Always Will Be

Artist: J-LiveTitle: Always Will BeRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Toshitaka Kondo

Who’s J-Live? He’s could be the best rapper who you’ve never heard of. The Source Unsigned Hype alum has all the symptoms of the “good rapper, bad luck” syndrome. A heavily praised, yet bootlegged and unreleased debut, The Best Part. His nomadic label situation. And the “is he still rhyming?” look that 97% of hip-hop heads give when his name is mentioned. Leaving Coup d’Etat, who released last year’s All Of The Above LP, he’s returned with the Always Will Be EP through Fat Beats. Although his delivery lacks the intensity displayed on “Braggin’ Writes”, he still personifies a true MC.

Whether speaking on industry ills (“Car Trouble”) or self-imposed isolation (“Walkman Music”), J-Live’s talent as a writer is evident. On the former, the ex-educator uses clever car analogies to school an aspiring MC about potential music industry hurdles. Even with bad experiences, he’s not the madd rapper. As he says on “Deal Widit,” “Don’t get it twisted/ I wasn’t drafted into this life, I enlisted.”

Although his conceptual work is imaginative, he still has the ability to just spit. Riding a jazzy piano loop on “9000 Miles,” his rhymes seems endless: “I get on the mic and strive to be the best/But it’s not just a flow there’s more to the test/I gotta spit like there’s no time to waste/Spit like I can’t take away this life taste/Spit for rebellion/Spit for resistance/Spit for accuracy/Spit for distance.” Elsewhere, the hard horns and battle rhymes of “Get Live” justify the last four letters of his name.

With eight tracks, his chances of missing are slim. However, his calm delivery on “Deal Widit,” doesn’t get across how stressful time constraints are. Also, Stunt 101 disciples may complain about the scarcity of club bangers. Then again, he makes it clear that “If you sittin’ on chrome and it’s spinnin’ when you’re not, this is not for you.” Maybe it’s best that he remain an underground hero. Listening to Always Will Be, this would probably suit J-Live just fine.