Disclaimer, this is not an objective review which is why it’s taken so long to write it. I know J-Live, have spoken to him on many occasions. I only even knew this CD was coming out because I called him on his phone to ask him what he was up to. If that’s a little too honest for ya’ll, tough.
Anyway, I’ve always admired J as a lyricist but this review is about the beats. To this day All of The Above sits as my favorite of his projects because the beats complemented his intricate word play. Like many of you I was not blown away by the instrumentation on The Here After (with the exception of the jazzy “Listening” and guitar-flavored “Harder “) and was intrigued at his explanation of what happened. I copped the Reveal The Secret EP and was extremely pleased with the sample heavy, scratch-laden soundscapes he got from the likes of Jazzy Jeff, Da Beatminerz, etc. “The Incredible” and “Feel Like Spittin” were on constant rotation in my iPod until I could get my hands on Then What Happened?
Now the good side of Then What Happened? is that it is a 1000% percent improvement over the beats on The Here After. The xylophones and scratches on “It Don’t Stop” go great with the drums and the melancholy rhodes and trumpet on “The Last Third” are a fitting conclusion to that series. As for head nodding ear candy the CD doesn’t get better than “The Understanding” and “The Upgrade.” They come closest to the energy of the EP and gave the sub woofers in my truck a nice workout. A close third is DJ Spinna’s “We Are!” with its soulful moans and claps from “Long Red.”
Somewhere in the middle “Simmer Down” “Be No Slave” and “The Zone” do their part to keep the party going. But unlike the above cuts they haven’t migrated into my roadtrip playlists on their own merit. Nevertheless the drums and claps on “The Zone” are ripe for cutting and “Simmer Down” could be ill in an indie movie soundtrack.
Bad side? There really isn’t a “bad” side, just songs I could have lived without. Maybe a lil too subdued or left of center the beats on “Ole,” “One to 31” and “What You Holdin” didn’t have much replay value for me. And the drums on “You Out There” were just too weak and the synths sounded way too artificial.
I personally think there were cuts from the EP that should have made the final CD so what I’ve done is created a wish list of what is my ultimate J-Live CD, Reveal What Happened, made up of cuts from Then What Happened ? and Reveal The Secret in this sequence:
1) It Don’t Stop
2) Feel Like Spittin
3) We Are!
4) The Understanding
5) The Last Third
6) Red Light Green Light
7) The Upgrade
8) The Incredible
9) The Zone
10) Practice (The Magnificent Remix)
And for someone with as much to say as J I wouldn’t have minded a skit/interlude or two to weave it all together. Maybe excerpts from an interview with a certain website:) Peace Justice.
Jerry L. Barrow