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On Tuesday, Durham rapper Jozeemo will release his first nationally distributed album, Cry Now L.A.F. Later, on the Little Brother-associated Hall of Justus label. But he’s not going to perform. Instead, he’s going to party. It’s euphemistic to say that, at this point, Jozeemo deserves at least that much: Early last year, Jozeemo was released from Beckley, a federal prison in West Virginia 50 miles southeast of Charleston. He served nearly two years for a probation violation that followed years of gang activity portrayed in the documentary Welcome to Durham. He’s been working to finish this album ever since his release.
Cry Now L.A.F. Later is a bit of a transition. Jozeemo earned a reputation early in the decade through a series of tough, narrative-focused street freestyles, reporting on his life as an East Durham fighter with braggadocio and forceful delivery. It’s a style that, on his early mixtapes, sometimes made for songs that seemed unfocused or stunted. Here, Jozeemo works to make full songs and to balance his violent cityscapes with warnings and real-talk love songs. This full-length debut meets that goal halfway.
The other reason Jozeemo’s chosen a party instead of a performance right now is timing: Cry Now L.A.F. Later is but a prequel to L.A.F., to be released during the first half of next year by Hall of Justus. Andby Jozeemo’s own admissionthis release is just a primer for those who enjoyed his recent verse on Little Brother’s Getback, a stopgap for longtime fans or a token for himself that this is finally happening: “People have called me a rapper. And I always said I’m just somebody who writes rhymes. Now I can call myself a rapper.” Grayson Currin
Jozeemo celebrates the release of Cry Now L.A.F. Later with a party at The G Loft in George’s Garage in Durham, Tuesday, Nov. 20. Doors open at 9 p.m. and DJ Skaz will be spinning.