J-Live is Throwback to Classic Hip Hop

It seems that the true elements of hip-hop such as MC-ing, DJ-ing, break dancing and graffiti have fallen by the wayside when you look at typical mainstream artists. It is like a breath of fresh air to know that some artists are still building and adding onto the original framework of early hip-hop pioneers.

J-Live’s second album, All of the Above, is a prime example of the creativity, word usage and thought-provoking themes that mainstream artists are lacking.

Even though the first track, “First Things First,” is an intro to the album, it shows the contrast to his ideals and the ideals of typical artists these days. It starts off with J-Live saying peace and greetings to a crowd while two voices off-stage disagree with everything he says. This track also represents everything he has been through since the release of his first album, The Best Part (2000) and is a great pathway for the entire album.

The next two tracks, “How Real It Is” and “Satisfied,” are linked by the blunt themes of reality and politics. “How Real It Is” speaks about how children are now trading book smarts for street smarts in order to get ahead in life and of how living a lifestyle of nine to five work is difficult at times due to the stress it puts on anyone who lives it.

“Satisfied” gives a political roundhouse kick to the individual who thinks that he or she is living a dream lifestyle. This track discusses the presidential election of 2000, brutality in America, Sept. 11 and how many people overlook the fact that these things are indeed occurring.

Storytellers are those who take everyday concepts and rearrange them into the creative idea they have in their mind. “One for the Griot” takes a situation of a man waking up in an unfamiliar setting of a woman’s bedroom not knowing her name. The gift of storytelling is used to tell three different endings to the same story.

By taking a simple drum pattern, the continuous tapping of a piano key, a basic horn arrangement, a light sample of Stevie Wonder’s “Bird of Beauty” and the creative rhymes of J-Live, the eighth track, “Stir of Echoes,” is brought to life. This song starts off with a simple rhyme style by J-Live, but goes into a complex idea of how his rhymes are created. He places the listener in a dark room where different thoughts and ideas are standing around waiting be the next one to be shot out of his mouth and heard by everyone.

One aspect that J-live constantly gives much attention to on this album is the lack of creativity and understanding of what hip-hop was meant to display. The tracks not only allow the listeners to fathom his thoughts on how the average MC is repeating the same formula that everyone else is stating, but to give insight in how J-Live still gives the passion and devotion that should be given to the culture known as hip-hop.

The song that shows that idea is “A Charmed Life.” This song goes from his birth to present day and everything in between. Still, it shows how family members, friends and lessons he learned allowed him to mold his creative process. The song is also unique in the sense that its jazz-drenched hypnotic rhythm gives a listener a chance to experience great lyrics over straight-ahead jazz.

“3 Out Of 7” is a track that shows the cohesion that J-Live has with Asheru of Unspoken Heard and El Da Sensai, formally of The Artifacts. They come together to put pen to pad and let their minds create a great piece of lyrical craftsmanship.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this album 8.75. Granted, there are a lot of great songs and ideas on this album, but they somewhat fall short of J-Live’s first album. When listening to this album, I heard growth from the previous album, but at times the skills of rhyming that J-Live displays on this album takes a small step back from what I expected.

Still, the creativity and format of the majority of the songs display that his thought pattern and love for the elements of hip-hop have not fallen off at all. For more information on J-Live go to www.sevenheads.com.