One of the cool things about releasing music and maintaining a blog is that your music and words are out there for people to discover at any given moment. Tracking song sales from past releases and seeing new hits on articles from months ago is always rewarding. It’s nice to know that people are discovering your contributions to media and music. With that as a backdrop for this post, recently an artist from the Tennessee area reached out on social media to let us know that he enjoyed my album review of Chuck D’s latest, The Black In Man. Having since listened to J-Smoove’s music, it’s no surprise that he’s checking for Chuck D, as he himself is a very conscious and positive emcee whose art is deliberate in it mission to educate and uplift. That said, let’s take a closer look at J-Smoove’s February of 2014 release, #Elevate.
The EP begins with “Happily Married”, a track where J-Smoove professes his love for his spouse. While seemingly a simple concept, it stands out so much because it flies in the face of current Rap trends heavy in songs about cheating on your boyfriend or throwing money at strippers. With lyrics like, “I’m your king and you’re my queen, and they just don’t understand”, it’s clear that not only is J-Smoove serious about the sanctity of his marriage, he’ll work to uphold it. Again, simple concepts that are so against the norm, one can’t help but give props to the artist for going there. As much as I like and appreciate the concept however, at day’s end this is my least favorite moment on the CD. The hook vocals could have been stronger, and the use of what sounds like a mild auto-tune effect throughout the more melodious portions of the verses doesn’t add anything to the track. Musically, the piano driven beat may work for the concept, but it doesn’t have much replay value. That said however, the important takeaways from “Happily Married” lie in the track’s honesty and passion.
Perhaps inevitably, #Elevate’s second track, “Jesus” reminds me of Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”. With a hook that repeatedly asks the listener, “what you know about Jesus?”, this track, much like Kanye’s, pays homage to Jesus’ teachings while challenging the listener to do the same. “Jesus” is a mid-tempo track that’s carried by an almost hypnotic recurring bell melody on the verses. Lyrically, J-Smoove holds nothing back when conveying his praise for Jesus’ teachings and the benefits of following the gospel. “They say the truth hurts. I say it sets you free. Down on my knees, Lord please, just let me be. He brought me through the rain. He brought me through the pain. Every morning when I wake I make sure that I praise his name.” J-Smoove’s progression from marriage to religion fits well from a content standpoint and certainly sets up the rest of the EP.
#Elevate continues with “Wake Up”, a slow-tempo track with no shortage of inspirational lyrics. The track starts with a montage of news clips about the crime and violence that plague J-Smoove’s communities. A piano-driven song that also benefits from a well-layered hook that asks “how many of us gotta die, for us to wake up?”, its slower tempo works well for J-Smoove’s couplet-heavy delivery. When the track’s goal is a directive to the listener to “wake up”, a slower beat with a simpler rhyme pattern is beneficial. It allows the audience to capture every word. “Wake Up” provides us with another example of J-Smoove challenging the listener to re-evaluate their current situation, as evidenced by bars such as “we’re quick to say it ain’t cool to go to school, so I guess it’s cool being a fool, breaking the rules. Add fuel to the flame. We call life a game. He died like a soldier, huh? Game over, huh?” His lyrics leave one with the impression that he truly cares about his communities and hopes his words will in some way help to uplift them. “Wake Up” is a prime example of that notion. It’s my favorite track on #Elevate.
“Inspiration” rounds out the EP with more positive vibes and inspirational lyrics. The most upbeat track on #Elevate, “Inspiration” has a smooth, infectiously entertaining beat. Lyrically, J-Smoove addresses social issues that plague urban communities, or to use the term from the hook, what he calls “Ghetto Nation”. Particularly poignant are the lines in which he directly touches on how young African-American males are disproportionately affected by police violence, an ongoing struggle that has been in the news a lot over the past year, but, truth be told, has been going on for years. “Why Blacks so quick to snooze, like clocks? Saw a young man get shot by a wannabe cop. Why stop making songs that motivate Blacks to be strong? That’s all we got!” As with much of the EP, he goes on to challenge the listener to strive for better, with bars such as, “power is knowledge and power comes from being wise. I thank God for blessing me with seeing eyes. Life or death, be in line. Got a choice young homie, you can choose their side or mine.” Simply put, “Inspiration” is exactly what the title suggests: almost 4.5 minutes of inspirational lyricism backed by a catchy beat that complements this theme nicely.
To conclude, listening to J-Smoove’s music was quite simply a refreshing experience. It’s nice to come across an emcee who’s unapologetic in his intent to educate and motivate his communities. J-Smoove isn’t trying to conform to industry trends and/or radio norms. In fact, his music reflects a desire to change these norms or at least expand them to include positive Rap music that promotes unity and growth. #Elevate captures these notions perfectly. That’s not to say it is flawless. “Happily Married” in particular stands out as a low point musically, unfortunate because it’s the first track, and the EP lacks a certifiable banger, with the mid-tempo “Inspiration” being its most upbeat (relatively speaking) track.
That said however, overall the #Elevate experience is a good one, as the project’s positive themes and inspirational undertones far outweigh its faults. It’s nice listening to positive messages in Rap. It’s reinvigorating. And save for a few missteps, the music itself is solid. As such, we at JP Lime Productions salute J-Smoove on a strong showing and implore our readers to give this EP a listen. We hope you can both appreciate and enjoy it as much as we did.
As per his website’s bio, J-Smoove, also known as Jacoby Jelks, is an American music producer/rapper/co-C.E.O. of Ori-G-inO Dynasty. He is from Decatur, IL/ Ripley, TN.