Freestyle battle-tested (by the likes of Eminem and Supernatural) and collectively referred to as “the illest freestyle n---- on the planet,” Chicago product JUICE has the makings of a hip-hop legend – charisma, charm, wit, and a presence on the microphone unmatched and untouched by most others in the hip-hop community. That said, JUICE has served as the hip-hop messiah of the Midwest for years now without an official solo debut album – in short, his reputation precedes him, something that may prove harmful for his debut, All Bets Off.
“I distribute my own CD, F—k you, this is a tribute only to me,” JUICE effortlessly concedes on the self-titled “J.U.I.C.E.,” a clear indication that the freestyles coming from the Windy City may no longer be flowing free-of-charge. “Now ‘til my eyes are closed and my casket drops, I swear never again will I rap for props,” he continues on the snatching “Power,” another attempt from JUICE that is slightly off-key from the personality that diehard JUICErs have grown to look for from the emcee.
Still, despite his pleas of leaving his immortal freestyling character locked away in the past, tracks like “All U Got” and “I Rap Like” are hardly push-overs and delve deep into the mind of JUICE for punch-heavy lyrics that breeze past the tongue of one of the most respected lyricists of his time.
The club-seeking title track, “All Bets Off,” and the grab-the-girl “Weekend Girl” atrociously single out segments of hip-hop that would not have been mentioned in the same breath as the emcee before All Bets Off – and yet, his precision of the microphone and story-telling abilities make these efforts more tolerable than other club-hogging emcees these days. And even over the backpacker’s protests, it’s not hard to hear the sound JUICE really wants to hear anyway: Cha-ching!
Some freestylists alter their entire style for a commercial attempt (see Jin), while others try selling oceans of similes and metaphors to a hip-hop community already pestered by a plentiful mixtape game full of freestyles (see Chino XL). JUICE takes neither route. All Bets Off, and he goes “all in” – a gutsy, but eye-opening attempt from the self-proclaimed “illest.”