Juan Deuce has been a fixture of the local hip hop scene since 2006. He has produced numerous albums with Falside, DJ Mekalek, Jaysonic, DJ Emoh Betta and F.Virtue. Sock Money, a result of his recent collaboration with New York-based producer J57, is his latest release, and if you aren’t familiar with Juan and his work then nows the time to get aquainted. Few albums have the ability to make me just sit down and listen. Sock Money is one of them.
Starting with the upbeat, scratch intro “You Right,” Juan Deuce walks us through a meditation on love and love lost. “You Right,” featuring DJ Mekalek, comes on with vibrato over sampled soul and a simple, catchy electric piano line. As the EP progresses, we hear the songs, both in lyrics and sound, peel off layers until we are left with the bare lyric “Shelby, Shelby, tell me Shelby” at the end with a slowly simmering reverbed and echoed keyboard fading out.
In “Milion Dollar Dishwasher” Juan Deuce sings, “Some do it for the vanity. No sh-t. Me? I do it if the sandwich’s free,” hinting perhaps at the purity in the reason he makes his music. Juan Deuce puts this in perspective, giving the gusto and energy to make a masterpiece without the idea of fame as a reason to create art. The real reason is something deeper.
Following J57’s sampled vocal line, “Baby love was meant for two,” a chorus hits you with a Birth of the Cool-approved horn line and the song “El Oh Vee E” takes off as a head bobbing, catchy piece of music. With “true grit, no horse sh-t,” the middle of the album continues to peel back the layers, ditching the gusto a bit in favor of more sentimental moments complete with bouncing soul backing tracks. “It Don’t Take Much” features a verse from fellow Rhode Island artist Jaysonic – check out his 2000 Battle Royal; it’s good stuff – and takes a nostalgic look at how “it don’t take much” for everything to change.
The last two tracks of Sock Money continue to strip down Juan Deuce’s reflection on love and life. In “Fake Flowers,” J57 loops two repeating measures of keyboards and a female vocalist under Juan Deuce’s lyrics. It is just enough to hint at a vibe and it creates an almost meditative moment in the album that also brings a satisfying close to the vintage jazz and soul before going into the last track, “Shelby,” which fully embraces a descent into the center of something… different.
Over J57’s atmospheric, wind chime-esque two-chord swing, Juan Deuce sings, “Nothing remains, nothing remains now something is changing” and with that “Shelby” brings a sense of closure in the midst of absolute change. It is a track that completely departs from the vibe of the album as Juan Deuce vows to “leave slow.” Is it a song about love lost? Aging? Leaving? Possibly all of it.
Despite being a six song EP, it has strength in its length and it remains a complete thought. While an album is a complete product, finished and a chapter closed, an EP is an exploration or a snapshot of an artist’s music in time. Sock Money’s brief six tracks have the feel of a full length without a need to be longer and the journey is just as satisfying. After the last notes of the EP fade away, one can’t help but hit repeat.