Chicago rapper Jay Hunna has been teasing his debut album, Better Days for a few months now, most notably with the release of his chill, onstalgic single “Good Ol’ Music.” This track, paying homage to the late 80s and early 90s rap and hip hop style was the beginning of Hunna’s battle cry against mumble rap, reminding fans what rap is really about and creating a lot of pining after the days of Tupac, Biggie and Common. He also re-introduced Chicago as a forgotten music hub. Since the city has had so many economic challenges, it seemed important to Hunna in this first single to remind the world what a strong community Detroit has, both musically and culturally.
These themes continued with other singles Hunna released before the full Better Days, but there were many styles and beats in tracks like “Fuck the System” which had a heavy trap beat and “Long Day”, another trappy track which sees Hunna change up his rap style to be more aggressive and emotive. Going into the release of Better Days, it was anyone’s guess what kind of styles would be on the album.
There is, indeed, a dearth of mumble rap on Better Days. In fact, Hunna’s diction on his lyrics is almost shockingly clear in the face of the current rap climate, and it’s extremely refreshing. There are definitely some more modern trap-inspired tracks on the album such as the politically charged “Land of the Free” and the dancey “Night Shift”, but Hunna definitely veers towards the chill old school vibes of “Good Ol’ Music”. Even the more modern tracks like “Night Shift” are smoothed out and autotune used sparingly and only to really amplify the 80s or 90s old school feel. This vibe really suits Hunna’s rap style which, despite his diction and pronunciation being very clear, has a certain relaxed swagger which goes well with soul and R&B accents.
A highlight of the album, “Youngin” is a great example of how Hunna marries the relaxed yet emotive qualities of soul and blues with political and social messages. The track opens with a sample from Nina Simone’s ultra classic “Feeling Good” and continues with a slow funk synth as Hunna raps a message to the younger generation about social responsibility in the face of adversity and staying positive in chaos. It’s a touching message, driven home by the mix of emotive yet equally chill music.
This idea of bucking trends or looking past what media is telling us is really a theme throughout the Better Days, whether it’s expressly stated or not. The album is bookended by this point, in fact, as “Good Ol’ Music” and the album closing title track discuss looking to the masters and then following one’s own path. Jay Hunna does not mince words and because of his clear elocution and percussive lyrical style, he doesn’t have to as he talks about following his own path. There’s a lot of points to be made in Better Days, but the fact that Hunna is doing it his own way is central and clearly most important to him.
Better Days is out now and can be streamed and purchased on a variety of platforms by visiting Jay Hunna’s website. Check out his YouTube channel for more videos and singles. Spotify subscribers can also listen to the full album as a playlist, listed below.