keep, my opticals up.
Mereba uses features sparingly, only having two on the project, both artist from the previous mentioned Spillage Village. The chemistry she has with these two is nothing short of remarkable. 6lack was the first to appear on the song Heatwave, a track dedicated to the police mistreatment of black bodies. She sings "They can see it in your skin, boy...They got that heater on their hip, yeah/ And they can't wait to let it rip, boy." 6lack finds his pocket as he compliments her with a similar message, "I 4-flat like I'm trying out for track/Cause' they beat a n*gga blue just for lovin' that he black/ My advice is run like Obama 'fore they catch you like Osama." They warn Black boys to be wary because their lives aren't valued.
Her songs of love are the only rival to the number of conscious lyrics that fill the album. "Planet U" takes you through the space of her mind as she expresses her infatuation with this man, "Lover, where did you come from?/ I wanna go to the planet from where you landed." Once again on this song, she displays her talent to rap. The change in style is shocking and welcoming. She goes from head over heels to being fed up in "Stay Tru, singing how she mustn't fall into the same trap of love, Cut the bullshit this time/ Crazy how some lips could just kiss me blind/ No no, not this time." She ends her trio of love ballets with her second feature, J.I.D. The two pair flawlessly as they perform a duet with their vocals intricately interlocked. Sandstorm is a song of a failed relationship, two adults that realize where they may have been wrong for each other. They both see that the love is there but come to recognize their better apart Take a piece of my love, we've been through enough stuff/We probably need to go up and away/Keep the peace, it's all love, don't need no spite." It's pleasant to hear this side of the love story, a version people don't often speak about, where both parties aren't bitter or mad at each other.
Mereba's debut studio album is a stellar entry into the voids of the current musical space. She blends Folk music, staying true to her Southern roots, flawlessly with more traditional R&B and Rap. Her lyrics ladled with content, matched with atmospheric soulful beats are a recipe that'll instantly start any vibe. She may be new to the game, but she's here to stake her claim. Check out her visual for the album below.