Jin Au-Yeung KO’d seven weeks’ worth of freestyle competition two years ago on BET’s 106 & Park, and the achievement landed him in the show’s hall of fame. So Jin’s battle skills are of no question: he’s got ’em. On his long-delayed Ruff Ryders debut, The Rest is History, the emcee is strong in his convictions and storytelling and fortunately avoids pit-bull imagery of any kind.
Just one full-length in and he’s already been compared to Eminem. Both share an eager, inquiring flow that builds to surprised, antagonized peaks toward the middle of the verse. He’s also, like Em, finding major success in an African-American-dominated genre. In his first single, “Learn Chinese,” Jin highlights the short-sighted idiocy he has seen in his life and reports on his overcoming of America’s ever-present racist agenda.
“Learn Chinese” is jagged and undoubtedly a crowd-pleaser. With help from Wyclef, its memorable chorus and rolling funk loop, the song beats the purposeful Just Blaze-produced “Club Song” by miles. He’s a bit thuggish here — his “it’s a game of death when I aim for the chest” lyrics are flanked by shotgun-blast sounds — but his adherence to street bravado is comparatively mild overall alongside label-mates Jadakiss and Lox.
On “C’Mon,” Jin climbs the Dre-favored minor-key piano build, but with great success. He battles complacency, and announces his ambition to pull out of the nine-to-five shuttle bus to an early grave. Sure, the topic is the tell-tale hip-hop story, but Jin defines his path and refutes disrespect: “These CEOs must be sniffing coke, don’t they know that I’m the dopest product on either coast?”
The Rest Is History has its share of known guests, including Twista, Styles P and Kanye, but the best moments are Jin’s. The album has some weak spots, but they come in beats that fall flat rather than in the flow of the battle champ. It’s not as if Jin is alone in his background, but he is in the foreground of a genre saturated with and consumed by image. Let’s hope he won’t be held accountable for an image that’s been pigeonholed and stepped on for centuries in America, but rather accepted and rewarded for embracing his roots and sharpening his talent.