Lord Jessiah releases new album “Grounds of Detroit”
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Lord Jessiah is a hip hop producer who has stuck with the sonic fundamentals of the craft, matching sample loops with street rhymes that beat straight to the soul. His new album, “Grounds of Detroit,” is a throwback to 90s era hip hop, when songs reflected the rawness of the blocks, unlike today’s rap music, which tends to be more polished for pop appeal.
“I strive, with everything I do, to be original,” says Lord Jessiah. “Without having knowledge of self, I’ll be falling victim to the same thing that everyone else is falling victim to. Having knowledge of self, I hold myself to a higher standard.”
“Grounds of Detroit (G.O.D.)” was released by Lord Jessiah’s own Black 7 Productions with an instrumental version also available for purchase. The album’s 16 songs feature many of Detroit’s notable underground rap artists.
Lord Jessiah is the nephew of Mike Terry, baritone saxophone player for the original Funk Brothers. Terry began recording in the late 1950s.
“He got recruited by Berry Gordy playing the sax at Cass (Tech High School), he was in a jazz band,” Jessiah said.
Terry contributed to a number of hit songs, including Martha & the Vandellas “Heatwave,” Mary Wells “You Lost the Sweetest Boy,” The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Baby Don’t Do It.” Before he passed away in 2008, he brought Jessiah to a studio session to give him career advice.
“He had me sitting in on a session one time at The Disc,” says Jessiah. “He basically told me whenever you put something out, that’s you, that’s what everyone is going to identify with. When you put something out to the people, make sure it’s polished — high class. I took that to mean everything that I’m doing, from recording to production to performance.”
“Grounds of Detroit” was an exercise in patience for Lord Jessiah, who took his time producing the album and delivering it to listeners. He contributes his own lyrics throughout the album, but much of the rapping is from fellow Detroit artists.
“Part of the plan with the project was to involve local artists, with the little connection and plugs that I had try to put something together that would benefit them as well as me.”
“Grounds of Detroit” was mixed and mastered by Bronze Nazareth, a Detroit artist who has gained notoriety for his work with Wu-Tang Clan. Lord Jessiah also works with Sun Tzu Cadre, a collective of local hip hop artists who have grown together creatively over the years.
“(Sun Tzu Cadre) started back in ‘94 with the older gods before I was even into the fold, and we’re just basically carrying on from what they did. We’ve been here for a long time; we’re like the second generation. The ground work had already been established.”
Sun Tzu’s famed book, “The Art of War,” is referenced by the collective because of the violence and bloodshed the artists have witnessed over the years in Detroit — knowing that even in living a peaceful spiritual life, one must prepare for battle.
“Sun Tzu dealt with guerrilla war, or fighting without having to fight battles actually.” From the book Jessiah learned to “adapt to our conditions, not only adapt but to overcome our conditions by utilizing limited resources.”
The Nation of Gods and Earths, an organization founded in 1963 by Clarence 13X to teach principles of Islam to Black men and women in American society, has been the intellectual incubator for Lord Jessiah and the Sun Tzu Cadre.
“We’re basically born from that, that’s what sparked the movement of Sun Tzu Cadre. Having the knowledge of ourselves and being able to recognize the condition of our environment and the people that’s in the environment, and knowing they need some type of direction. And music is a form of doing that.”
“The music that’s dominating society right now is sex, drugs and violence. That’s a direct reflection and also a catalyst, to a degree, of the conditions that they’re in, and we gotta give the people something different,” says Lord Jessiah
He understands that the political and economic struggles within Detroit are desperate signs that the people, and in particular the youth, need better leadership and unity.
“We’re living in an ill time. It’s sad to say that it’s not sinking in with the people.”
“The wicked destroy themselves by their own actions,” says Lord Jessiah. “As long as we have a body in the community that wants to come together for one common cause, then we’ll definitely be successful. Everybody has to come together on that common ground.”
Grounds Of Detroit by Lord Jessiah is available at www.black7productions.bandcamp.com.