On My Way to Church

Artist: Jim JonesTitle: On My Way to ChurchRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Martin A. Berrios

From the crack game to the rap game, Harlem, NY has often bred flamboyant hood legends. As a founding member of the Cam'ron led Diplomats crew, Jim Jones looks to carry on the Uptown tradition of flossing ones, wears and weaves. After primarily playing the background handling Dip-affiliated business (most recently he launched the "Sizzurp" liquor brand), he now seems more comfortable with rapping as he releases his debut On My Way To The Church (Koch).

On the opener "Only One Way Up" Jim takes the listener through a day in the life of his Harlem World hustle. The combination of speedy hi-hats and heavy synthesizer sounds establish the signature Diplomats sound. On the Cam’ron assisted “This Is Jim Jones,” Jim employs a bouncy delivery to compliment the playful Heatmakerz track adequately.

While Jones is no Big L on the mic, it is his charismatic approach that makes him stand out. His star shines brightest on the Eazy-E "Boyz In Da Hood" influenced "Certified Gangsta." "You know I ride through Lennox/all eyes on my pendant/but I'm moving like O Dog was riding in Menace/with that automatic weapon/blowing right through my tinted /while I'm breezin' through the jects blowing lah on the tenants" he boasts. His colorful adlibs also add to the album’s flavor.

To compensate for his lack of lyrical ability, Jones takes the Jermaine Dupri route by enlisting several guest features. Although the collaborative efforts mesh well with the overall album, Jim often finds himself getting outclassed by his Hip-Hop peers. On the piano driven “Twin Towers,” Bizzy Bone puts Jones to shame with his perfected double time delivery. Bizzy’s innate understanding of flow is something that can’t be taught. Furthermore, UGK’s Bun B easily steals the show with a very gritty sixteen on “End Of The Road."

When Jones does rock solo, you understand why all the present company is needed. Lyrically he offers nothing more than your average mixtape rapper with his tales of handling beef, moving weight and living that good life of a Harlem World Diplomat. On “Talking To The World,” Jim does dig a little bit deeper as he reflects on the struggle of a dealer trapped in his own hustle. “You know that life goes by/just as fast as those nights go by/hold fast as them blue and whites roll by.”

Fortunately Jim’s ear for selecting beats prevails over his lyrical talent. “On My Way To Church” is a fluid mixture of sped up soul sampling, hard drums, and thick bass lines. He recruits production newbies Blackout (“Crunk Musik”), and Shottie (“This Is Gangsta”) to keep the sound fresh. Even Jim himself gets behind the boards on “Shotgun Fire.” He slows the same violin arrangement from Twista’s “Overnight Celebrity” and added a harder drum pattern to get a thicker sound.

At the end of the day, the guest appearances and great production cushion Jim’s lyrical dive. If Jim worked harder at his craft, this album could have been more of an enjoyable experience. When Juelz Santana murders you on your own shit what else is there left to say?