REVIEW: J-Zone’s “Peter Pan Syndrome”

 photo J-Zone_cover_zps93ba4c58.jpg 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.

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REVIEW: Demigodz’s “KILLmatic”

Demigodz photo Demigodz_cover_zps0415499b.jpg “Ass and cigarettes” is not what this album smells like, far from it, but as they say, the Demigodz is back. Apathy and Celph Titled have gathered once more to create an album that is the definition of a “banger”, and KILLmatic (self-titled) is something that must be heard for those who understand what quality hip-hop sounds and feels like.

The production on this album is incredibly solid with the kind of samples that’ll make you go “oh wait, you can flip this to make it sound like that?” It has that nice feel of mid to late 90’s hip-hop where it felt like every song had the potential to
be the last song you ever heard, but the truth was that these songs became “the truth” and tracks like “Never Take Me Out”, “Dead In The Middle”, “Caveman”, and “Dumb High” stand out as potential classics-to-be. Lyrically, all egos on this album are flying high, and with assistance from RA The Rugged Man, Panchi, Planetary and Ryu among many, they are having a great time shooting lines, verses, and punch lines. There will be lines that come off incredibly offensive, but these guys could care less.

The best guest verse on this, however, goes to Eternia in “Can’t Fool Me”, and as the song goes on its merry, laid back pace, she comes into the track and graces it with an incredible eight-line verse before moving away. As I heard this, I had wanted to hear another eight, or a full track from her. New album Eternia, please!

KILLmatic may very well be an updated, in title at least, to Illmatic and may be sonically based on the Nas album of the same name, but Apathy and Celph Titled are out for the kill and they are throwing machetes to those who feel they shouldn’t be making music this way. As the sample in “Tomax & Xamot” says, the science of the future is in their hands, and that’s a good thing.

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REVIEW: Celph Titled & Buckwild’s “Nineteen Ninety Now”

Photobucket As the Jamaican sample says at the end of “The Deal Maker”, Celph Titled and Buckwild have united to kill the fuckery out there, and they do so while leaving enough wounds open to spit alcohol on with Nineteen Ninety Now (No Sleep).

It’s almost 2011, so why name an album Nineteen Ninety Now? With a title like this, you know it’s an album packed with the kind of sonic intensity that was a big part of 90’s hip-hop, so you will hear hints of ruffnecks with razors in their mouth, ready to smack anyone at any given time. This style of hip-hop is what I love and the music never stopped being created, but those who only listen to hip-hop as a fashion statement, this may come as a shock to hear. This is the music of dreams, hopes, and nightmares, all at the same time and somehow with the power of post-production, the music that sounds like life without fear:

And when we holdin’ a tek, we’ll put a hole in your neck
Equipping you with a permanent T-Pain vocal effect
I ain’t no flossy dude sippin’ Mo
But if I was, I pop that cork off in your bitches asshole

At the same time, they’re condemning fake inner city fools who use computer blue screens and feel a need to dress in Kanye West-style leather outfits, this is serious.

Okay, it’s well-written and hilarious wordplay that is hip-hop at its best, knowing how to say it and who to say it to. Don’t take it as a joke, because these guys know that when it comes to talking about hip-hop for the people by the people, it’s understood without question. What does that mean? It just sounds like music for music’s sake, not an advertising opportunity or product placement. This is Nineteen Niney Now as much as it’s Twenty Now, the power in the music comes from it being relevant now as it might have been in 1994 or 1998.

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SOME STUFFS: Would you snuggle with Apathy?

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For his second album, Apathy is bringing together Mike Shinoda, Blue Raspberry, Phonte Coleman, B-Real, Celph Titled, Chip Fu and many others for the curiously titled Wanna Snuggle?, scheduled for release on October 6th through Demigodz.

While it may be his second album, Apathy has appeared on a number of mix tapes and compilations, so if you’re unfamiliar with him, look for his previous works.