Published Jan 01, 2006J-Live has a right to be upset, but he's not. After releasing a brace of critically acclaimed singles at the crest of independent hip-hop's mid-90s boom, he snagged a major label deal. Unfortunately The Best Part, the album he recorded, was not only shelved for years, but it ended up being bootlegged heavily on the street.
"There came a point where a lot of people were like, Are you jaded? Are you worried? Are you mad?' and I was like no," he says. "My record was shelved and people wanted it so bad that they sold it by any means necessary. It feels good to say that."
This philosophical outlook has allowed him to turn the lore surrounding the record to his advantage. Mere months ago, an official version of the album with additional tracks was released, setting up his newly-minted All of The Above release on indie label Coup d'Etat. Having learned some valuable lessons, the former Brooklyn grade school teacher is now ready to lead the class again. "With this album, the point that I was trying to make was a little bit clearer, as if I was speaking to a child rather than somebody who's on my level and understands what I do," he says. "Rather than preach to the converted, just teach to the uninformed." All of The Above is anything but child's play; tuning out will probably mean missing countless lyrical nuggets. It's restlessly inventive, exhibiting J-Live's trademark versatility and is made up of intricately written concept songs that have been gestating in his mind for years.
"As a student I was the same way," he says. "I would write a paper and turn it in late, cos if I turned it on time I'd get a C, but if I turned it in late I'd get a B or an A paper." Among the skilfully executed essays is DJ Spinna's reggae-tinged production "Satisfied," a sobering "political editorial" on post-9/11 reality. It underlines the fact that while he's found a way to impart knowledge creatively, it's based on what he himself was taught. "I grew up in a time when hip-hop was socially responsible and informative" he says "and for it not to be that now would be a shame, because now is the time you need that most of all."