Album Review: Jae Skeese – Iroquois Pliskin EP

[Self-released; 2022]

Having released his mixtape Revolver Ocelot last year to critical acclaim, Jae Skeese returns with his latest offering in the Metal Gear Solid-inspired Iroquois Pliskin, an EP serving as an appetizer for the inevitable Abolished Uncertainties – his long-awaited debut album on Drumwork. 

En route to his debut album, the Buffalo MC has been on a hot streak; leaving radio stations ablaze, torching freestyles from the LA Leakers to the Bootleg Kev Show. His latest project brings a similar intensity but with an added touch of personal strife. In the process, Jae Skeese delivers a memorable performance on his Iroquois Pliskin EP – a performance more than worthy of the Drumwork label.

“Before I release my official Drumwork debut project, I wanted to give fans a project to hold them over and to feel more connected,” Skeese told Complex. “Being vulnerable hasn’t always been the easiest thing for me, but it’s essential for my growth as an artist. It’s time to get people in tune with my sound and message.” And on the six-track EP, the Drumwork rhymer delivers on his promise and then some. 

Beginning the project with “71 Cluster”, he pulls back the mask on his truth and allows the listener to dive into his current mental space. The three-minute intro lays the brickwork for the EP’s foundation. First, Skeese raps a confessional verse exploring the inner demons and struggles that plague him despite his consistent stream of success as of late. Then, in a moment of clarity, Jae Skeese guides us through his mental gymnastics all while straddling life’s balance beam, rhyming, “My biggest challenge been keeping it all together while life been falling apart / as things start to come together as far as my art / I’m fighting to leave my mark like scars from an egregious assault / I’m staring out my window stuck deep in my thoughts.” With the added context of everything that Skeese has been through until now, including watching his precious daughter Naas grow up while simultaneously losing his brother Jarred Weeze Baker, these bars carry an additional layer of intimacy. 

Lyrics of close connection continue to elucidate Jae Skeese’s story as we head into “EKIN 2”; a sequel to a joint from Revolver Ocelot that dives into his inner-sneakerhead. While the track may seem to just be about his affinity for Air Jordans and other various kicks on the surface, Skeese uses the moment to reveal more about his humble upbringing. Reminiscing on his days hustling sneakers, Jae Skeese raps, “College blue 17s Jordan had rocked right after his prime / I got ’em right up in the suitcase when I handle business / I remember treating sneaker meet-ups like drug deals to make an acquisition”. Resonant, Jae Skeese’s nostalgic rhymes draped over the dreamy boom-bap production transport us back to a time for the rapper when, even if things weren’t perfect financially and maybe even personally, he at least was doing something he loved. And rap, his career of choice, is almost like an extension of this fond memory. 

With Abolished Uncertainties looming on the horizon, Jae Skeese continues to deliver solid material for his fans. In each successive project, the lyrical content grows more personal than the last, and the rapper slowly matures as his own artist before our eyes. Iroquois Pliskin is a consistent effort from the Buffalo-rhymer, doubling down on the idea that he’s up next. His Drumwork debut album couldn’t come any sooner.