Brilliant. I thought I’d just say it straight away. Okay, now, I hang in some circles that have been bemoaning the inauthenticity of hip-hop these days. You know, that after 9-11, bling-bling and gangsta mythology doesn’t ring true. This, they’d say, is why hip-hop isn’t selling like it used to. Others I know say they gave up on hip-hop because it wasn’t fun anymore. Well J-Live’s, “All the Above” manages to be the antidote to all the above. This is a well-conceived, nicely produced release that is equal parts profound, introspective and fun. Let’s hope it’s the future of hip-hop.
J’s story, from Source magazine “Unsigned Hype” to dope singles like “Braggin’ Writes” and “Wax Paper“, major label shelving of “The Best Part” a few years back, to “All the Above“, is simply too long (and interesting a story) to chronicle in a review. Suffice it to say that it makes its all the more remarkable that the one-time Brooklyn English teacher has the grace and discipline to come with something as personal, reflective, wise and positive as “All the Above“.
There are virtually no weak tracks on 78 minutes of music. With deft production by DJ Spinna, Usef Dinero, Touch of Jazz and J himself, instead there are only standouts – many. “How Real It Is” displays J over live instrumentation and sets the tone for the rest of the opus. The roots-reggae influenced “Satisfied” tackles our post 9-11 social-ills side step in the most prescient way I’ve heard…”until we’re all free, I’m not satisfied…” (check the crazy harmonica). “Like This Anna” is a sweet/smart ode to women. J says a “griot is a really good story teller. Some of my favorite griots are Slick Rick, Biz Markie, Ghost Face…” J scales that Mount Rushmore with “One for the Griot” and offers a variety of endings of the same story. “I told you last night, I thought you knew”…hahaha. The musicality of “Nights Like This“, “The 4th 3rd“, “A Charmed Life” and “All the Above” match J-Live’s lyricism to create a matchless 2002 recording.
I don’t have enough space to give “All the Above” it’s due. Cop the album and let it play non-stop for a week. Tell me then, there’s no hope for Hip-Hop.