Join us as we sit back and dissect the avant garde rap record from GF Anon, Jacob at Avant Garde...Vol. 1

By: T-Rod

“Oh, so THIS is how this is gonna go” I thought to myself, grinning, when I finished the intro to Jacob at Avant Garde Vol.1.

I heard “Chapter I”, the opening track to Camden rapper GF Anon’s latest record, on a cold early morning walk. Being in the northeast has really helped me appreciate the hip-hop in the region, especially Anon’s. The mix of hope and sadness in his pen, the soul that serves as a soundtrack to days in the cold, the conviction in his voice that is as firm as the concrete underneath my feet. With this being his first release in a trilogy set to release this year, I’m excited to know that his brand of jazz rap is gonna be on loop as the weather turns warm. This project in particular has already been on loop for me for lots of reasons. It’s a showcase of GF Anon’s excellent stage presence and lyricism, with some choice beatsmithing put on display.

What really makes it stand apart from his catalog is its conceptuality and heart. Anon himself described avant-garde as art people may not initially get, “but once they begin to study and peel the layers back of the art piece, they’ll begin to understand and appreciate it.” That’s the story of this record, in a nutshell. It’s artsy and eclectic, moving like a puzzle that forms a clearer and clearer image when you put the pieces together. That image is both somber and heartfelt, a touching ode to Anon’s late uncle and Anon’s ambitions. It’s a listen that rewards your brain and soul every time you take a dive.

“Chapter 1” works so well as an intro that I feel I should go in a bit more detail on how it sets the tone for the album. There’s a storm of samples: Anon’s uncle’s voice is felt as he hypes up the energy for the record, transitioning to a chilling opening verse that grapples with mortality, only for the song to transition to a hopeful soul chop that feels cozy as a blanket. This blend of darkness and nostalgia may seem slightly at odds, but Anon makes it work with his pen game and trust in producer KingJVY_B’s beats. Anon himself wanted this project to also work as a showcase of the beatmaker’s talent, and it’s clear why he’s landed spots with Westside Gunn: “Chapter VI” throws so many crazy transitions and loops that it works both as a sound collage and a classy jazz cypher where Anon muses about the music industry, wealth and his own identity. KingJVY_B definitely has some beats you gotta check out.

The interplay between the beat switches and Anon’s lyricism is really what gives this record’s avant garde concept weight. The record works like a rap scavenger hunt, with each song serving to propel your understanding of both Anon and his family, usually through abstract transitions or beats backing different emotional tones. “Chapter III” is one of my favorite songs from the rapper, a song that finds Anon dissecting his own mind “at warp speed” and determining that he needs to take a leap for greater purpose, with a splash sound introducing a heavenly luxury rap melody; Anon reiterates the themes of the first verse, but here he sounds more composed, perfected. This composure becomes even more satisfying when you notice how he discusses his hustle for it in “Chapter II,” that story bleeding into his drive to achieve his destiny for his lost friends and family on “Chapter IV” (which has a warm and almost whimsical Mute Won beat). GF Anon’s cadence and vocal presence always make it seem like he’s preaching, but damn he’s preaching on this record, especially when he comes in over new production.

While I think I can write endlessly about how this whole album makes me feel, I think there’s power in the listener’s own interpretation of things, so I do not want to go into too much more detail. However, I want to make note on how the album sticks the ending. “Chapter XIII” works almost like an internal pep talk from Anon or his family to a past version of himself, advising against poor decisions; when the second half hits, it feels like Anon is standing in the present, reflecting on how far he has come from his starting point. The transition from this track to the powerful closer “Chapter X” shows how he got here: family, love, and confidence. It’s a great last call moment, with Anon’s storytelling moving along a sick horn loop to describe his family life and his hope to work for the future. It feels right that this track has no major beat switches: it feels like a moment of clarity, capitalized by Anon’s uncle closing the record out to applause.

So yeah, if you couldn’t tell, I liked this project a lot. It took me a while to write this, partially because I wanted to get this record right, but also because I tend not to love when I write about stuff as a fan. One of my favorite Anon lines ever from “Chapter VII” changed that mentality though. “Be inspired, don’t become a fan.” This is the type of album that inspires creativity, inspires good playlists, inspires feelings, and of course inspires analyzing music. Get inspired, listen to this one.