53)J-Live – Dont Play

Song: Dont Play

Album: The Best Part

Year: 2001

J-Live is a microphone master cut from the cloth of how it used to get done and rarely is anymore. A lot of thought and creativity goes into his rapping, the flows are there, cadences, anything you’re looking for in a good rapper is there. I sort of knew the name from the underground staple that was the “Braggin Writes” 12” (if you lived in New York in the late 90’s and were a head, this was up there with “Tried By 12” and anything Rawkus was putting out), the dope battle rap with the beat being cut up and spun back. Even if you didn’t know the name of it, you knew the hook “Everybody’s rappin and only few can flow” and you knew J-Live was getting busy.

But when the bootleg of The Best Part started floating around, MAN LISTEN. This was a Hip-Hop junkie’s oasis, songs about staying true to the art, consciousness, battle raps, dope beats (Premier, Pete Rock, DJ Spinna and Prince Paul had songs on here), dope rhymes, an album themed around everyday people on the street being interviewed about what it takes to be a good MC (if memory serves me correctly all of these interludes didn’t make it on the retail version), the whole kit and kaboodle. This was a shining moment for the culture, held back for quite some time due to industry politics and hogwash.

While I could have chosen from any number of songs off of The Best Part or J’s sophomore release All Of The Above (both personal classics from top to bottom), “Don’t Play” stands out to me for a few reasons. 88 Keys’ contribution to the short lived trend of making a foreign sample sound like English is being sung (i.e. Dilla on Tribe’s “Find A Way”), how J-Live ended lines in the first and third verses with the same words in reverse order respectively, and the second verse that echoes just for the sake of coming of aurally splendiferous.

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