“The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.”
According to dragonfly-site.com, the Dragonfly serves as a metaphor for change and self-realization.
Bring in south-side MC Ajani Jones, whose debut album of the same name embodies these sentiments to a T. Released on July 16, DRAGONFLY is a 13-track, 47-minute essay on growth, adaptation and personal evolution. The final product is the journey that encompasses those three aforementioned, which result in Jones coming to a full actualization of who he is as an artist and human.
The opening track, JANI’S INTRO, kicks off with Ajani Jones conversing with his 11-year-old self, asking what this younger version of himself likes to do for fun. Jones looks back on a delicate time in his life which consisted of playing with roadblocks and hanging out with his cousins. There is a sense of innocence that little Ajani brings in this skit — a sense of purity that is yet to be tainted by the harsh realities of the outside world. As the conceptual arc of Dragonfly develops further, the innocence portrayed in the opening skit is threatened more and more.
Where Ajani Jones shines most on this album is how he grows from the obstacles that stand in his way. On DRAGONS he confronts the terrifying notion of his cousin being recruited by a gang. His flow and delivery hold the sense of urgency that comes with someone being under siege for the first time, often not knowing how to react. However Jones does not fold here; he fends off the temptation associated with his surroundings, keeping his head afloat and his feet planted firmly on the right path.
On LUCID, which pops up in the middle of the track list, Jones goes into detail about a call he received from his mother late one night while he was at the studio. After checking his bank account she was left wondering how Jones would pull through while lacking funds. Jones however appears calm and collected despite the dire circumstances, confident he will pull through once again. As the second leg of the album progresses, the obstacles only continue to pile up.
PLUTO sees Jones and his mother dealing with their house being foreclosed on, as well as loved ones he has lost due to Chicago’s gun violence. On the closing track TIME FLIES, Jones confronts how lost he felt as a kid searching for a god to believe. He also touches on the fractured relationship between the police and the black community. Despite closing out on a somewhat somber note, the underlying notion that Jones has made becomes abundantly clear. He has refused to succumb to all of the obstacles that have stood before him, instead using them as periods of intense personal growth.
Aside from the well fleshed-out, conceptual arc of the album, the beats and lyrics are noteworthy by themselves. Lyrically Jones displays loads of technical skill on every song here. His wordplay is sharp and the pictures he paints holds a quality of vividness that so few MC’s have. His flow and delivery are equally as gripping as he delivers his verses with a robust sense of urgency. The instrumentals shine as well, ranging from bleak and dreary sounding to jazzy and laid-back. Jones did a great job of picking beats that fit the mood he was in on a given track.
On the beginning of DRAGONFLY, Ajani Jones is an 11-year-old kid unaware of the cold, harsh truths that have yet to invite themselves into his life. What comes after is the battle to either grow within himself, or fall victim to the obstacles that are constantly standing in his way. Jones not only chose to grow, he chose to grow triumphantly. How he conceptually realizes that over the course of an album is a true testament to that. That sentiment in combination with the moody production and lyrical dexterity from Jones himself makes for a great album. That is why Ajani Jones is this week’s Artist Of The Week.