ILLUSIONS OF PARADISE – CJ WESTLEY
“still ain’t seen someone show me something that I can’t do”
I’ve heard the members of Midnight Run themselves argue for CJ Westley as the most well-rounded artist of their crew and this album Illusions of Paradise makes a good case for that claim. OhGosh’s production keeps evolving , Nabeyin's becoming more central all the while this crew’s repertoire stays cohesive- it’s like the first crop of Wu-Tang albums except a lot smoother.
His content is in the OE wheelhouse for sure: depression/social anxiety, girls, reveling in the cinematics of nocturnal life and the like but he rarely lets it get that serious (a fine choice I think) and the album develops in a natural way that is easy to appreciate as one listens through. Westley raps, sings, and does much of his own video work- all of this is on full display in the well-crafted campaign for this project. All of O.E. is on this project (I heard Speech's voice in one of the skits...) and they're well deployed.
“they always wanna tweet never wanna text back”
I’ve seen Westley’s prior music videos and the first half of this album is a lush and soulful departure from his older work in my view while still having lots of bars. From “No Sunshine” through the penultimate track Westley becomes much more editorial about human behavior he disapproves of and his misanthropy is more or less relatable. I appreciate how candid he gets on “Sympathy Vs. Empathy” –on the spectrum of OE depression I feel like I’m at CJ levels, more on this later with my therapist.
I’m glad that Westley went with a traditional LP length with a normal kind of layout of accessible tracks leading to deeper tracks and ending with a bang (“Ignant II”). It’s what a lot of us would do given the ever-accruing and already vast resources of the OE dynasty- but not everyone executes this sharply; I rate this record mad smokeable/bumpable.
Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for Zus Entertainment, a Jooseboxx and Untapped Hip-Hop contributor, and member of the Inland Empire, California based nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers