A classic example of how a record company can straight screw an artist over... almost. J-Live (b. Jean-Jacques Cadet) was inked to a deal with Raw Shack Records after being featured in The Source's Unsigned Hype column. He dropped is first single, the self-produced Braggin' Writes as a freshman at SUNY-Albany, to much critical acclaim. However, his album was shelved at Raw Shack indefinitely and he fought to split up with the label. J would later dis Raw Shack on the track "Got What It Takes":

Raw Shack Records (vomiting sound) ya just can't trust
but rollin' with the punches is a definite must

Even while J's album, The Best Part, was on hold at Raw Shack, it was released on white label vinyl. I was able to find a copy of it in the summer of 2001 at a record store, and some online vendors had it as well. But the big break for J came when he was able to finally get free of Raw Shack and land on Coup d'État records.

In 2002, J-Live released his second album, All of the Above, which met with a great deal of critical acclaim, although not quite as much buzz met it has had his first few singles. Thankfully, The Best Part saw a CD release shortly after All of the Above dropped.

Now, here's why J-Live deserves all the attention. Plain and simple, he's an incredible writer who hits on all levels. Coming with a True School vibe, J's pen is liable to slay all who come near. His flow is up to the task as well. While other rappers might have problems spitting these verses, J pulls it off quite well. His style could be described as relentless, since he rarely pauses between lines and keeps his flow rapid even if it's over a slow beat. Here's a verse from School's In, a track from The Best Part:

My words are whet with crystal-clear wisdom so they glisten
and I fill in the blanks for all the answers that you're missing
I'm rolling with the mongoose, cuz snakes is steady hissing
to expose my flaws like salt in sores
since they cannot be reformed I simply kill 'em by the fours
so in other words, nah man, skip the explanation
see that what the rewind's for, so be patient
cuz this is the direction that my pen should be draggin'
to transform your dollar cabs into bandwagons

I would urge you to check out this song, or Braggin' Writes, in order to fully grasp the way in which J-Live has mastered the hip-hop art form. I would argue that freestyling is a purer form of hip-hop then rapping stuff you've written, but when you've written anything as well as J-Live has, it can only win praise from me.


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