J-LIVE – AROUND THE SUN Review

By SUNEZ

Those were the Dark Ages. Not the 80’s Gunset Park hells of oz fallout, crack vials in cracked concrete taken into the crack of treaded timberlands, walking landfills into the cracks of our welfared Reagonomics.  Not the 90’s special period with Fidel’s Cuba honorably fighting gusanos with rations and blinds on the sexy frivolity of Miami hexodus.  But those double ciphers, the 00’s where Y2K only glitched the many niggas that believe the raps.  The era where paid pages of palpitating pens packed a new privilege for the wack with falsely documented excellence.  Hip Hop music I Remembered In Perfection in 1999 so the friction of my pen struggled through turns making thoughts on the Real into carved graffiti in hardened mud.  A muck of punchloads through usb chords that today still collect in premierely placed ISP spots.  

In retrospect, the 00’s was a murkily magnificent mud made of the waters of innovation that oxygenated a grafting process charged at a hot 97 degrees.  Embedded were fossils of B-Boys halted in uprocks and stabilized in downrocks—all stances only the best Rock Steady scientists could analyze. And my pen reached fluidity at odd moments when track traps were at its worst as I grasped for chips of GOATs, minutes off large pro MPCs and vinyl grooves that never segued anymore to transfer a railroad of inspiration. Through this muddling mud, a newer underground, below the true school one, suburbanites, gentrifiers and wiggery whites took nest. 

Yes!  This Hip Hop is created by some, a music for everyone and only another some receive the major sum of it all.  So Justice is a filtered real, some digital distress to upload what really been live through those Dark Ages.  Add knowledge to the cipher Around The Sun and one of the great MCs of the 00’s continues with a consistency of excellence that is beginning to be unparalleled.  Around The Sun continues the legacy cemented in the mud of the time of 00’s Dark Ages.

J-Live’s, a triple threat as MC, DJ and Producer, is Jazz associated for the extended musicality and purity of his chosen beat selections.  With The Best Part, he detailed his life to that point with brilliant track selection but the molding of his career’s supreme tone is in his sophomore classic, 2002’s All of the Above, with its distinctly executed conception track by track and the musical purity of the equalized balance, often steeped in the perfectly highlighted Jazz horn, lick or bass groove tempo.  Except for the beat missteps of 2005’s The Hear After, the longer and farther J-Live has gone solo, as an MC, producer, DJ and label owner, the more qualitative his tracks have become.  Through Around the Sun, the basslines are crisp as booming notes produced by J-Live on “No Doubt,” the snares are thickened by licks on PJ Katz’ “City To City,” addictive combinations are forged as the scratching snares and Dougie Fresh’d beatbox blends that J-Live produces for “Eight Minutes,” or the dynamically live cymbal crash and drum roll chaos on Oddisee’s “Worlds Apart.”  The DJ J-Live cuts are sharp over the booming tambourine’d snare thickness of Korede’s “Around the Sun (Solstice)” while DJ Spinna gives a smooth diving bass groove and a pure sharp break for the “Equinox.”

However, as an MC, he is a true Jazz musician at his best.  Overtly, he is a master at the song concept, whether it is by direct conversations breaking fourth walls we thought MCs never had (i.e. “Not Listening”) or redefining words for entire themes (“The Fun Razor Remix”) or exploring subjects directly (“Money Matters”).  Covertly, he is a lyricist who layers a logic of insight into patterns of stacked wordplay that develop alliteratively, syllable-matched with a catalog of homonyms, heterographs and polysemes and any other means necessary. 

Unified by the MC tools of clarity, breath control, pitch changes, conveyance of sincerity and wisdom, J-Live’s overt and covert techniques often collide into classics.  Taken as ol’ Jazz vinyl, you listen longer, collect gratification and thoughts and find more each next listen.  All where every next listen the desire for more attention paid is the action of addiction.

So on Around The Sun classics appear as on “Worlds Apart.”  Opening up stating the defining characteristics of the first, second and third worlds, the verse evolves into commentary on them (“First world problems, third world repercussions, concussions and cuts the Red Cross can’t bandage/every vantage/point show whose at a disadvantage/boss the whole globe around but still can’t manage to take care of our own/treat our home like a broad/so disrespected/the right selected to be protected/leave so many wrongs neglected/America’s dream shake shop rejected/can’t atone for the disenfranchised/you not even contrite to the disrespected/shit, blood on your hands runs deep/can’t disinfect it/the sins of the father get resurrected”).  Almost a reprise build of 2002’s “Satisfied” classic [All of the Above LP], J-Live has another definitive song of these times.  Around the Sun, however, gives a micro to the macro with tracks as “Money Matters” where the written techniques give “Ayo, your world, my world, same shit, different day/Different shit, same toilet, paper gotta circulate/Just to keep the water flushing” wordplay while a seemingly simple party jam “City To City” fluctuates sounds with character and inflection to match bars and pay homage to  (“But when you get back on stage you can’t get it wrong/But fuck it cause my freestyle hand is so strong/Like plastic man Stacey Augmon/Augment the time continuum/Going so long jumpin’ off from the foul line…”).  Wordplay’s peak is certainly on “Hang on Tight” where the frustration of life is built on supremely by J (“when the buck stops guess where the truck will be/it’s all relative but not all family/too tight to use and turn loosely/too close for comfort but not close enough to hybrid mileage of your frien-emies/Hot damn, the double-edged sword of Damocles/Superman need a fortress of solitude/You think a nigga rude..’til you run into a God wit a attitude”).  All the tools are there and Homeboy Sandman bars punchlines nicely in between (“Yo, half the brothers that I gave pounds/Shoulda never given ’em one ounce”).

Now, the J-Live I know as the God Justice Allah, has always taken care to rap his core LP theme on the universality of the search for knowledge of self.  It’s finding, its use as wisdom, its insight’s exposure and the understanding lived as culture.  Here it is our great metaphor as the Original man is the Sun and as we go around the Sun on this Earth where he presents his many angles.  The bookend tracks set the album brilliantly with “Around the Sun (Solstice)” building “Peace to the family with relative ease/From blood seed to 120 degrees/Bachelor’s, Master’s, knowing what’s faster/The speed of sound or the speed of light/The speed of mind or the speed of life/The key to life, opening doors like hot water opens your pores/And swift wisdom giving you pause…” whilst the LP closes with a on/off bar spoken word fragmented flow that revolves the multitude of thoughts, experiences and ideas that are all sparked another MC master work, Around the Sun, from a great that exploded through the Dark Ages, a shining Sun of this resurrecting era of the 10’s.