Remember Jin? The 106 and Park Freestyle Fridays champ who boarded the Ruff Ryders’ sinking ship in 2001 then hooked up with Wyclef for his lackluster 2004 debut, The Rest is History?
Ever since the first time he grabbed the mike on Robert Johnson’s network, Jin has been labeled as a battle emcee. The tag can lead to a reputation of vicious 16s and punch lines, but it usually doesn’t lead to commercial success – just ask Canibus. But instead of turning a corner, his sophomore album, The Emcee’s Properganda, just leaves us with more questions. Can Jin ever become a mainstay in hip-hop culture, or will he always be relegated to online videos of him battling at car shows in Southern California?
After failing to teach Chinese to BET’s Rap City‘s fan base or appeal to the 50 Cent segment of the hip-hopulation with the flaccid single “Senorita,” Jin’s career has been a roller-coaster ride. There was the legendary Fight Klub battle in Puerto Rico, where he tore through Shells and other competitors (highlighted by comical freestyle bars such as “in a couple of years, I should have at least a few hits/and Eve did leave, you interested?/Ruff Ryders needs a new bitch”), followed by an upset loss the following year to Serius Jones (Jin reclaimed the title last year). In early 2005, he made a dis record toward New York radio giant Hot97 and its on-air personality Miss Jones after parodies were made about the 2004 tsunami. In May of 2005 he recorded “I Quit,” announcing his apparent retirement from rap. Then, in a strange and comical twist, Jin was reborn on Myspace.com (LINK: http://myspace.com/jinthamc), where word quickly spread that he was back, now rhyming as the Emcee.
Dee and Waah are nowhere to be found on The Emcee’s Properganda, so there are no attempts here of bamboozling Jin into some sort of marketing machine that he was never destined to be. Instead, he aims for a purer approach to be a liberator – a savior, if you will, of true hip-hip fighting off the evil forces of the “The Whisper Song” and the “Window Shopper.”
The first few tracks are solid. The first single, “Top 5 (Dead or Alive),” is a homage to hip-hop legends past and present. For an artist longing for acceptance in a culture where his heritage has long been neglected, it is a safe route to appeal and gain the respect of hip-hop critics. After a while, though, it becomes the album’s salient characteristic: Jin spits on track after track about his idols, from Pun to Prodigy, along with the “anti-commercial” hip-hop message he is trying to send. And it becomes as played out as the songs he is criticizing.
“My First Time” is a decent storytelling effort with an obvious twist, but the oratory capabilities Jin displays here are nowhere near those of Slick Rick or Nasir Jones. Meanwhile, “Foolish Little Girls” is molded from the Susan B. Anthony school of rap. It aims to be an uplifting song encouraging self-respect among females, spearheaded by verses such as “Young ‘uns are taught to ‘Get Low’/ But their self-esteem has hit rock bottom/ so how much further can they go?” Aside from “Perspectives,” “Top 5” and the title track, Properganda is laced with mediocre concepts and mediocre beats from teenage producer Golden Child.
The Beanie Sigels and Jadakisses have become so respected and successful in hip-hop because they convey their environment and experiences and their love of the culture into their songs. Showing props is a good start, but unless Jin can learn to truly inspire, he will always be relegated to being top dog on the freestyle circuit, like a slam-dunk champion without an NBA championship or, as Matisyahu may put it, a king without a crown.
Prefix interview: Jin tha MC [Battle tested]