Wednesday, Apr 03 2002 | 17:13

You’ve heard the story a million times before: a talented MC records an ace album with five mics potential. But due to record company politics the album never sees the light of day (or only gets released so late that it doesn’t has the impact it could have had). But there is no MC who’s career has suffered more from this everday industry behaviour than J-Live. Some people even go so far saying that hip hop itself suffers from J-Live’s absence as an “album artist”.

Whereas fans knew for years about his never fully released debut “The Best Part” J took a different road with the recording of his “very first, second album” (J-Live). Even heads with a very close ear to the streets were at least suprised when 7 Heads launched the news about the soon to be released “All Of The Above”.

The brand new full-length from J-Live, takes the listener well beyond the near mythical album “The Best Part,” both in terms of songwriting and production! J-Live started his career as an “MCee” by selling 25,000+ records on two vinyl 12″ platters alone!

After waiting patiently for the official release of “The Best Part”, only to see the record slip through the cracks of the Universal/PolyGram merger, J-Live decided it was time to take fate back into his own hands. After signing to Coup d’État, J-Live joined forces with DJ Spinna, DJ Jazzy Jeff’s Touch of Jazz (Jill Scott) & Joe Money aka Usef Dinero to create his finest work. He’s even thrown in some production skills of his own!

This is what J-Live has to say about his album track by track:

Peace y’all, and welcome to “All of the Above”. This is my very first, second album.
Since recording “The Best Part”, I’ve heard a lot, done a lot and seen a lot. Basically, I’ve got a bunch of stuff on my mind. I’m just trying to put as much of it on record as you can stand at one time. In that regard, the album title is a bit of an exaggeration. Perhaps it should be called Most of the Above. But it means a lot more than that to me. These are by far the best songs I’ve done of late. Intended to insight rain, hail, snow and earthquakes. In other words brain storms and good vibes. But like it or lump it, with the help of everyone involved in this project, all of the above is caused by the son of man.


1. First Things First (produced by J-Live)
The universal greeting is peace. I don’t know a better way to start an album. There’s not much to say about this song. I ran my mouth so much in the intro that it would be redundant to talk a bunch of mess here. I just wanted to formally set the stage and get some stuff off my chest about the fiasco that was The Best Part. Hopefully I can close that chapter of my book and enjoy that record for everything it is.

2. How Real It Is (produced by Usef Dinero)
The song is really all about being a man and handling your business. It’s so real, that we had to strip the song down to the drums because of sample trouble. I was hurt at first because I really loved what Usef did. I hope this version lives up to the legend of the original version. The moral of the story is that if you stay prepared, you can turn any minus into a plus.

3. Satisfied? (produced by DJ Spinna)
The question is, with last years tragedy on September 11th, as we recover as a nation, will we keep in mind all of the issues and problems that existed before? A lot of people stepped up and held it down, on and after September 11th, but that shouldn’t allow us to forget all of the serious issues yet to be properly addressed. Aside from those thoughts in the second verse, Satisfied? is about priorities and values. It deals with the idea that money is a tool to achieve goals, not a goal itself. If your goal is to attain wealth alone for luxury and survival, then what do you stand for?

4. Interlude 1 (i ‘m a rapper)

5. MCee (produced by J-Live)
Ain’t much to it. I’m just flexin’. I like playing with words and carrying styles. So the second verse is mostly words starting with M and C, back to back. For the most part the song is like a job description. Emceeing is my craft now. It’s a beautiful thing when you can do what you love for a living.

6. Like This Anna (produced by Usef Dinero)
Part of me hopes the concept for the song is obvious, and another part of me hopes it takes a minute or two to sink in. In the traditional talk-ish, get-ready style of like this and a, like that and a, I’m talking to a girl named Anna and telling her what it’s like. A lot of self proclaimed playas might hate on this one, but every time I turn around, someone in my family’s popping out a daughter. I just wanted to throw a message in a bottle. Holla if you hear me.

7. One for the Griot (produced by Usef Dinero)
A griot is a really good storyteller. Some of my favorite griots are Slick Rick, Biz Markie, Ghost Face, etc. Furthermore I grew up on a lot of those Choose Your Own Adventure books. I thought it might be interesting to write a story, and flip it with a few different endings. I don’t particularly prefer any one of these endings over another. It’s just cool to step outside of telling the story of my life for a second and let my imagination run around a little.

8. Stir of Echoes (produced by J-Live)
It’s one of my favorite movies. Maybe now people can use me in that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Maybe this song is too long, but I was having a lot of fun with it. I always wanted to use that old style. I don’t know who flipped it first but I learned it at Run’s House. If I’ve got to teach you about the hook, you’ve got a lot more listening to do elsewhere before you can really appreciate this record. It was cool to have Tanya Gerber flipping the hypnotizing scene. The last verse was one of my favorites when I wrote it. It was the first song we recorded for the album, and one of the last ones we finished.

9. Interlude 2 (For The Babies)

10. Do That S#!% (produced by DJ Spinna)
I tried to go a whole album without venting. Sorry¦no dice. It’s just that I came up during different times. Ain’t nothing wrong with talking ish and fantasizing about all kinds of stuff outside yourself. You can be whoever you wanna be on a record. But damn. Its like most of the kids I know, all they know how to rhyme about is guns and drugs now. It’d be different if they were surrounded by it. But most of the kids I’m talking bout only know that world through music anyway. So the question becomes, what do you know about yourself?

11. All in Together Now (produced by DJ Spinna)
Don’t mind me, I’m just buggin’. Songs like this make people say I got way too much time on my hands. Oh well. I just wanted to write a rhyme that made sense when you chopped it in half and kicked every other line. Not much more to it than that. It’s just feel good music.

12. Nights Like This (produced by Usef Dinero)
I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to build with some very intelligent, experienced brothers. Usually after the day is done ” a hard day’s work or a full day’s play ” it’s either music or cool peoples, or both, that allows me to unwind. I was searching for the right beat for this song for quite some time. I couldn’t write it until I found it. Rokafella was the icing on the cake though. We met through my Deejay DP One at this live performance called Soular Powered. One of the dopest plays I’ve ever seen, hands down.

13. The 4th 3rd (produced by J-Live)
Well, once again a dope sample was a victim of circumstance. A Bill Withers record inspired this song. At the end of the day, thanks to Kraz and Elliott, it came out better than the original. The song is about a relationship I was in with a devout Christian ” well, after I became a 5%er. Suffice it to say, despite the love and natural connection, the relationship couldn’t survive her religious beliefs and my culture. Adding insult to injury, the love was too strong to maintain a friendship. We had to go our separate ways. The chorus consists of parts of the Bill Withers song and In the Silence by Stephanie.

14. Travelling Music (produced by J-Live)
The refrain is true to life, from where I’m from, to where I’ve been, to where I want to go. I’ve had the good fortune of being able to travel the world as a result of my music. I’ve been places that I never would have even thought to go. I’ve toured with artists that I grew up listening to. It feels good. Almost as good as when you’re on the road and the scenery matches the music you’re playing exactly. I love it when that happens. I made this song with that in mind. I wanted a beat that would fit on a highway, in an airport, or riding the subway ” whether I was amped up about something or in chill mode.

15. A Charmed Life (produced by Touch of Jazz)
For an autobiography this is a pretty short song. It’s more like a near-death experience where someone sees their life flash before their eyes. The illest part about this song is that I wrote it to the instrumental as is, already arranged. It fit so well that I didn’t need or want to change anything. It’s another one of those situations where I had the concept and refrain in my head for a long time but I couldn’t put it to words until I heard the right music for it. Working with Pat and Jeff is just another example of what I mean by A Charmed Life. I’ve learned so much from all of the musicians and producers I’ve worked with, it really isn’t fair.

16. All Of The Above (produced by DJ Spinna)
I can’t remember what came first, the track or the title for the album. All I know is the music is so powerful and sublime that it had to be the title track. I keep Spinna’s beats in my deck whether they’re mine or not (dope travelling music). And after DP and Tiklah put their two cents in, well, I didn’t dare write a hook. You should already be hooked. Conceptually, the song reminds me of Yes. The idea that certain questions require you to transform or into and for the answer. I wanted to delve into the thought a little deeper on this song instead of just using it for a hook in a battle rap (of which I’m still quite proud). I wanted to write about now ” as in, right now while you’re listening to this song, hopefully after hearing most of the album.

17. Interlude 3 (whatever)

18. Happy Belated (produced by DJ Spinna)
Just another case of me having too much time on my hands. The song is called happy belated because it’s the official outro to an album where almost all of the songs take more than the typical 3 and a half minutes to play through. So happy belated ending. And also happy belated as in, those that appreciate this brand of true school hip-hop deserved it a long time ago. Sorry the industry keeps you waiting. And also, happy belated oneofthesedaysbrothersgonnaworkitout. But as if all that wasn’t enough, rather than leaving it to the wonders of computer sequencing, I kicked the rhyme half a bar ahead of how it was written, and let the delay be the main vocal. Happy belated.

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