For someone with J-Zone's
pedigree of left-field sampling and off the wall sound bites, a concept album
was only a matter of time. Never being one to go with the grain, Zone brings something a little
different to your eardrums with To Love a
Hooker, the soundtrack to a movie that doesn't actually exist. While it
will no doubt draw comparisons to other story telling concept albums like Prince Paul's A Prince Among Thieves, it has almost no guest stars and zero
emceeing. In fact, from what I can tell, the lone guest shot goes to Sadat X, playing a character who buys a
lap dance for our wayward anti-narrator.
The always smooth, pimped out ambiance is the first
thing that becomes apparent when listening to this album for the first time.
This vibe is maintained throughout the entire album with no exceptions, so if
that's not your sound you will hate this album, but if you enjoy this sort of
thing it's an interesting and hilarious ride in a green and gold Cadillac
wearing a velvet fedora. Styled as a movie soundtrack, the album is split up
into 28 tracks, some being as short 22 seconds long. This is mostly a good
thing though, as the tracks don't get a chance to grow stale and it keeps
things moving at a nice pace.
In the end the only real drawback is that there are a few
beats that sound too similar, which may make you reach for the skip button a
couple times. This is nothing to get hung up on though as most of the album is
extremely diverse. For instance joints like - my personal favorite - "Beach Yo
Ass!" utilizes several chopped vocal samples which, while maintaining it's
funky vibe, sounds completely different from the most of the album. No one will
ever confuse the guitar driven percussion of the "To Love a Hooker (Theme)"
with "Lapdance!," a song you listen to and just know those drums were played
with the bouncing ass cheeks of some pole dancing stripper. Hell, even "The
Players Club" parts 1 and 2 sound nothing alike.
As the credits roll, J-Zone breaks
out the longest single track on the record. With a total of 3 beat changes, "Finale"
is nothing short of grand. Starting off one part soul, one part funky-ass bass line,
this joint suddenly departs into an exercise in head nodding drums before
changing yet again into a silky segment complete with a jazzy little horn
sample and the 300th funky bassline on this album. The song, and album, is
brought to a close with the steady rhythm of booming drums and the bluesy howl
of a very suitable vocal. The way this album has the ability to be so diverse,
yet have such a cohesive feel is beyond me; on top of that, it
demonstrates that even when not on the mic, Zone has the ability to come off funny, charismatic, and always