Rarely do we see an underground hip-hop artist so devoted and willing to pay his dues for the music he loves so dearly. "Who the hell is J-Live?" many uninformed hip hop heads are probably asking themselves, but those who have loved and embraced 12" after 12" from this guy surely know who he is, and know his skills are abundant. Since his first "acclaimed" hit, "Braggin Writes," J-Live has brought clever lyricism and tight production to the independent music world. Unfortunately, his chance to prove he can bring a well-developed LP to the table was axed when the label Payday got eaten by corporate mergers of 1999. However, this re-release (now on the Seven Heads label) brings listeners four new tracks not on the 2000 vinyl only release (a later discovered bootleg), including a track produced by Pete Rock! Clearly, J-Live knows how to catch commercially ignorant hip-hop head's attention as well. Like the intro says, "You ready to rock wit J-Live?"
It's hard to say whether J-Live's delivery or overall album production are actually "The Best Part." The first two tracks just come off so well, especially in the song "Don't Play," with a chorus that's just ridiculously perfect. Lyrically, his fast paced delivery accompanies the beats successfully, even if some of the actual content wasn't anything too jaw-dropping. He puts his opinions on this forth on the track "Them That's Not" which begins with "Great emcees are great liars..." The production is brilliant on tracks like "The Best Part," with superb jug playing over a straight head-nodding beat. "Raw Footage," a hard hitting track where J-Live and Prince Paul cypher back and forth, having a witty conversation along the lines of "Your style's like an L I'm pullin and gettin no buzz/ Emcees take heed to TLC we need no scrubs." Then there's also "Rage," which comes along with angry bass and some angry content too, "But will my brothers stay dyin', of everything else but old age - my heart fills up with what? "RAGE"!"
Even the smoother songs like "Vampire Hunter J," where J-Live creates some philosophical material over mellow, tripped out production. "Wax Paper," another song with depth, has J-Live talking about slipping through the system and plotting his own death. However, some tracks like "Get The 3rd" sound a little too slow for the upbeat lyrics and chorus.
Honestly, this album has some of the tight production - it made me think of "Illmatic" or "Infamous." Of course, his line up of the best production team in hip-hop, helps the fact that each beat is so unique and inspiring to keep your interest. Pete Rock produced gems like, "Kick It To The Beat," make it so you have no need to listen to J-Live rapping. Although, I felt J-Live showed a lot brighter on the more conscious tracks with his lyrics.
There are some problems with this album, despite all of these praising rants. Many songs suffer from choruses that would have been much better just left out; they should have just let listeners embrace the beats by themselves for a couple seconds. I would say that every track on this album is tight, but, some tracks are much better than others. And, these tracks really get more attention when you think of the album as a whole piece of work. This is a sick LP though, I'm not going to argue about that. If you have any appreciation for old school or underground hip-hop, you'd be retarded not to pick this up.