When you put on The Jahfather of So(u)l Cal, a mixtape by rapper Real J. Wallace, it seems like you switched on your radio during the drive to work. Aside from retro-sounding samples and breakbeats, the mixtape features commercials and talk-show segments.
Of course, that's exactly what Real J Wallace was going for. The album is an ode to California State Route 94, otherwise known as the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway. Check out this introspective new video about the project:
Wallace came up with the idea because he was frequently driving Downtown and he wanted something to accompany his trips. The album is designed to last the entire length of the freeway, but you'll probably have to include detours or breaks spent getting food, as blogger (and CityBeat contributor) Quan Vu recently discovered.
“I would simply play the songs and freestyle ideas onto my phone,” Wallace says about the album. “After awhile, I began to see the freeway as more than an interstate, but more of an inner state. The phrase ‘The Martin Luther King Freeway is an inner state of mind,' began echoing in my head. I feel like that freeway gives off a certain positive energy.”
Linking the rural backcountry of East County with the urban atmosphere of Downtown, Wallace sees the freeway as the “aorta” of the city—an idea he ruminates on in the track “Dig On It,” in which he raps about this “riddle of existence” in a brisk, almost business-like flow.
“[The album] shows the journey from the rural area or rural self to a business type of mentality with capitalism, and I think that Downtown truly represents that sink-or-swim mentality,” he explains.
To continue his contemplation, Wallace plans to make a documentary and accompanying album about a recent surge of gang violence in Southeast San Diego—which the freeway passes through—that claimed the life of a popular local rapper. In the documentary, he wants to explore the disconnect between Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message of peace and the violence that's happening on the streets named after him.
For now, head to Real J Wallace's Bandcamp page to grab the mixtape for free.