After seeing his debut, The Best Part, get massively bootlegged and go unreleased for nearly three-years, J-Live is already well versed in Industry rule #4080. Yet, at least J was proactive during his prolonged absence, as just months after The Best Part’s “proper” release, J-Live is ready to tackle the arduous task of following up a classic debut; a plight that has ended many a promising career, with his sophomore endeavor All Of The Above.
Sticking to the script is obviously not a rule that J-Live adheres too. Reason being, All Of The Above is a swift departure from the predominantly underground chest-beating stance he took on The Best Part. On “MCee” Live surreally laments “it’s ill, cause my role models are my peers now.” Yet, throughout All Of The Above, it becomes increasingly evident that Live is not only a man coming to grips with his place in hip-hop, but more importantly his place in society; exemplified by the social activist stance he takes on the post 9-11 ode “Satisfied?”. Though J lends a sympathetic shoulder to the concerns that still prevail some six-months after 9-11 “ah yo the airs still stale, the anthrax got my old earth wearing a mask and gloves to get her mail.” Live reminds us to not forget the social issues (racial equality, police brutality, education funding) that were on the agenda before the attacks reinvigorated our patriotic ideals “now its all about NYPD caps, and Pentagon bumper stickers, but yo, your still a nigga.”
While J-Live has previously showcased his storytelling prowess on gems like “Ships Pass” (a forgotten cut from the SuperRappin series) and “Wax Paper” he takes it a step further with All Of The Above. His ode to a miscellaneous female, “Like This Anna” is accentuated by an obese play on words style, as he flips the script by attaching “Anna” onto the end of every bar. Likewise, “One For The Griot” includes a variable of steamy scenarios, which includes hues of Penthouse, Memento and American Psycho. Not to be outdone, Live gets autobiographical over P Smoova’s Touch Of Jazz scats on “A Charmed Life” and pours out his heart over the steady metronome drip of “The 4th 3rd”, which details how Live’s rebirth into the 5% ideology soured a once promising relationship. However, J-Live’s transition from B-Boy to universal magnetic is most evident by All Of The Above’s magnum opus, “Night’s Like This”, as Live’s conscious bliss (“nights like this I don’t wish for raindrops, no need to anticipate, my words hold enough wait to make it precipitate”) and Rokafella’s yearning vocals cascade achingly under Usef Dinero esoteric production.
While the atmospheric production (DJ Spinna, Usef Dinero, Touch Of Jazz, J-Live) of the Live motivator’s progressive sophomore effort may initially throw heads a Kerry Wood curveball. The true depth of All Of The Above is only grasped with repeated listens. And though there is a diverse pot of musical influences stewing (Drum & Bass, Jazz) here, there is an undeniable De La Soul and Ummah production vibe prevalent (“Like This Anna” “All Of The Above” & “All In Together Now”) as well. In truth, All Of The Above sounds like a continuation of the Native Tongue movement circa 2002. And if the click would have stayed together, this is perhaps a good example of the heights the click would have reached. However, Live does not lift those vibes as much as he does update them, as he turns those influences into a “Brand Nu” special piece of music.
Of course, there are the prerequisites that any “great” emcee must possess; flow, charisma and a dope voice. Yet, on his debut, The Best Part, J-Live took it to the streets and asked passersby’s there thoughts and over the course of a few short interludes, we learned that fans unanimously agree to disagree on what qualities separate a “great” emcee from your blocks local rhyme slinger; as their answers ranged from “you have to be a great liar” to “there’s no such thing anymore.” Well, after two LP’s, J-Live can end the great emcee debate, as with the ability to kill you softly, or with force, he need look no further then the nearest mirror to find a great emcee. While J-Live may have coined himself the “vampire slayer”, in reality he is more like one of the last dinosaurs left trying to survive the ice age! Prepare to be unthawed.
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