It has been awhile since the world last heard any music from J-Zone but in 2013, he has wiped off the dust and has returned with a new one called Peter Pan Syndrome (Old Maid Entertainment), and the mission this time around is an interesting one. As the title indicates, the running theme is that of a man who doesn’t want to be mature. Or to paraphrase the old Toys-R-Us commercials, “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a hip-hop kid”, but as J-Zone looks at a world with many years behind him and 40 slowly approaching, he begins to question everything and wonders if things are as they’re meant to be, not only for J-Zone the rapper, but Jay Mumford the man.
With an album cover that resembles a photo of a musician performing for the old King Biscuit radio show, time is the issue and of the essence throughout this album and the Syndrome in question is explored by creating songs that have the type of vibe experienced on countless hip-hop albums in the last 25 years. You have the sly and clever lines, the pop culture references, and the importance of humor that works on a number of levels. Along the way, we hear J-Zone talking with himself as a character who may be sitting on his shoulder, going through the motions and touching on the different things he should and shouldn’t be doing at this point in his life. You might hear subtle reference to De La Soul, Eazy-E, King Tee, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and other artists that also serve as acknowledgement to the roles they played in his life and perhaps his music. In this means of self-therapy he meets up with Breeze Brewin, Celph Titled, Has Lo, Chief Chinchilla, and Al Shid as they share their thoughts of the situation. There are tons of music industry references that are true for thousands of other artists that are in the same situation as him, but the primary issue can also be considered a metaphor for hip-hop music in itself. I’ve always felt that the music was split into two different entities, one went independent/underground realizing that the fame wouldn’t come their way but that if they believed in a bit of integrity, they would continue making what they loved because it felt good and genuine. The other half of hip-hop chose to stunt its growth to stay forever 12, which has been the source of the industry’s primary income of the last 20+ years. J-Zone makes a choice, but he also knows the consequences of the hip-hop multi-headed beast and proceeds to move forward.
The guy who made Music For Tu Madre 15 years ago is still with us but he is older, wiser, and stronger, and admits that the path has been bumpy. Peter Pan Syndrome serves as a guidebook for his career and his life so far, but in a genre where the age conditions were pre-determined by those who aren’t participating in the creation of the music itself, one has to deal with the forced myths of a shelf life and an expiration date. Once that date comes, then what? Does the rapper and the music become museum pieces like an old King Biscuit radio show photograph, or does one feel detached from it by leaving an important part of their lives behind them? It’s a dilemma for the oldsters and the oldsters to come, but for it to be addressed in this way is a reality check on something we can’t deny as we all walk slowly towards the inevitable, when chants of “and you don’t stop” will indeed stop. By focusing on specific eras and the emotions one experienced with the music, along with some of the tracks being of different lengths to where the interludes don’t feel as such, J-Zone has essentially created his Paul’s Boutique, or at least his own “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”. It’s his way of saying “this is me, this was me, and this is who I’ll always be”, regardless of where he goes from here.