With Monaemania underway in the #BlackLivesMatter community, it’s the perfect time for her label (Wondaland Arts Society-cum-Wondaland Records) to show off what Janelle is truly about with Wondaland Presents: The Eephus. If you’re expecting politics to play as large a part as it did in the Metropolis suites, you’ll be highly disappointed. The Eephus is perfectly attuned to its name: a pitcher’s arcing, and disarming, throw whose name was given and explained by 1940’s outfielder Maurice Van Robays.“Eephus ain’t nothing, and that’s a nothing pitch.” It’s a good nothing, more of a pop R&B appetizer for an as yet unknown main course. Monáe even avoids the spotlight, having just one appearance beside newcomers Deep Cotton, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and St. Beauty.
If any of them are in the spotlight it’s Jidenna, who not only sings alongside Monáe on the reggae beat, drop filled “Yoga,” but also whose radio-perfect “Classic Man” appears twice. And the second version (the remix featuring the oft-mentioned Kendrick instead of Roman GianArthur) is, unlike other remixes I’ve heard, distinct and deserving of its existence. The little blank spaces between rhythm and harmony make the silence stand out. But, despite being densely packed until their track, the St. Beauty duo's more refined and soulful Lorde-like minimalism, along with GianArthur’s “iKnow” (seemingly influenced by Apple), who stands out for his low-key, vocally oriented composition, set the tone for the close of the official album. It's a somewhat hopeful, if not melancholic, conclusion.
But again, the centerpiece of The Eephus is Jidenna. He sets the tone for the album: upbeat, and up-and-coming. His mention of Nat King Cole and his idea of a classic man evoke the image of the respectable, cool, lovable, and tight-knit Rat Pack. A Rat Pack unlike the Timberlake one – suggested by tabloids from one laughing photo – and more intertwined in their culture’s needs. “Got to be ready for war…should they get into my door?...Cause I lived through this shit before,” referring to the cases of no-knock police entry that ended in death. Which is to say, despite introducing the EP as a strictly playful selection, politics are as unavoidable here as they are everywhere else - no matter how hard the Today Show tries.
While Deep Cotton and St. Beauty do leave their marks, the funk borders of a soulful picture, they’re asides to what is revealing Jidenna and the merger of Wondaland Records. Not necessarily a junk pitch. Rather, a teaser trailer. It doesn’t give you the content of the label itself, but you get a feel for what to expect as you would from the trailer to a trailer.