Every so often there is a unique artist who comes along and changes the way we look at his or her position. These few artists aren't always huge status symbols or dominant social figures; sometimes they come from the most unexpected of places. And even though they might not get the credit they deserve initially, their impact is felt by those directly in tune with that culture.
The year is 2002 and Hip-Hop has been blessed with one of these unique, irreplaceable artists, J-Live. After literally having his career in shambles for the past couple of years, J-Live released his somewhat debut album "The Best Part", which was immediately hailed as an underground classic. However, wasting no time, J-Live is once again ready to bless the Hip Hop community with another classic, this time entitled "All Of The Above".
With "All Of The Above" J-Live shows why he is the most complete and versatile emcee in the industry today. Touching on a variety of topics and social issues, J-Live puts forth a performance so phenomenal it is utterly amazing. While "The Best Part" was more of an ode towards Hip Hop, "All Of The Above" is the more intellectual, insightful side of J-Live. Unlike most of the industry today, each track on "All Of The Above" is full of meaning and purpose. J-Live uses his voice to push barriers, destroy misconceptions, and address political and social issues. While every emcee has the platform to use their voice as a message, few do. However, J-Live understands his role not only as an emcee, but a figure in society, and "All Of The Above" is his platform to speak.
The beauty of "All Of The Above" is its versatility in all aspects. Each track addresses a different issue or side of J-Live's life. "A Charmed Life" is J-Live's four minute autobiography, where he touches on everything from his childhood to how he got his love for Hip-Hop. The production is a smooth serenade of jazz by P Smoova, which engulfs the atmosphere perfectly. Keeping on the same vibe of sorts is the brilliantly self-produced track "Traveling Music". And as J-Live put its, "the refrain is true to life, from where I'm from to, to where I've been, to where I want to go".
One of the album's most original efforts comes from the storytelling anthems of "One For The Griot". The track is truly one of the best concepts seen in recent memory thanks to J-Live's superior storytelling ability, where he flips the track like a "choose your own adventure book" and spits different endings for the story at hand. "How Real It Is" is a true to life ode about the hardships of being a man and the realities faced. And the DJ Spinna produced "Do That Shit" is a dedication to all those fake thugs out there who like to spit a hot game about the streets, but have no clue what the streets are to begin with.
Some of the finest examples of J-Lives precise wordplay, charismatic flow and razor sharp lyricism are featured on tracks such as "Mcee", "All In Together Now", the lyrical masterpiece of "Stir Of Echoes" (especially the last verse), and the DJ Spinna produced collabo between Asheru & El Da Sensai "3 Out Of 7". With "Like This Anna" we witness J-Live go to work with rigorous wordplay that runs deeper than most will realize on first listen.
However, "All Of The Above's" true highlights come when J-Live delves deeper into his soul and puts out some truly deep, insightful works of art. "Nights Like This" is a beautifully produced track by Joe Money full of spirit that gives off an aura of serenity. The song truly takes you into another world while J-Live spits such brilliance most will overlook how deep his lyricism actually is. "The 4th 3rd" features more of the same feel as J reminiscences about a prior relationship gone bad due to different religious beliefs. Producing the track himself, "The 4th 3rd" is full of jazz influence that is nothing short of astonishing.
However, there is one track that stands heads above the rest as not only a centerpiece in J-Live's career but as one of the most important Hip-Hop tracks of 2002. "Satisfied" addresses the impact of September 11th had on our society. However, the track isn't your normal tribute, instead J-Live touches on how after the tragedy, we as a society forgot about all the issues and problems that were plaguing this country before September 11th. And as J-Live say's, September 11th isn't going to stop the injustice, the police brutality, or the corruption in this country.
"The anthrax got my whole earth wearin' a mask and gloves to get a meal
I know an older guy that lost twelve close peeps on 9-1-1
While you kickin' up punchlines and puns
Man fuck that shit, this is serious biz
By the time Bush is done, you won't know what time it is
If it's war time or jail time, time for promises
And time to figure out where the enemy is T
he same devils that you used to love to hate
They got you so gassed and shook now, you scared to debate
The same ones that traded books for guns
Smuggled drugs for funds And had fun lettin' off forty-one
But now it's all about NYPD caps And Pentagon bumper stickers
But yo, you still a nigga
It ain't right them cops and them firemen died
The shit is real tragic, but it damn sure ain't magic
It won't make the brutality disappear
It won't pull equality from behind your ear
It won't make a difference in a two-party country
If the president cheats, to win another four years
Now don't get me wrong, there's no place I'd rather be
The grass ain't greener on the other genocide
But tell Huey Freeman don't forget to cut the lawn
And uproot the weeds Cuz I'm not satisfied"
With "All Of The Above" J-Live has accomplished much more than a classic album, he has put out an album for the ages. Every aspect of "All Of The Above" is beyond phenomenal, and is without a doubt of the finest albums in the past couple years. With this latest venture, J-Live has once again proved he is much more than one of the best emcees in the industry today, he is a voice for the people. However, it is unfortunate that many will fail to realize this album's greatness and magnitude, due to his lack of "superstar status" and unfair labels of strictly an "underground emcee". However, as history as proven, sometimes the greatest minds aren't always appreciated until their time is over, however, lets hope that's not the case with J-Live.