J The S - The Last Days

Posted January 19, 2012
Tags: J The S,

Rappers often like to compare themselves to athletes, and lord knows athletes want to be...

The Last Days Album Review

Rappers often like to compare themselves to athletes, and lord knows athletes want to be rappers, but for all their differences the two professions do have one thing in common; in both the public expects you to be at the peak of your skills in your 20s. It would be insane to expect a 25-year-old surgeon to be at the top of his field, hell they won’t even let you touch a scalpel when you’re 25, and the same goes for lawyers, teachers, firefighters, you name it, but we routinely slam 21-year-old emcees for not yet perfecting their music and solidifying their vision. Hip-hop, like sports, is not an industry that tolerates patience. Growth? Evolution? Nah, either your debut album is a classic or you failed. Either you succeed by the time you’re blowing out the candles on your 30th birthday cake or you’re considered a bust; and then they complain that hip-hop sounds immature.

All of that was a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been listening to J The S for a long time – long enough to have a friend hand me his Strategy of the Crown CD way back when people handed you CDs – and so I’ve heard the MA emcee only get better with time. As he’s matured he’s continued to figure out how to push the often deeply political messages in his music without preaching, how to move a crowd without resorting to lowest common denominator tactics. So for those who are arriving to the J The S party in The Last Days, welcome, you’re right on time.

It’s almost like Snake prophetically knew I was going to write that intro when he recorded Entertainer, a cautionary tale in the tradition of Mos Def’s Children’s Story, Entertainer chronicles the peak and inevitable fall of a rapper too young to fight for his own self-preservation in an industry of vultures. And if that sounds like some serious sh*t, it is. That’s the point. In many ways The Last Days is the anti-Watch the Throne, an album that was clearly made during a recession that has shattered the American Dream for millions. Or as he says on WTF, “No job but your kids need food? In debt for life cause you went to school?” From the deeply autobiographical Folks to the soaring and jazz influenced Higher Ground, J The S isn’t afraid to let us inside his life as he actually lives it. The Last Days is an album dedicated to reflecting our lives, not distorting it.

It hasn’t been that long, just a little over a year, since Snake dropped the radio ready Put My Cape On, but it’s in the “hit song” department that J The S shows the most growth since even those earliest days of Last Days. Cape On felt weighed down by the desire to please, but Razor manages to walk the line between party starter and thought-provoker nicely. Not only do we hear the usually slowly flowing Snake crack a double time flow on occasion, but he seamlessly works in acknowledgement of the hard times alongside the bottle popping. And while Munchies takes an (appropriately) more laid back approach to catching mass attention, S displays a rhythm and melody to his rhymes he was only just beginning to develop in the When in Rome days. It turns out that if you work hard for years at something you’ll get better at it. Imagine that.

Let’s be real. While J The S’s rhyme skills are indisputably legit, he’ll never be known as the most staggeringly lyrical rapper alive and he’ll never have that flow you just can’t get out of his head. Instead J The S is the Dave Cowens of rap; it’s his passion, conviction and refusal to ever back down that ultimately wins over fans. (Word to the seven Celts fans reading this who got that reference.) A lot of artists wouldn’t have been able to pull off a Lynard Skynard cover like Simple Man, they would have been too self-conscious, over thought it, but when we hear it we know exactly who J The S is, both as a man and a rapper. It’s also a track he wouldn’t have attempted five years ago, so as hard as it may be in today’s climate of instant gratification, listen to The Last Days not only as a self-contained album but as a promise of things to come. It sounds like J The S is only going to get better.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted January 19, 2012
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