The depth of Chicago rap talent continues to astound, and newcomer Ajani Jones is a dextrose rhymer with a deep bag of flows, a knack for understated melodies, and an ability to dart around spacious production. Recently signed by Closed Sessions, the Chicago-based indie label behind Jamila Woods and Kweku Collins, Jones just released his EP Cocoons, a project where he demonstrates his versatility and conjures up moving images of his struggle, sacrifice, and self-actualization.
There are shades of Collins in Jones' ability to both blend in with and slice through the hazy instrumentals he rhymes over, but he also showcases an ability to breathe new life into more vintage boom bap production in the mold of Isaiah Rashad.
Standouts include "Crystal Drops," where Jones celebrates his hustle and black excellence atop layers of warm synths, as well as the woozy "Pyramids" featuring surreal and eerie animal imagery from Collins. In a 2017 interview, Jones cited neo-soul artists like Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, and Musiq Soulchild as major influences, and he captures their dreamy sound and deeply rooted sense of self on "Sage" and "Bloom."
As its name implies, Cocoons deals heavily with the idea of personal growth, particularly in the face of not only universal obstacles and those that are unique to life in the city's South Side. Jones' path began in the Windy City and took him to college in Iowa, though he left behind a full ride scholarship to return to Chicago and focus on music.