Smile Politely

Jarrel Young’s Full Custody: Let the redeemed of the courts say so

A man stands indoors wearing a mint green hoodie with the word "ABSTRACT" on it. He has a towel draped over one shoulder and holds a phone in his hand. Behind him, there are various objects and a blurred person in the background.
Jarrel Young

Jarrel Young is back! A Champaign product of 2019 Illini Anthem fame, Young returns to his music-releasing ways with his latest LP Full Custody, a project that promises to be as elucidating as it is entertaining for the fans of this “not-so-local-anymore” artist. In it, he packages an expertise in creative English and a confident, harmonious vocal performance to bolster a musical narrative featuring a victorious, yet messy custody battle. The torturous gravity of said battle is offset by an otherwise loving and supportive family and the successful pursuit and attainment of a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Although this project is highly personal, it also finds a way to be extremely accessible and inviting. Young peppers in direct references to events of his custody battle including names, locations, and time stamps, but does it in a way that is sufficiently creative and non-direct. The way Young drip-releases the most pertinent and private information, the listener is arrested at the edge of their seat, entertained and listening for the next detail. Young has an uncanny ability as a storyteller to use language creatively to set scenes. He employs figurative language to suggest a wide range of meanings, then punctuates these scenes with enlightening moments of bleeding detail.

The appeal of this project goes further than words on a page, though. Yes, this is a juicy story, told well. But it’s also presented masterfully, and delivered beautifully. Young and his team of producers clearly focused a lot of attention to detail when designing these catchy cadences and complementing soundscapes. One thing I noticed in particular was how precise the vocal layering felt. Throughout the album, layers not only enhanced the album’s sense of melody and harmony but were designed in a way to buoy and strengthen the rhythmic feel as well; rhythm being that hook on which rap music traditionally rests its cap. Furthermore, although Young strikes me as a singular and unique artist, this project manages to feel contemporary: digestible right alongside the most popular rap music of today.

Authenticity is among the crown jewels featured on Full Custody. Young makes a point to start the album off with a spoken line taken straight from the closing line of Christian prayers: “In Jesus’s name, I pray, Amen.” We actually hear the line spoken a few more times throughout the project, anchoring his experience and his artistry in his most personal religious beliefs. This level of authenticity, provided willingly, positions Young as an appropriate narrator, the ideal interpreter really, for this sort of arrestingly real situation.

Full Custody certainly commands the traditional “in-order” listen. Prepare yourself to be taken on an epic journey through choppy waters and redemptive clouds. Because with this project, Young breaks hiatus with a story that won’t soon be forgotten. 

“Unfounded” is the most unhinged track on the project. In the extended court case allegory Young uses, this track represents his turn to defend himself by villainizing his ex-wife. It feels like a cathartic phone call with a close friend after a tough court date, filled with intense emotional release.

“5th Dimension” featuring Chase Baby punctuates the redemptive feeling intended near the end of the project’s plotline. In this track, both artists reflect on the positives in their lives with grit and attitude, unbothered — indeed, propelled — by any detractors or haters.

In my favorite album skit of recent memory, “Harvo’s Call (Skit)” avoids the common pitfall of album skits by enhancing rather than distracting. Using the dialogue of a phone call, it speaks directly from artist to listener, conveying the album’s intended purpose. We learn that Young crafted this work to share the wisdom of his journey and to offer artistic advice for anyone dealing with destructive relationship differences.

Jarrel Young

In another standout feature, “Uncle Sam” (perhaps my favorite song on the project), the stakes are clarified. Young’s adversary isn’t just his former loved one or the threat of losing access to his beloved children. While these are significant challenges, there are also powerful institutional sources of authority lurking menacingly in the background, ready to assert themselves. In this song, we hear Young and Flipside Moton reimagining their relationship to this omnipresent force embodied by “Uncle Sam,” recasting it in empowering terms with the refrain, “Gimme that paycheck, gimme that paycheck, I need that paycheck.” This attitude mirrors how Young obtained his Master’s Degree in Social Work from “Uncle Sam” and, more immediately, how he won his custody proceedings from the dangerously unreliable patriarch.

In Young’s latest LP, Full Custody, he weaves a compelling narrative. It’s a story that’s raw and messy, yet ultimately rewarding, offering listeners a happy ending and highly relatable insights. This album explores the trials faced by a mature, polished artist, ready to share a challenging story with both discernment and entertainment. Young imparts wisdom over an R&B and pop-influenced Trap soundscape, showcasing his lyrical prowess, meticulous attention to sonic design, and a redemptive narrative arc that resonates with a comforting, archetypal familiarity.

Full Custody, LP

Released May 14, 2024

  1. Amen/Motion (Prod. by MBUVITO)
  2. Courtroom H (Prod. by SKEV BEATS x 1 DESRO)
  3. P.O.M.E. (Product of My Environment) (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  4. Unfounded (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  5. 4:47pm (Feat. HAshworth Bentley & Ze’) (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  6. Harvo’s Call (Skit) 
  7. Jezebel (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  8. Confessions (Prod. H. KAL-EL)
  9. Space (Feat. KD) (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  10. Uncle Sam (Feat. Flipside Moton) (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  11. Samson (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  12. Copenhagen (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  13. 5th Dimension Pt. 3 (Feat. Chase Baby) (Prod. by SVGAR BEATZ)
  14. 1:47am in McLean County (Prod. by MBUVITO)

More Articles