J-Live 

Then What Happened?


J-Live

Then What Happened?
(BBE Records)

J-Live finally ventured beyond his comfort zone. The Brooklyn MC reveres old school hip-hop, but through 2007's Reveal the Secret had stuck to that breezy early-90s jazz-inflected style perfected by De La Soul. That influence hasn't vanished here–De La frontman Posdanous even appears on the first single "The Upgrade", which, fittingly, sounds like an upgraded brass-hooked track from 3 Feet High and Rising. That aesthetic wouldn't be so problematic, except J-Live's delivery develops a detached monotony over repetitive soundscapes–the central flaw of previous releases. Here, however, producers (including DJ Jazzy Jeff and Nicolay) incorporate West Coast gangsta rap (fused onto piping brass on "The Last Third") and scratched-up bass-heavy beats a la DJ Premier (most notably on "We Are!"). J-Live's lyrics remain clever and verbose as ever. More engaging beats push his delivery in exciting new directions–as on "The Zone"–while typical tracks like "The Understanding" will satisfy longtime fans. This promising evolution in J-Live's career raises new questions like, for instance, now what happens?

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