*Ed's Note - Given that this isn't your traditional album and has no real basis for comparison, we decided not to rate it, just review it. Enjoy.
J-Zone's [click to read] new album Live @ The Liqua Sto [click to watch] is a humorous homage to the classic St. Ides Beer commercials from the '90s. Those ads, looking back now, seem downright bizarre. The efforts of Ice Cube [click to watch], King Tee and Snoop Dogg may have been the Boost Mobile of its time, bringing collective pockets of rappers together for the greater good. Some might argue that it was disappointing that what the luminaries of rap chose to endorse was malt liquor, but it would be hard for anyone to dispute the quality of the music and lyrics provided by those involved. That spirit of fun and off the top of the head creativity is what J-Zone and his alter ego, Chief Chinchilla, have been able to preserve on this album. And they even sneak in a message too, albeit ending with a burp.
The album is both a celebration of booze and a condemnation of its affects. J-Zone is smart enough to know nobody wants to listen to somebody preach at them. Humor is the subtlest and least painful way to get somebody to think. Chinchilla, a high-pitched, Quasimoto-esque voice drops jewels of ignorance, while Zone's deft use of left-field samples and dialogue snippets gives the whole record the feel of a party full of drunks all blasted on one of the many varieties of cheap liquor the rodent pitches. "No Mo Cisco" is the funniest Rick James parody not made by a guy named Chappelle. "Lindell the Wino" recalls one of Richard Pryor's funniest bits. And "Leave that Horse Alone" is a perfect send up of early doo-wop booze songs like "White Port and Lemon Juice" and "Wine Spodie Odie."
Then again, a work of only pickled punchlines wouldn't really work. It's Zone's effortlessly eclectic production that makes this record worth your time and dollar. The looped drums and keys on "Mild Riot" swirl together like the perfect cocktail. "Calvin's Hard Lemonade" uses a choral vocal sample and bells to make something that could actually be called beautiful which is funny because the verses chronicle whiskey dick. That song also features a strong verse from Breeze Brewin, lead rapper of a similar album, Prince Paul's (who's also featured) Prince Among Thieves.
Admittedly, this album won't change your life - nor was it ever meant to. It's a comedy record and it suffers from some of the faults that all such records share. The jokes can get old, even the funny ones. And the Chief's voice is certainly "hate it or love it." But for what it is, a comedy record, it is a definite achievement. A record that plays dumb but whose production lets you know there is a brilliant mind behind it all. The music could keep you coming back long after the jokes have wrung all the laughs out of you that they ever will. Take this album's theme to heart. Preserve its shine and treat it like liquor, enjoy it in moderation.