Chicago’s Just Adam is Nothing but Net with Lo-Fi, Jazzy Mixtape, ‘Buckets II'
Evan Dale // Jan 23, 2021
Chicago’s most low-key, laid-back lyricist, Just Adam doesn’t really quite sound like anyone else, not only from his own city, but elsewhere in hip-hop, period. Delineated by a particularly gravelly voice, and effortless pace with the poetry, a relatable construct of subject matter, and an affinity for bridging jazzy East Coast beats with pops of West Coast synth to create a new wave for the Chi, the aesthetic of Just Adam bridges not only place, but era. His is an individualistic amalgamate of timeless hip-hop that speaks to the tenets of subconscious trains of thought merging with conscious subject matter over a mellow beat. And Buckets II – his latest tape and the follow-up to 2019’s Buckets – breathes wholly of his character.
It also echoes epochs of mixtape mastery come, gone, and come again. On the heels of a couple years that have seen a flurry of retrofuturistic mixtape explorations that brought nothing but fond memories for an early 2000’s scene brimming with an endless sea of mixtapes from far and wide, tapes from MAVI’s Let The Sun Talk and Femdot’s ’94 Camry Music to Smino’s She Already Decided and a conglomerate Tennessee production, Tenn Toes Down have felt as if they preluded the beginnings of something new. And Buckets II – thanks to its thematic discourse, raw lyricism, and minimal yet hard-hitting production – is certainly part of whatever that something new is coming to represent.
But Just Adam has always been that guy – that artist to bridge the then to the now; the mixtape to the modern streaming scene. Projects and singles from 2018’s 208 to this month’s Birds which is now featured in Buckets II have always boasted an identity akin to that of the classic mixtapes that made any fan of hip-hop a fan in the first place. It’s in the stories. There’s an undeniably immersive quality to the tales Just Adam tells, and the way he tells them. Buckets II just happens to be his most refined artistic self expressing the artistic ideologies that have always defined him.
Packed equally with endearing self-samples from his youth and addicting hooks featuring an illustrious collection of fellow Chicago up-and-comers, the project is painted broad in its sonic strokes. And yet, something – some things – intangible tie the whole project akin from end to end. Sure, Just Adam’s meditative flow and encapsulating relatability mark each and every track with a note of day-to-dayness that, too, marks it as an album that could soundtrack any of our daily lives, but usually when talking about the genius flow of a project from its inception to its final notes, it’s a larger discussion of production. So often, a producer’s ability to aesthetically tie a project together with cohesive breadth is a requirement for a great collective work. And that’s what makes Buckets II – a simple sophomore mixtape – so much more than that.
Through six tracks, five producers take the reins. And yet, the entire thing very well could have seemingly come from one. Each artist certainly lends their flavor to the project, and there’s nothing to be taken away from that, but even more so, it seems as if each producer has a strong working relationship with Just Adam. And that’s because each beat not only flows aesthetically into the next, each beat also feels custom built for the main act. Maybe it’s a matter of the relationship the producers have built with Just Adam; maybe it’s a matter of a new, cohesive texture breaking through the floorboards of Chicago’s always in motion hip-hop underground. But, whatever it is that allows Buckets II to brim with the cohesive fluidity of a masterful album, is what makes not only Just Adam, but the entirety of the up-and-coming Chicago class featured and not featured here, to be something to watch and listen to. Buckets II is simply the latest project proving that, as always, there’s something important and soon to be utterly influential happening in the Chi.