Review #3: J-Ron “1994”

By Charlie Gordon

Part 1: An Introduction

Whenever I approach new music, I tend to do so with a certain amount of reserve and hesitation. Naturally I don’t adopt new music into my regular rotation easily because I’m an opponent to changing my routine, and also because the majority of new music falls far below most expectations. The end result is a picky music head with a pessimistic outlook.

This is the attitude I had when I approached J-Ron’s “1994” mixtape, a 10 song tape where a third of the song titles refer to drug use and one song is titled “Pimp Shit”.  I must admit I wasn’t too excited but I decided to face it with as much of an open mind as I could muster. The outcome: a pleasant surprise and a new frame of mind (kinda).

Part 2: The Review

The first song on the album is important because it is supposed to set up the listener to the rest of the album. It is made to set the tone and be our introduction to the artist. An ideal opening song is one that can encompass the artist and give you the most accurate image of their music. Going off the intro song of 1994 “BLESS ME”, a few assumptions can be made about J-Ron:

  1. He likes beats that would not feel out of place on an Outkast album.
  2. He is a southern style rapper; made clear by his accent and his boasting about being from Texas.
  3. J-Ron has a steady flow and a decent enough vocabulary to keep the song from getting boring or repetitive.

All in all, I’d say he picked a good song to start his album with.

Lyrically J-Ron is somewhere between Chief Keef and Big Boi (you’ll have to excuse the Outkast references that pop up but I have never been submerged too deeply into Southern Rap and their name kept ringing a bell in my head through this whole album). Chief Keef’s lyrical ability is on the same level as a 3rd graders vocabulary book and Big Boi has an excellent vocabulary and an ability to incorporate it. None of J-Ron’s lyrics made me rewind a song so I could hear a line again and exclaim my astounding praise for how good it was. On the flip side, none of his lyrics made me cringe and wince just to get through a song.

You can catch me coming down Robinson

slab looking hotter than a basketball wife

on VH-1 ya’ll should watch it with

I’m in your local area make a quick trip to the QT

flirt with the cutie at the counter now she feelin me

30 on 3, I make it move I never stand by

she asked for a break she takes a glance I understand why

she’s looking for a stand up guy I’m never slouching

make it do what it dew and I ain’t talkin’ bout a mountain

This is the verse J-Ron uses to finish the song “Blow My High”; a smooth flowing chill out beat carried by a guitar loop in the background. He lays this verse after the beat fades out and it is a solid enough verse that it can stand up A Cappella. I was enjoyably surprised when I looked up what the QT (Quik Trip) was and found it’s like a larger 7/11. I liked the word play of taking a quick trip to the Quik Trip. This passage is a good representation of J-Ron’s lyrical ability, nothing about it will blow you away but it is full of solid lines that can stand up under scrutiny.

The best aspect of J-Ron’s rapping is far and away his flow. One of the biggest problem with up and coming rappers is that often times they lose the beat in their verses and it gives a very choppy feel to the song. J-Ron has no problem keeping a steady flow consistently on a number of different beats. I was bobbing my head from side to side on every song because his delivery comes off extremely smooth and does justice to the beats he is rapping over. J-Ron sounds a lot like a deeper voiced Fonzworth Bentley (almost an Outkast reference but not quite) with a flow that can go either fast or slow and sounds relaxing in either situation. No song is a better example of this than “Riding Slow” which was my favorite song off the album and has made its way into my regular rotation. A beat with a relaxing bass line and a group of horns used beautifully to give the song a very jazzy feel. With strong verses, a catchy bridge and a perfectly executed chorus, this song is an excellent listen.

The production on this album is strong. For the most part it was a great selection of beats that he seemed very comfortable on. The only real low part of the album would be the production of some of the vocals. J-Ron plays around with a lot of filters for his songs, most of which sound just fine, but there are a few instances where the vocals are over powering and could have been recorded better. A perfect example is the song “Mondayz” where the hook comes off as obnoxious because the vocals are pressed forward and end up drowning out the beat. I have nothing against J-Ron’s voice, but when it’s amplified over the beat he can’t hold a beautiful tone and it makes the song suffer. There are few other instances throughout the album where his vocals need to be turned down a little but overall it isn’t a terrible glaring problem.

Part 3: The Epilogue

Status: Highly Recommended

I liked this album a lot. As far as Southern Rap goes I listen to Fonzworth Bentley, Outkast, T.I. and some Bun B mixtapes so I certainly can’t say I’m a huge fan or expert when it comes to Southern Rap but this was a very solid project. With a laid back style that carried through most of the album and a smooth delivery that gives the songs a very natural feel, I would recommend this to anyone who likes Southern Rap or would like to get into it. I’d even recommend it to someone who doesn’t like Southern Rap because this is not an album that can only be appreciated by a southern connoisseur.

I would have to say the only problem I could really find with J-Ron is that nothing about him really stood out to me as overly memorable. He comes off almost as generic. I don’t mean that in a negative way. It just means that J-Ron needs to distinguish himself from other Southern rappers because at the end of the day, this is a very Southern album, which isn’t bad, but it would be nice to hear some new and different things on the next mixtape (and I do hope there is another to come). J-Ron definitely has the ability and I think the more he does with his music, the better it is going to get.

http://soundcloud.com/yinyu/sets/1994-1

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