JELLEESTONE with YOUNG BUCK and the show at Tonic (117 Peter), Wednesday (May 4). $35. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Jelleestone is back, and this time he's bringing the streets. The charismatic Rexdale-based rhyme-slinger's second LP, The Hood Is Here,drops in August, and he plans on more than just the first single reaching the public.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for 02's Jelleestone Thirteen album. On the eve of his debut release, everything was in place: a management deal with Chris Smith (who represents Tamia, Keshia Chante and rap cross-over phenom K-Os), a U.S. record contract through Warner and a big Billboard hot-100-singles hit, Money, Pt. 1, getting more spins than an amnesiac in a revolving door.
"And then life happened," says Jellee over the celly in Toronto, taking a break from his supporting role in the video for Divine Brown's Old School Love. "I had some unfortunate situations, got wrapped up with Johnny Law, in a real trying situation. You know, I had a gun charge, and they had me on bail for, like, two years, and they took away my licence, just harassin' a kid a lot. Not to mention having to sit up in the darn jail. It wasn't good. But that was a real short stint; the worst part was being on bail."
One of Johnny Law's penalties restricted the rapper from travelling, which, as any working musician will say, would be a major impediment. Having a big hit is nice, but to get your music out there, you have to get out there yourself.
To make matters worse, his album was also released at the climax of the AOL/Time/Warner amalgamation. The merger begat a major staff turnover that shut Jelleestone Thirteen down.
"If that happens midway through a record's release, your record is dead in the water," he says.
But Jelleestone's got a new deal now. He's being distributed through Universal on his manager's BlackSmith Entertainment, and, following a summer of preparation including his own video shoot for the album's first single, he'll have a shot at breaking people's associations with that one hit.
"We did Money, Pt. 1 and it was a beautiful thing, a real big song that I never expected people to take to like that. It thrust me into a real pop realm - a realm where Canadian rap artists have not been. It was a real good experience, but in the process I think a lot of people didn't get the full scope of Jelleestone."