It’s safe to say that J-Live is one of the most consistent emcees in hip-hop today. Maybe this writer is getting old or is tired of hearing “Lollipop” 72 times a day on the radio, but J-Live has never done anything this writer didn’t like. We all know his beginnings with Raw Shack and his label struggles, so no need to elaborate on that any further. And Then What Happened finds J opening up a little more about his heritage, the lack of a father figure in his life, and his affiliation with the 5%.
The album starts off with the Jazzy Jeff produced “One to 31” where J lets people know exactly how great a woman is mother was, and how bad his astringed father was, while showing off his ever increasing DJ skills. J-Live is not just an emcee but an all around entertainer. “And Then What Happened” continues with J being slightly more political than usual. “Be No Slave” has J correlating being a slave to being stuck in a record contract over a funky DJ Evil Dee track. J-Live enlists Posdanous and Oddisee for the “The Upgrade”, Oddisee rhyming like and an old pro and Posdanous never missing a step.
J-Live and hip-hop are here to stay which is stated oh so eloquently on newcomer Yallzee’s “Don’t Stop”. “The Understanding” has J-Live paying homage to where he comes from while cutting up a perfectly placed Jeru sample. He states “This goes back further than that/further than rap/it’s weird/because my role models/are my peers now.” Does it getting any more humble than that? A track that this writer has to talk about is “Ole” feat Oddy Gato. For an artist to sample a jazz loop is nothing new, but Usef Dinero breaks out of the box sampling meringue guitar and the word “Ole”, J-Live rides the track just like he would a Donald Byrd sample. Other notable tracks are the scene stealing guest shot from Charli 2na on “The Zone”, the Cap D (of All Natural) produced “Simmer Down”, and the Nicolay produced introspective track “You Out There?”
J-Live rarely missteps as an emcee, sometimes his choice in production doesn’t move this writer. The Probe DMS track, “The Last Third” is a bit abstract and Locsmif’s “Why You Holdin” has a little bit too much going on. Despite these minor flaws, the album is better than 99.9% of the music that is in stores or on the internet. He DJs, he rhymes, and probably somewhere along the way did graffiti and dabbled in break dancing. Maybe he’ll tell us about that on the next installment. For now support good music and buy the album. – Darin Gloe
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