Making it to the majors but not blowing up in a fashion deserving of his skills and talents, J-Live has been an essential part of hip-hop listening for the last 15 years. You can add another year to that when he drops a new album in 2011, but for the time being, he has released an EP that requires your Undivided Attention.
Now, does a rapper who has been making music for 15 years deserve anyone’s attention? When you are capable of writing, rhyming, and production your work with incredible quality, yes. Hip-hop fans and critics tend to have issue with the word relevancy, as if everyone is waiting for one’s shelf life to expire. One is now allowed to mature and grow old gracefully, but as Heltah Skeltah proved with their most recent album, you can do so in style. Same can be said with J-Live, who in the opening track (“Home Or Away”) comes out strong:
Every rhyme, I write with full force
Why they sound so right, they not yours
The voice is choice, even when I’m hoarse
I’m a stallion, you see the girl, them smilin’
I get around, my profile beguiling
Rhymes like these even on laundry day
Threadbare, who cares, I’m styling
You think you want to rhyme next, you wilding
Personally, this made my day because of the Polynesian reference
I’m chillin’, keeping it simple and sippin’ a mimosa
And sittin’ Indian style while eating a samosa
Loungin’ with a lady friend, fit for a poster
Ass fatter than a left tackle from Samoa
You have references that make sense, you have someone who is rapping what he sees or what he wants to see and they are believable, none of these are club tales that suffocate the listener, and all done with a thin layer of humor that continues to show not only his wit, but a humble side.
Yet with that said, in the right hands someone could turn “Fitness” (produced by Locsmif) inside out and actually turn it into a genuine hit single in 2010/2011. The song is about “lyrical fitness” but someone might think it’s a song perfect for strip mall fitness rooms, which in the process would educate the masses/them asses. The interaction between J-Live and Homeboy Sandman is just sick, as they pass references on everything from comic books to movie titles. Nicolay‘s work on “How I Feel” is along the path of what he has been doing with his own music and the work with the Grammy-nominated Foreign Exchange, and it suits J-Live well. The title track hits hard with incredible FWAK power and a nice piano hook courtesy of S.M.K.A., and it made me want to hear at least another track from him.
Korede is the only one on this EP that gets a chance to produce more than one track (including the powerful “Home Or Away”), but J-Live gets a chance to shine some more on the closer, “Calculations”, and even with only six songs, Undivided Attention is so compressed with content that it actually feels like a full-length album. I’m not joking, a lot of artists and producers need to listen to this to understand how to create music properly. Albums with two hit singles, 12 interludes, and 16 fillers don’t cut it anymore. The internet age has made the EP format one worthy of exploration, but these 6-songs also serve as a small pinch of what will be on his full length, S.P.T.A. (pronounced “spitta”, standing for Said Person of That Ability). This is capable hip-hop, and J-Live simply adds to the music’s vast fabric with new tones and shades in sound.