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Customer Reviews

5 out of 5

5 Ratings

J-Zone is seriously concerned with the health of hip-hop in 'Fish-N-Grits'

Alex Dionisio,

Comedic Queens, New York emcee, producer and musician J-Zone's rap comeback in 2013 with the Peter Pan Syndrome album was no stunt, as he's followed it up with a new album, Fish-N-Grits, out today, April 1st on Old Maid Entertainment. Zone, whose real name is Jay Mumford, grew up a musical prodigy and early blooming instrumentalist who translated his obsession with funk records into a hip-hop career starting in the mid to late '90s. Around 2007, he took a disillusioned hiatus from the business, wrote a book about his troubles (Root for the Villain) but eventually and fortunately hopped back into the game with Peter Pan, bringing to the studio his newly developed drumming skills. The LP was a hit, at least with rap's truest fans, giving him more well earned motivation and credibility. Although J-Zone hasn't changed much over the years - he still has a witty, hilarious sense of humor, keen awareness and sharp musical prowess - the rap industry has, for better and worse, and in Fish-N-Grits, Zone gives his full two cents on its current problems. Considering his record and reputed perspective, it would be beneficial that we also at least consider his messages here.

Though he has a point that rap and hip-hop today have sort of taken a dive, J-Zone is a little negative about the entire game overall, yet his rebellious spunk and brash attitude do make for a great deal of spirit, energy and passion in F.N.G.'s recordings. The opening skit ("Shut Up, Make Music, Swagboi vs. Purist") pitting the new generation of rappers against the old (in which neither side wins by the way) is fashioned in the style of a boxing match of all formats, and in "Rap Is A Circus," he's not only intensely critical of everyone in the business and everyone trying to get in the business but he also adds the title-corollary that "We Hope The Elephants Trample Everybody," some more of his humor coming out. Even though he may go overboard with his emotions, hip-hop heads will know just what he's rapping about. Some of his other talking points of concern include what he and some others view as unwelcome gentrification of established urban communities, police malfeasance, cigarette smoking dangers, rich complacent hypocritically soft celebrity role models, and out-of-state NYC transplants naive to the culture of the big bad Rotten Apple. With the exception of the topics of unfamiliar new movers and ghetto-sprucing, the rest of Zone's subject matter is new territory unexplored on his previous albums.

Between those heated purposeful diatribes, J-Zone dollops a healthy serving of funky instrumental interludes onto our eardrums, soulful segments of playful, exciting, natural drum-work, sample cuts, mixing board wizardry and likely a host of other sound-making techniques from his composing mind and hands. His stylish meticulous skills are on brilliant display in these five or so half-song length treats of segue-music. He is joined by guests Has-Lo and his longtime friend and trusted collaborator Al-Shid plus his jocular, roughneck alter-ego Swagmaster Bacon and his high pitched voiceover commentating partner Chief Chinchilla on most tracks. Together they fuel the giddy anger and angst signature of this project, very briefly lightened up when Has-Lo and Zone pen a nostalgic ode to Cadillac love in the black community, "Caddy Coupe." J-Zone's criticism of quality-lacking artists with shady intents and bad priorities opens the door for others afraid to be less than overly positive about hip-hop, at a time when the praiseworthy threshold and standards of acceptance are sinking, proving that in order to legitimatize and adequately value the art form, its weaknesses must be pointed out when they surface. Zone does a good job at restarting that trend here.

Drums !

DJ Hungryman XXL,

J-Zone has those grown man angry at the world drums. Triple Treat.

About J-Zone

Westchester-bred, Queens-based rap artist J-Zone (née J. Mumford) began his musical quest when he picked up and mastered a variety of instruments before he even made it out of elementary school. Growing up in suburbia, he specifically dreamed of a career playing bass guitar in a raw urban funk band and would scour record stores for hours to dig up old funk LPs just to mimic the basslines. Surrounded by hip-hop culture and a now-significant vinyl collection, inspired by Yo! MTV Raps, and influenced by the likes of the Bomb Squad, Marley Marl, DJ Premier, and local beatsmith-made-good Pete Rock, J-Zone nevertheless put his funk fantasies on hold by the time he reached high school -- where he also earned his pseudonym due to the same zany, zoned-out personality that would eventually manifest itself on his recordings -- to concentrate on his emerging skills as a rap producer and DJ, while also occasionally dabbling as an MC on the side. It wasn't until a friend hooked him up with Vance Wright, Slick Rick's longtime DJ and producer, though, that his career officially began to take off. On the basis of J-Zone's home demos, Wright brought him into the neighborhood studio he owned as an intern, and the teenaged Zone eventually worked his way up to head engineer. By the time he had mastered the studio, the fledgling producer was also ready to attend SUNY Purchase in New York City, where he majored in Music. His senior project, in fact, also turned out to be J-Zone's unintentional debut album, the long EP Music for Tu Madre, pressed and released in 1999 on his own slapdash record label, Old Maid Entertainment on vinyl- and cassette-only. Always considering himself more of a producer than a rapper despite evidence to the contrary, the album also introduced the "Old Maid Billionaires," a group of MCs headed by Al-Shid and Huggy Bear, both of whom he would return to on all subsequent recording projects and countless future live performances. The EP earned significant buzz in underground circles, not least because of the integral early support of Bobbito Garcia, who played J-Zone's early singles on his popular radio program. The following year saw the release of a second EP, A Bottle of Whup Ass, and almost across-the-board acclaim. At the beginning of 2002, he signed a distribution deal with Fat Beats Records to release the third Old Maid Billionaires joint (though his first "official" full-length), Pimps Don't Pay Taxes, then subsequently took an indefinite sabbatical from rapping to concentrate on the technical side of the art, producing 12" releases for both Al-Shid and Huggy Bear, in addition to creating tracks for Biz Markie, Celph Titled, and Louis Logic of the Demigodz, Cage, and High & Mighty, among others. At the end of the year, J-Zone returned to his own music, putting out the "S.L.A.P."/"Ho Kung Fu" single and preparing his fourth proper album for the summer of 2003, as well as a supergroup project headed by him and Dick $tallion, Go-Rilla Pimp$. A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work was released in 2004. ~ Stanton Swihart

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