Producer/DJ-driven compilations usually get watered down with tons of filler, radio-friendly tracks and lame guest appearances. Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Tony Touch and some others are the only ones who have been putting out very good hardcore hip-hop DJ/producer led albums. DJ JS-1 joins this group. I first heard his work on Masta Ace's "Don't Understand" and his brutal diss towards The High & Mighty titled "Acknowledge". The scratches were perfect. Now, DJ JS-1 (with the help of Dub-L) has released an album of all original songs. Like a Gangstarr album, this LP is filled with thick beats, strong production, hungry hardcore underground emcees, and awesome hooks that are scratched with precision. The guests are not too mainstream but too underground. The balance is perfect. Guests include Krs-One, Rahzel, Masta Ace, O.C., Prince Poetry, Casual, Kool G. Rap and a myriad of others. This is a compilation overflowing with hard beats, dope rhymes and incredible turntablism.
Many of the outstanding tracks display how some of these emcees should use DJ JS-1 and Dub-L for their own production. "Beyond" featuring O.C. is a magnificent track with a poignant sounding piano loop and a mid-tempo beat. O.C. rhymes with an intellectual intensity not seen since his first 2 albums: "…Post-traumatic / Thoughts automatic / Breath control's intact even though I'm asthmatic…" The hook is the beautifully scratched line "Beyond the walls of intelligence" from "NY State Of Mind" by Nas. This is the type of song that O.C. should be putting out instead of the very disappointing "Bon Appetit" LP. Dice Raw & Rahzel do an incredible job on "Spontaneous Combustion". Rahzel joins up with KRS-One on the very energetic "Essentials" (produced by Domingo). The vocal work by Rahzel and the scratching by JS-1 are impeccable. KRS-One truly rocks the mic with a raw and ferocious performance: "...I'm psychic, I know what's really on your mind / hmm, you wanna be f*cked from behind / Take a motherf*ck from the nine, don't call it a come-back / this goes verbal my spine, disperse on the back of your dress..." This track has energy similar to a hard rock song and it works perfectly. It's pure hardcore hip-hop and it's beautiful! The opening track "Nowadays" features Evidence (from Dilated Peoples), C Ray Walz, Pep Love (of Hieroglyphics) and React. This slow/mid-tempo track chugs along with a minimalist piano-loop complemented by a chopped up and drowned-out orchestra loop in the background. The scratched hook has a plethora of different vocal slices from El Da Sensei to KRS-One. C Ray Walz, Pep Love & React rock the mic with good lyrics and hungry performances. It's a dope way to open this album. Kool G. Rap kills the mic on "Take A Loss" (produced by Domingo). Again the scratched hook is perfectly executed. This time, the piano loop is much more complicated and a light vocal sample floats in the background. Prince Poetry (from Organized Konfusion) produced and is featured on "Dirty". While this track grows on the listener, he lets us know that he feels fine about being an underground emcee: "…F*ck radio, I'll let the streets plug it.." There's also a dope part when he rocks the hook from the classic "Stress" while the beat creeps in the background. The beats match perfectly. It is great to hear Prince Po again! These emcees should use this production all the time!
Many songs take time to grow on the listener but have incredible performances by both DJ JS-1 and the emcees. The addictive quality of hip-hop is the theme of "Drugs In My Vein" that has C Rayz Walz & Breez Evaflowin giving wild microphone performances as DJ JS-1 uses a Spanish guitar loop. Masta Ace gives an incredible performance on the one-verse short track "What Am I? Pt.1". Special Ed gives an even shorter verse later on "What Am I? Pt.2". Big Daddy Kane rocks a sharp verse on the groovy wah-wah guitar driven 1 minute long "Puttin In Work". All 3 tracks show how these old-school emcees still can rock the mic well. "X-Posed" by Casual is another well-done energetic track with intense scratching and a hungry performance by Causal on the mic. Royce Da 5'9" and DJ Ody-Roc are on the sinister "Lights Out" produced by Shan Boogs. The eerie string loop has a hypnotic effect. Royce also delivers his lyrics with a passion. Eminem is sampled at the end with a funny little antidote about being a white rapper on drugs. Punch And Words contribute their usual lyrical acrobatics on "Turn It Up". The pimped-out beat along with the brilliant scratching makes this a nice little slept-on gem. Tragedy Khadafi and Trez give us a hardcore and sinister performance on "Crossbreed". The Mobb Deep sample for the scratched hook over the driving beat and the flute-like loop complements the track well.
There are only a few tracks that fall into the filler category. DJ Premier's influence is extremely evident on "License To Ill" featuring Ill Bill of Non-Phixion. The production and scratching make this track shine. Ill Bill is decent but does not stand out in a positive way like the other emcees. "Rest Assured" features Skoob of Das Efx a, Strick & React. The beat, production and scratching is all well executed with vocal slices of Dice Raw and Mad Skillz. The emcees deliver decent performances but nothing mind-blowing. "Audio Technician" featuring Lifelong & Immortal Technique uses a very familiar loop but the scratched hook saves the track since it is about the love for the art of hip-hop. "Arrogant" featuring Substantial, Tonedeff, Pack FM, & Rise has another familiar loop and decent performances. Both the chanted hook and the weak snare drum hits do not excite like the other songs. Even though the scratching is dope, the posse cut becomes a filler track. "Ak Like U Want It" by Akrobatik has a good performance but the call-response hook and the light drum hits make it feel watered down. "Unstoppable" by Planet Asia & Percee-P is another decent track that does not hit as hard as some of the other songs. Still, a small handful of filler tracks on an LP with 23 tracks is an amazing accomplishment.
Overall, DJ JS-1 has blessed us with a very well done hardcore hip-hop compilation overflowing with original songs and magnificent turntablism. Like DJ Premier, DJ JS-1 has mastered the art of the scratched hook. Not just one or two vocal slices are used for a hook but as many as 4 or 5 are used. This is wonderful for the lover of hip-hop. It is fun to try and identify whose voice is being scratched and what song it is being scratched from. DJ JS-1 also was very astute in his choice of emcees. These emcees may not be mainstream but they are not so underground that they are unknown. All of them are very well respected. O.C., Prince Poetry, KRS-One, Kool G. Rap, Dice Raw are just some of the many emcees who truly rock the mic. The beats and production are all well done. Even the filler tracks have some excellent qualities. There is not one wack or poor beat on the album. Like DJ Premier, JS-1's scratching is done perfectly on every single track! Many DJ's (especially on mix tapes) overdo the scratching but DJ JS-1 uses the DJ Premier technique of turntablism. With 23 cuts (20 actual tracks and 3 interludes), there are only a small handful of songs that do not hit as hard as the others. This does not break up the flow of the album in anyway since the scratching and production shines. There is something incredible in every single song. "Ground Original" is original underground hip-hop and DJ JS-1 is the next generation of producer/turntablist that lovers of hardcore underground hip-hop should respect and look out for. Like Prince Poetry says on "Dirty", "You got to love it!"