J-Live is one of the most talented MCs on the planet. Fans familiar with the clever lyricist have grown to love his unique style of wordplay and his originality. At the forefront of New York's independent hip hop scene since the mid 90s, J-Live was one of the first artists to move a substantial amount of units without airplay or a major label push. J-Live relied strongly on grassroots promotions and old fashioned hard work. For years J-Live has remained an independent music icon taking his time to release quality albums. This year, joining forces with Penalty Recordings and Rykodisc J-Live prepares to drop what may be his most sophisticated, conceptual and complete album so far, The Hear After.
J-Live was born and raised in Uptown Manhattan. After making a home for himself in Brooklyn upon graduating from SUNY at Albany, J recently relocated to Philadelphia in 2003. "Moving to Philly was more for the family than any kind of career move. But the whole music scene here and the hip hop community here have embraced me with open arms since I arrived. I've gotten a lot of support from so many different artists and dee jays. This city is jam packed with talented and beautiful people."
Recorded mostly at J's own Triple Threat Studios in Philadelphia, The Hear After actually seems to have taken on a life of it's own. Guest vocalist on the album, include up and coming artist, Kola Rock, Cvees, and the soulful sounds of Virgin recording artist, Dwele. The album features production by Floyd the Locsmif (Atl), Hezekiah, James Poysner (Philly), Probe DMS, Fire Dept., (NYC), Oddisee (DC), and J-Live himself. "The title is a play on words. People think of the here after as the after life or somewhere you go when you die. Like heaven or hell. Me personally, I see heaven as being at peace with yourself while you're alive. I see hell as the path you choose in life as opposed to a place you go after death. The album is called The Hear After because I'm at peace with myself musically, and I've been through hell to get that way. This is what you "hear after" all that has transpired so far. This is what I've been working to accomplish since the last album."
Like J's last two full length records, The Best Part and All of the Above, The Hear After covers a wide range of thoughts and emotions both musically and with its subject matter. "If you were to look at the whole thing, you would see a story line about an artist trying to maintain and expand his career and still be there for his family. That was the biggest struggle while making the record, and its no coincidence that it's a theme that becomes obvious listening to it. But there are songs about almost every aspect of my life from growing up in the city, to raising kids, touring heavy, building and teaching, politics, party and bullshit. I can't just spit about one thing for a whole record. That's not my style."
J-Live has been rhyming and mixing since the age of 12 but he has made much more of a name for himself as an MC than as a DJ. "I definitely focus on rhyming more. Growing up doing both it was easier on the pockets to be an MC. Records and equipment can get expensive. But I love spinning." One of the highlights of his entertaining live show is when he rhymes and beat juggles on the turntables simultaneously, performing his classic, "Bragging Writes." A triple threat, J-Live also produces. He combines some of the tastiest samples with emotion moving raw beats and occasional live musicians to construct the most original tracks and heart stopping beats.
For example, on the captivating intro song "Here" J enlists the services of the world renowned Jazz group Soulive, to remake Love Unlimited Orchestra's rendition of "Theme from King Kong". Riding the beat so perfectly, it almost sounds as if his voice is another instrument. It grabs the listener by the shoulders and demands that you sit up and pay attention to the complex, word play. Of course there are party cuts, "Shake", "Aww Yeah", and "Harder" destined to be dance floor anthems and show favorites. "Weather the Storm" another amazing cut, delivers, stunning, astute, political commentary against the backdrop of a menacing, beat with eerie overtones.
J-Live has always used music to get his messages across. He explains, "I grew up listening to everything from BDP to NWA, to PE, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Nice and Smooth. Whether the music was pimped out, gangsta, militant or whatever, rappers had something important to say to kids like me. And I listened intently. As a 5%er, I can't imagine how much of an influence hip hop had on the way I see the world."
Case in point, J's favorite song on the album, "Audio Visual" is so descriptive it's a song "in 3-D". From the quirky, key accents to the thick-ass bottom running throughout the song, J-Live paints a colorful, picture of his life on and off the mic. "Brooklyn Public" is his ode to his days as an educator. Earlier in his career, J-Live taught middle school English/ Language Arts in Brooklyn for a few years.
Making music for the walkmans as well as the Jeeps, J-Live made a mature, sonically sophisticated album. "I feel like I represent hip hop's middle class. Seems like everybody's either crying broke or screaming rich or both. I try to speak to the people in between. The everyday hard working fun loving hip hop heads."
This is going to be one of the best albums of the year, for J-Live, for hip hop, for music period. Whether you're new to J's music or hip hop's independent scene, or a long time dedicated fan, there are beats and rhymes, stories and vibes, to enjoy from now till The Hear After.