If you think J-Live is just another emcee with a ‘J’ prefix, you’re sadly mistaken. The emcee/producer/DJ is easily one of the most talented artists to ever grace this genre, and a top 10 emcee in the game today. Intelligent, insightful and clever, chances are the former grade school teacher could a tear a stripe out of your favorite emcee. Or your favorite DJ. Or both, at the same time (psst go see him live).

After his perennially delayed debut finally dropped (The Best Part), J commanded the attention of the underground. The sophomore joint (All of The Above), only solidified his standing as a premier talent. Despite a couple EP’s to tide us over, The Hear After comes highly anticipated and it’s hard to imagine J-Live disappointing.

Sadly, you’d be wrong. It’s not that J-Live the emcee didn’t come correct, because he slayed it as always. Look no further than the incredible “Fire Water” (also the LP’s best piece of production), the vintage J “Audio Visual” and the Oddisee banger “Aww Yeah.” “The Sidewalks” is more of the goods you expect, linear, introspective lyricism. Unfortunately, the area that lacks is the beats, something that J has never struggled with in the past. Not even close.

But tracks like “Do My Thing,” “Harder,” “Coming Home,” and “Weather The Storm” all really lack in the head-nodding department. Often times incredible emcees are held to a higher standard when it comes to beat selection, and J-Live is really no exception. But in this case, I’d criticize the production for an average emcee. I still think the album is worth copping, if only for J‘s linguistics.