Oakland rapper Demahjiae’s second album, And, Such is Life., is a perfect showcase of his talents as both rapper and producer. Self-producing the album released back in 2020, Demahjiae makes clear his power as a musician with a theme of vulnerability, introspectiveness and honesty running through his music.
Demahjiae’s vulnerability is the standout point of this record along with his intricate, abstract production.The primary focus of And, Such is Life. is on past trauma, accepting it and moving on. He admits to many things across the album: leaving friends behind to focus on working, struggling with overworking, seeing friends die, succumbing to anxiety and even feeling guilt regarding his success. The sequencing of the album shows growth from those issues that plague the record’s first half. Tracks like “Pressure” see Demahjiae explain the feeling of “pressure in my chest” (when referring to the difficulties he has faced trying to ‘make it’ as a rapper, such as having to leave friends behind and feeling a pressure to work to the point that he ‘can never rest’). In contrast to this, the later track, “Deborah Shelby” shows personal inward growth in the passionate repetition of “we’re gonna be okay.”
Demahjiae does some really interesting work with his production, vocally in particular. He frequently muffled his voice or placed filters over the sound, forcing the listener to focus on his lyrics (and, in that process, his production). Lines like “can God save us?” on “Ironclad” or “Hard living in pieces, and sh*t I’ve never known what actual peace is” on “Divinity” are emotive enough lyrically, but the muffling of the voice only adds to the power of those moments. The buried vocals also allow for cathartic moments later in the record when that muffling is lifted. The variety in the instrumentals is great, even if some beats are imperfect. They are deeply layered, abstract and beautiful, combining a bold range of sounds – the album’s opener “And,” is a good example, combining sharp hi-hats, delicate piano playing and more abrasive, undecipherable sampled sounds which give the sound a certain edginess.
The strongest feature on the album comes from Navy Blue on “Always and Forever,” which gives the album a distinct vocal shift to his powerful voice. Navy Blue aligns with the album’s themes of emotional honesty and growth, but takes a moment to to speak on a generation feeling ‘mad as f*ck, I just wanna cry, about the way we live’ because of a ‘do or die, do for self’ mentality. He intelligently allows the album to grow in scale for his verse, and the difference in content is felt. Navy Blue’s brief politically minded verse sees a temporary shift with emotional repercussions which last much longer.
Honest, vulnerable and introspective, helped along by gorgeous production, Demahjiae’s And, Such is Life. is a great rap record showcasing Demahjiae’s multiple talents. Listen to the Oakland rapper’s 2020 release, featuring Navy Blue, Pink Siifu, Zeroh, and others, below.