J-Live The Best Part

Held up in label limbo for a number of years, and heavily bootlegged, J-Live's The Best Part is finally (and deservedly) getting an official release for this long-anticipated album. J-Live first raised eyebrows about five years ago with the raw simplicity of "Braggin' Writes," a fierce battle rhyme laid over a live breakbeat being scratched and cut back and forth. Anyone that has witnessed J-Live perform this song live, cutting up the record and MCing at the same time, can attest to how astounding this thankfully included track is. While conceptual and narrative lyrics are now J-Live's focus, the creativity he displayed when he first came out is highly evident on this album. On "Them That's Not," which may be familiar to some already, J-Live unspools an insightful narrative about the rise and fall of a flavour-of-the-month MC, never missing a beat, while Grap Luva's track speeds up and slows down, matching the character's contrasting fortunes. Grap Luva's older brother, Pete Rock, also stops by to drop a track not available on the bootleg version, "Kick It To The Beat," a conceptual posse cut where, joined by Probe and Asheru (of the Unspoken Heard), J-Live tries out his best one-liners, seducing the musical track itself, declaring "love at first sound." Elsewhere, J-Live demonstrates an intelligent deconstruction of social injustice on "R.A.G.E." and "Vampire Hunter J." Immediately dope tracks like the DJ Premier-assisted title track, replete with handclap interlude, and the gorgeous 88 Keys offering, "Don't Play," with its acoustic guitar splices, just confirms the Brooklyn grade school teacher's versatility. At the end, he says MC should mean "mad creativity," and after hearing what had come before, you can't argue that he deserves the title, no matter how it is defined. (Triple Threat)