On Marauding In Paradise, Jazz Cartier is playing fast and loose with afterlife mythology, mixing ancient symbolism with the arrogance required to catapult yourself out of obscurity. If that seems like a bizarre combination, well, it is, but Cartier is all about ungainly, odd juxtapositions that would fall apart if a less tenacious rapper tried them. “Forever Ready/Band On A Bible (Interlude)” is probably my favorite track after an initial listen, and it best sums up the tension between religious imagery and ambition that permeates the tape. As the title suggests, paradise isn’t a hallowed, sacred space but a palace to be looted.
Not that any of this is literal. Cartier’s ability to conjure up his own mythical Toronto despite Drake’s looming shadow is a testament to his abilities. The Toronto rapper’s blocky, amorphous flow helps him carve out his own space in the rap universe. It’s not regional in any real way — probably because Cartier grew up in places as diverse as Barbados, Atlanta, New England, and Kuwait — but if it wasn’t clearly indicated that this tape was the same rapper throughout, I don’t think I’d believe it. The hysteria he assumes on “The Downtown Clique” is akin to Kendrick Lamar’s wailing gasps on “m.A.A.d city,” but his angst and venomous, bleak overtones do evoke Drake, or even A$AP Rocky most often, even if their topics rarely overlap.
Marauding In Paradise also chronicles a crumbling relationship, complete with snippets from the kind of petty arguments couples have when they’ve already stopped trusting each other but haven’t quite severed ties yet. These moments feel the most real, the most earth-bound, and they ground Cartier as another kid who is wrestling with the same demons and failings we all face. There’s almost no respite from constant struggle over the course of the 16 tracks, which makes the tape virtually too dark to be enjoyable. Then again, that might depend on your mood. It’s growling, vicious, unapologetic; the kind of music you throw on when you’re planning to desecrate paradise. Listen below.