I’m using the Amazon clips widget to preview J-Live’s new album here. Click on the above box to listen to clips from any one of the album’s tracks.
J-Live has been one of my favorite MCs for going on 7 years now, and I constantly am surprised that more people don’t listen to his music. This guy is like your favorite unknown author . . . for years he’s been making music that’s better than, at least, 90% of all the hip hop out there, and yet the man can’t seem to get more than a little credit.
Bottom line: If you like hip hop, you will like J-Live. If you don’t like hip hop, listen to J-Live and you will like hip hop at least a little bit.
This new album is Live’s fourth full-length, and I’ll be surprised if many better hip hop albums are released this year. This is the kind of music that’s continually fresh and innovative; even when J’s just flexing on a battle track his lines are working on two or three levels. J-Live makes music the way hip hop is supposed to sound: what I mean by that is clever wordplay that gets beyond your typical punchline; introspective songs where he’s continually evolving his thoughts, not just talking about the same old stuff again and again; truly unique sounds, concepts; incredible mic skills.
I’ve had the new CD a few days now and given it about 10 complete listens. Here are the tracks that are striking me most at the moment:
3–The Upgrade–this song has a fantastic, upbeat beat, and you’ve got to love that J-Live got Pos from De La Soul to contribute a verse.
4–It Don’t Stop–now this beat is simply bananas. I love the cuts and scratches at the beginning and each time the hook comes in. If The Upgrade was the feel-good track to set things off, here’s J flexing.
6–The Last Third–taking us back to "Get the Third" from J’s first album, this is J-Live talking about relationships. You have to listen to hear exactly how J-Live rhymes it, but have a look at the rhyme scheme of the following lyrics to get an idea of what he can do with enjambment:
Second thoughts turned to second words / Took a second but I got the message / Took me a day and a second but I concurred / I prefer to be along then to not be / Preferred . I guess that is what happens to a dream deferred.
7–Ole–Maybe I’ve just been listening to too much flamenco music, but I really like the way this song sounds. The story-like narration of a crazy party is lots of fun.
10–The Zone–This track features Charli 2na of Jurassic 5, one of the few MCs that can rhyme on a track with J and come off looking like the more rhythmic rapper. (And this reminds me, we’re all still waiting for Charli’s solo album.)
12–Simmer Down–I love it when rappers take on an challenging beat. To be perfectly frank, anyone can rap over your simple two drums per four bars (and this drum scheme gets used way too often), but a beat like the one on this song separates, so to speak, the men from the boys. It’s nice to see how J navigates it, and the off-kilter drums give the song a unique feel.