A veteran with five releases since 1999, J-Zone is the archetype of a new breed of hip-hop character: college-educated, smart and witty, but ignorant as all’s hell. J-Zone is a connoisseur of the ignorant, looking to fellow emcee/producers Too Short, Luke and DJ Quik for inspiration while his East Coast underground contemporaries keep jocking Pete Rock’s and Lord Finesse’s nuts. When he’s not busy irking trendy hip-hop clubgoers by dropping songs like Eazy-E’s “Still Talkin’ Shit” and Willie D’s “I Need Pussy” into his deejay sets, the noted freelance producer compiles mixtapes with those and other offensive hip-hop classics under the banner Ig’nant.
These dirty-minded influences manifest themselves in appropriately titled albums like Music For Tu Madre (which, the story goes, was actually his senior thesis at SUNY Purchase) and Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes. But the result is not necessarily offensive — their tongue-in-cheek humor is clearly apparent. J-Zone might view himself as “ignorant,” but it’s a conscious ignorance, if such a phenomenon exists.
J-Zone gets right down to business in A Job Ain’t Nuthin But Work. On the first verse of opener “Spoiled Rotten,” Zone imagines the ASPCA picketing his house for wearing a “fur coat that look like I killed the whole Bronx Zoo” (apparently the same coat he sports while sunbathing at Coney Island on the cover). But other people’s irritation is more this man’s fantasy than his reality.
His desire to offend could take him into tacky shock-rap territory, but the self-professed “Tom Jones of Rap” and “2004 Bobby Brown” never comes across like a phony try-hard. This dude is funny as hell and, even though he’s smart and worldly enough to know better, he really does live the dirty lifestyle he toasts to.
“Bullshit City” finds Zone sending a message to imported New Yorkers (“I was born here and I say fuck this city”) and pining for the New York of old: “Times Square used to have tittie,” he says before accurately asserting, “Now it fucking looks like Disney.” Amen, brother — every ’70s and ’80s New York baby is right there with you. Zone has a solution, though: “Fuck Bloomberg/ We need to get Marion Barry in here.”
As he will be the first to admit, J-Zone is first a producer — he’s recently freelanced beats for Prince Po, Casual, 7L and Esoteric and GM Grimm. In the case of “Kill Pretty” (though he deserves props for embracing his physical unattractiveness) and “Xactly,” the beats are more interesting than the songs. The instrumental “Sleazy Listening” finds J-Zone auditioning for some porn soundtrack work.
It’s no breakthrough LP, but A Job Ain’t Nuthin But Work is a solid pickup for those who like insults, threats and unwavering braggadocio in their hip-hop but aren’t feeling the generic repetitiveness of current southern and West Coast hip-hop.