REVIEW: J-Live’s “S.P.T.A. (Said Person of That Ability)”

Photobucket The title says it all, but also suggests a need to look further if you do not know what it means. S.P.T.A. stands for Said Person of That Ability, but is meant to be pronounced as a word: a “spitta”, or “spitter”, as in someone who spits, as in a rapper. In the last 25 years, as countless rap songs have suggested, a rapper is now a dime a dozen, and the problem is everyone thinks they’re a baker when they’re just opening up a can of soup and waiting until it boils. The problem with that is they’re waiting for a beep, and that soup has boiled over onto the stove. My point is that one of the major things to focus on in the S.P.T.A. equation is “A”: ability. A lot of people are able, but having an ability means action or “doing”, and someone seeing and hearing your capability. But being capabl… fuck it, here’s my review.

S.P.T.A. is an incredible album by J-Live, whom I’ve been a fan of since the days when it had taken 45 minutes to download an MP3. But away from technology and into the core of the matter is this: J-Live has been consistent in not only in his lyrics and style of speaking, but in who he chooses to represent him musically. He has always dabbled in his productions over the years, this album is no exception, but S.P.T.A. features contributions from Diamond D, Nicolay, RJD2, Marco Polo, The Audible Doctor, and others. Each of these guys produce their music differently from one another, and yet somehow manage to create a unified sound in the spirit of the target, which is J-Live. I know as a producer myself, we all have to claim that we have to put our egos on the side when making tracks for someone else, but the ego/confidence is in how these songs are made and for those who use samples, what sound sources are used. J-Live doesn’t have to say “oh yeah, don’t hesitate, Illastrate, uh-huh uh-uh”, but he allows them to shine. Or at least J-Live didn’t tinker with the formulas that the producers offered to him.

Then of course: the lyrics. The cover is a hint of what you’ll hear on the album. It’s basically J-Live talking to himself, or variations of himself, and at times those conversations get deep. He offers listeners a fan to truly hear what’s on his mind, because no one can understand him but him, but these songs are open doors into the logic, wit, humor, and talent of this guy. There’s a line in a song where he admits that he does not mind the slow climb in his career, a way of saying he’s honored to still be around and that people care enough to want to hear him create and release more music, when others have fallen and crashed in their perceived rise to the top. In the self-produced “Life Comes In Threes”, he brings in the musicianship of Rasheeda Ali, Jeff Nania, and Bryan Bryan Brundrge and layers them over a funky and jazzy soundscaps that sounds like he’s been in tune with Jazzanova or Shinichi Osawa as of late. Is J-Live suggesting that his career has been in three phases so far, and are we currently in the shirt? All I know is, I’d love to hear more work like this.

All of the songs stand out, but one of my favorites is “Great Expectations”, where he discusses what we all go through with everything from romance to wanting to be the best you can be, and realizing that sometimes we have to pop our own bubbles in order to understand reality. The references about rappers who believe in their own self-made hype, but get lost when they’re still on top of that balloon that rises in a mental room with no ceiling is very funny and true.

The triad theme of the album comes to a close with “Have A Glass”, where it’s simply J-Live with Lyric Jones revealing the moral of S.P.T.A., and within all of the verbal games came a story and a lesson or two that’ll make you want to play the album a few more times to understand its full strength. While I have come to expect work I value from J-Live, it’s also a reminder of how well an album can sound when you know what you’re doing, and how to do it.