Think back to 1996, the beginning of the underground era of hip-hop. When Puffy was sampling 80’s and Master P was ruling the charts. Labels like Rawkus, Stones Throw, Fondle Em, and of course Raw Shack were leading the pack in forward thinking hip-hop. A little known emcee by the name of J-Live came onto the scene and would soon be known as a triple threat. The man can produce, DJ, and rhyme with the best of them. Ever since “Braggin Writes” was cut up to perfection on the now classic “New York Reality Check 101” in late ’97 the world took notice and waited for that debut album from Jean-Jacques Cadet. They waited and waited and waited, and then Raw Shack folded. Everyone thought J-Live would go the Large Professor route and we would never see that pivotal debut. 1999 rolled around and the world was shocked when The Best Part leaked onto the internet (before album leaks were an everyday occurrence) and secured J-Live as a force to be reckoned with. Though the leak didn’t help J-Live financially (or did it?) it did help propel him into the hearts and minds of hip-hop heads worldwide.
Fast forward to 2007 where Puffy now produces half of Jay-Z’s newest album and Master P decides to stop cussing, go figure. Where the world is so filled with ignorance and rubbish you can’t turn on your radio or television. We once again we turn to Mr. Cadet to lend hip-hop a helping hand. That he does with the Reveal the Secret EP on Triple Threat/BBE. Not only did Live utilize some of the best in the game for production he also sounds like J-Live from 1996 updated for the kids of 2008. The EP starts with “The Incredible” where J-Live cuts up the slightly overused Chuck D vocal sample from “Bring the Noise” over a laid back melodic track by DJ Jazzy Jeff. “The Incredible” states the obvious, J-Live is back and is incredible. Oddisee lends his hand with “Once Upon a Mic” where J-Live speaks on the ills of the industry with lines like “unfortunately execs lost their patience/recycle rap shit/just for more patrons” and “too much dickriding/no journalism/DJ push play/replace tablism/turn the old school into the new prison/so nowadays love ones son just don’t listen/damn.” Damn is right, if J-Live didn’t hit the nail on the head with that one.
Once again Live shows off his DJ skills cutting up “Microphone Fiend” and lines from “Paid in Full” obviously paying homage to the great Rakim. Jazzy Jeff once again laces J with a track for “Practice” which is also remixed later in the EP by the always impressive Marco Polo chopping it up to perfection. Mr. Walt chops up Kool and the Gang with J-Live on the mic and Evil Dee on the adlibs giving the sample new life on “Feel like Spittin”. Spinna comes through with a harder track than what we have come to expect from him as of late on “Red Light Green Light”. J-Live speaks to the youth with the chorus “red light green light one two three/do you even know where you are trying to go/seems like you are speeding just to stop at the curb/old school new school need to learn though”. How ahead of his time was Biggie with those words?
Overall, the only flaw in this EP is that is not an LP. We’re sure an LP can’t be that far off, so once again we sit in anticipation. J-Live is an emcee that has never compromised who he is or what he represents for a quick buck and by the look of things isn’t going to start anytime soon. He is that all around artist, he has mastered not only his skills on the mic, but also on the boards and on the tables. - Darin Gloe
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