What better illustration of the cultural gulf between mainstream and underground hip-hop than the injuries through which their respective practitioners must persevere? While 50 Cent survived nine gunshots to record a multi-platinum ode to bullets, bitches and general bad behavior, Philly underground stalwart Jake Lefco endured a missing tooth, lost after a bathtub fall, en route to creating the quirky every-man chronicles that make up his sophomore album, Missing Trooth. Though it might look cliché on paper (another self-deprecating white boy rhyming about the struggles and humiliations of every day life), Lefco has actually created a uniquely organic album, seasoned equally with whimsical humor and frank introspection.
The album opens with “Comfort Zone,” the lead single and a perfect pace-setter for the project. Over stuttered drums, a playful baseline and slightly off-kilter keys, Lefco rhymes about facing his fears and taking risks in the name of personal and artistic growth. His flow is relaxed, but surprisingly intricate over the unorthodox beat. “When It Rains” recounts the nightly perils of Lefco’s job as a bartender in a manner both comical and revelatory, without sliding into the whiney or self-congratulatory terrain, so often traveled when underground rappers write songs about their day gigs. Lefco generally excels as a storyteller, and his conversational confessionals are particularly compelling on “Life Goes On,” as he reflects on past indignities, including wetting his pants in the school lunch line, and the loss of his front tooth (twice).
While Jake Lefco is not the most charismatic mic controller, and his delivery can occasionally feel flat when juxtaposed against up-tempo tracks, he generally rides producer Happ G’s airy string and filtered horn driven beats efficiently. Neither an emo-inflected social outcast, nor a militant “keep it real” crusader, Lefco avoids the underground archetypes, and in doing so, crafts the album that seems to elude so many from both of those camps; an honest and engaging account of the life of a regular guy. Perhaps the most defining characteristic, is that through all of the bumps, bruises and busted grills, there is an underlying sense of resilience in the lyrics, and an indefatigable bounce to the beats, ultimately making Missing Trooth a celebration of a life more ordinary.
– Jeff Harvey