Friday, September 15, 2006

The J-Live Post

I've been meaning to do this post for a while, and the jukebox over at The T Organization triggered my memory. For me, J-Live is deeply imbedded in that grip of records that induced a lifestyle change in the way i approach/listen to hip-hop, evolving from going down to the record/CD store to pre-order the latest album release, to digging for some obscure crew I'd previously never heard of. For me, it was Co-Flow's "Funcrusher" EP, the Saukrates 12", Natural Resources, and J-Live.

J-Live "Longevity" 12" (1995)

A1 Longevity (Radio) <- omitted from upload

A2 Longevity (Street)
B1 Braggin' Writes
B2 Longevity (Instrumental)

J-Live's "Longevity" was probably the first no-question/essential indie twelve. The title cut was solid, and a great introduction to J-Live's flow. The instrumental was instant credibility (which a Sister Nancy sample will tend to provide), and fit in with a lot of music (mixing-wise) from the era. What DIDN'T fit in with anything, however, was "Braggin' Writes". "Braggin' Writes" was defiantly original, and what served to establish J-Live as a legend and dark-horse nominee to several people's "Top 5 MC" lists.

Taken as an accapella, "Braggin' Writes" stood above 95% of the material out there; J-Live's flow was so fluid, yet so grounded in the aesthetics that defined the New School MC...he represented the future, but one that was firmly connected to the past. When you add the fact that he self-produced "Braggin' Writes" by repetitively scratching in a sample, there was no argument; this was one of the definitive records of the year.

Shortly after this record broke out, I started doing radio, and a friend and I (who was even more geeked on J-Live than I was) had a chance to interview him over the phone. He had just finished classes for the day, and was tired as hell...but seemed resigned to the fact that an interview was a good idea. He downplayed the importance of "Braggin' Writes", admitting that it was simply a group of battle rhymes that he had strung together; he talked briefly about finishing up his English degree, which seemed like an annoyance to him more than anything. My friend and I were looking for some insight into what we thought was genius, but he was unapologetically down-to-earth (and quite frankly, tired as hell). We let him go after about 25 minutes, and realized we didn't get any of it on tape, before exclaiming: "Holy shit, we just wasted 30 minutes of J-Live's life!"

J-Live "Can I Get It" 12" (1996)

A1 Can I Get It? (Radio Mix)
A2 Can I Get It? (Instrumental)
A3 Can I Get It? (Accapella)
B1 Hush the Crowd
B2 Hush the Crowd (Instrumental)
B3 Braggin' Writes (Dome Cracker Remix)

Less than a year later, and highly anticipated, the follow-up single dropped. After the almost-revolutionary tone of "Braggin' Writes", the immediate reaction to this single was slight disappointment, but it's so solid, it didn't take long to warm up to it. Both of the new cuts on here address the nature of performing; "Can I Get It?" functions as a story rhyme (think of it as the lyrical version of Xzibit's "What U See Is What U Get" video), whereas "Hush the Crowd" is actually advice to the performer, based on fan-in-the-audience-perspective.

Both cuts were well-produced, and topically innovative at the time. Sure, everyone had a party cut, but "Can I Get It?" illustrated how a seemingly normal guy could get out of bed, brush his teeth, and end up rocking a show. "Hush the Crowd" was something anyone who's been to a show can relate to, but also has the insight and sympathy of a b-list performer. He makes it clear that, yeah, a lot of heads are resistent to music they don't know - especially at a show ("when you wonderin' why it's so quiet you hearin' crickets/I'm saving my energy for the names on the ticket"). But it's the reality you have to understand as an up-and-coming performer and overcome. Again, extremely well-grounded.

Also includes the Dome Cracker (i.e. DJ Spinna) remix of "Braggin' Writes", which is something I wasn't feeling at the time, but now is unquestionably dope.

J-Live "Shiesty" 12" (1997)

A1 Shiesty
B1 Shiesty (instrumental)

After the relative success of "Can I Get It?", we were all waiting for a J-Live album. For some heads, he was firmly entrenched in "Top 5 MC"-territory, after only two 12". Word got out that he had signed to Payday (who had put out Jeru tha Damaja and O.C.), so anticipation rose to a fever pitch. In the midst of the waiting, this promo arrived in the mail. I didn't immediately translate "The Live One" to J-Live, but once the needle dropped, it was obvious that I'd been in the right place at the right time (or on the right mailing list at the right time). A phone call a few days later revealed that this was just an unofficial J-Live goodie to let people know there was more shit to come (people still thought the Payday LP was only months away).

Needless to say, the Payday album never dropped, and the rarity of this record added to J-Lives mythology. If this were a cut on an album, not sure if it would be my favorite; the concept here just isn't as innovative as what he'd done previously. Although, to his credit, it's much more vicious than his previous work, and you can quite clearly hear that in his voice.

By the time "Live '99" dropped in 1999, J-Live had almost faded from memory...he'd shown up as a guest MC on a few projects (most interestingly, some drum and bass - Roni Size, Peshay), but other MC's had risen to capture the imagination (via the flood of indies in '96 and '97). I've always maintained an interest in his shit, and his albums remain highly recommended, but damn if the Payday business didn't completely disrupt his work. Regardless, here are his first three (and some may argue, best) releases in one place...enjoy!


Blogger nawledge said...

DOPE post... and to mention the T Organization, and especially his jukebox, have you checked it lately?? Probably the biggest stock of Buckwild remixes I have ever seen in one place. You HAVE to do a Buckwild post, he's the undisputed remix KING in my opinion. Either way, keep bringin' the raw. Peace.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Planet said...

You lucky bastard! I've been searching for a copy of this for the longest time since it dropped. Never had much luck though. Hook me up if you got extras!

11:13 PM  
Blogger I said...

Wow...I can't believe you have the 'Shiesty' 12"...this is a record I've been looking for since I heard and taped from a DJ Eclipse set on Stretch & Bobbito's show on 89.9 WKCR in May of 1997.

I went into Fat Beats at the time asking if it was out and he told me it was a promo only release. Then I later bought the Wide Angles compilation album thinking I was getting the song, but found out that the sample from the original 12" was not cleared so the beat was completely different...and no where near as dope as this original version which in my view is one of the most slept on beats that most have never heard.

I was severely disappointed at the time and have been since trying to find either the vinyl version or a mp3 somwhere of it, until today. I can't thank you enough. You just made my day.

12:43 PM  
Blogger djespionage said...

word, happy to share it...i was just lucky enough to be in college (actually, community) radio at the time. definately a gem, no doubt

12:06 AM  

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