It was less than a year ago (a week short of 9 months, to be exact) that Planet Asia dropped The Medicine, which featured production by Evidence on each and every track. On Tuesday, the Fresno vet dropped his fourth proper full-length, Jewelry Box Sessions: The Album, and the s**t is off the chain (no pun intended).
Although his 2000 debut album, The Last Stand is a classic, and the first Cali Agents featuring Asia alongside Rasco was also a banger, a lot of Asiaâ€™s fans were a little disappointed with other albums and mixtapes up until The Medicine. Although everyone thatâ€™s ever heard him spit is well aware of skills on the mic, he always ended up with mostly lackluster production on his joints. Ev definitely came with proper beats for the last joint, and the resulting product was just as much an Evidence album as it was a Planet Asia album. On Jewelry Box Sessions, however, Asia goes for dolo with dope production from start to finish and proves once again what heâ€™s capable of.
For those of you arenâ€™t familiar, Planet Asia is one of the dopest and most consistently slept-on emcees on the West Coast. He has one of the most unique voices in hip hop, and lyrically, heâ€™s been a beast since he emerged on the scene. His content has always been a mix of backpacker swagger and player braggadocio, and itâ€™s a balance that heâ€™s always been able to pull off without sounding contradictory or contrived. His career has stayed mostly in the realm of the underground throughout his career, although he did sign with Interscope at one point. No albums were released through the label during his short stay there, but Asia trudged on and has continued to progress throughout the years, all the while staying a favorite amongst the underground set. And from what Iâ€™ve seen, just about any mainstream head who comes across his s**t instantly becomes a fan.
The album features production from an array of virtual unknowns (Architect, Dahoud Darien, Brisk One, Quam Allah, Leggo and others), with a couple contributions from some easily-recognizable names (Madlib and Jake One). Although the names on the list of producers might not ring too many bells, rest assured that the production is on par with that of The Medicine. In a strange twist, the weakest track on the album- which, incidentally, is still a dope track -comes from Madlib, who is one of the more celebrated producers in the Cali underground hip hop scene. The one obvious factor that influences the quality of the album in a positive way is that P.A. chose beats that are on more of a hardcore tip as opposed to matching his raw flow to some laid-back s**t (as he has mistakenly attempted to do in the past... with mostly sour results).
The guest spots on Jewelry Box Sessions ainâ€™t too shabby either. While he does have a gang of lesser-known- yet impressively capable -emcees contribute to numerous tracks, the album also includes guest appearances from Krondon (of Strong Arm Steady), Fresno veteran Shake Da Mayor, Chace Infinite (of Self-Scientific fame) and the almighty Bun B. Whatâ€™s impressive is that although 10 of the 15 tracks on the album feature emcees other than Planet Asia himself, the album never loses focus on who its true star is, even when that star is up alongside a true legend in the game such as Bun.
All in all, Jewelry Box Sessions is definitely coppable. This has been a good couple of months for West Coast hip hop, and Iâ€™ve definitely been bigging up quite a few more albums than I usually do, but this is one that you can definitely expect to see on my Top Ten list at the end of the year.
Last but not least, Iâ€™ll be posting my interview with Planet Asia on Friday, so make sure you tune in for that.