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Rap n' Roll

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Album Review

It soon became uncertain whether Articolo 31 would ever get back together after the seminal Italian hip-hop duo decided to take a break in 2006. In the meantime, both DJ Jad and J-Ax launched their solo careers. J-Ax, for one, seems to be doing quite fine on his own. Rap n' Roll, his second album, pledges from its very title to continue the path of Di Sana Pianta, that of refusing to be pigeonholed into the rap ghetto. While J-Ax never retreats from his love of hip-hop culture, he makes a point of infusing it with punk rock attitude, and even the legacy (at least ideologically) of the rebel cantautore tradition. Indeed, all through Rap n' Roll J-Ax is in full angry rebel mode. He is certainly not lacking in reasons, considering the ubiquitous, mind-boggling banality of Italian TV and media, as well as the severe social and economic crisis in which the country is immersed. However, J-Ax's anger turns out to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it fuels the venom and irony that make this record's best moments so powerful, such as the opening "Aumentaci la Dose" or "Come Io Comanda." On the other, it leaves very little space for much needed variety of tone or subject matter. The only respite comes at the end, with the ballad to an elderly lady "Signora," which shows an unsuspected sensitive side of J-Ax. In this sense, it is probably a good thing that this album only features ten tracks (it was apparently planned as the first part of a two-CD project, the second scheduled for release before the end of 2009), as the unrelenting ranting already tries the patience of the listener here and there, most notably on the insipid "Io Non Te lo Do." J-Ax brings a host of guests on board to help, above all Guido Style, who co-produces, plays, and sings most of the choruses. Most other guests come from the Italian hip-hop scene and former collaborators of Articolo 31, including members of Gemelli DiVersi, Black Box, Club Dogo, and Wonderbra, but there is also room for heavy metal singer Pino Scotto and vocalist Irene from the punk band Viboras. Both these genres are very much present in the music tracks, especially in the guise of trenchant electric guitars or riffs, but J-Ax's delivery of every verse in strict hip-hop style often obscures the intended diversity of this album. Rap n' Roll is a marked improvement upon J-Ax's first solo album, but it is still not quite as good as Articolo 31's best work — perhaps because, with the exception of the great "I Vecchietti Fanno O" (surely not coincidentally the first single), it often lacks the sense of humor that made Articolo 31 so memorable. At any rate, Rap n' Roll's strong focus and chart success definitely confirm J-Ax's ability to sustain a solo career.


Born: 05 August 1972 in Milan, Italy

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

A life-long resident of Milan and its suburbs, J-Ax (short for "Joker Alex") was born Alessandro Aleotti on August 5, 1972. Beginning in 1990, he spent nearly 15 years as the frontman for the hip-hop duo Articolo 31, whose first album, Strade di Città, came out in 1993. With partner DJ Jad, J-Ax helped define Italian rap, mixing deft rhymes with both American and Italian rock influences. In fact, by the time Articolo got to their sixth album, 2002's Domani Smetto, they had practically turned completely...
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Rap n' Roll, J-AX
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