May 2, 2009

J-Zone - A Bottle Of Whup Ass (EP) (2000)

While reading through some of my older posts (conceited bastard that I am), I realized that I haven't written about J-Zone, one of my favorite underground artists, in a couple of years. In fact, there are only two mentions (possibly three) of Zone in the entire history of the blog: when I mentioned that the man produced a track off of the Lonely Island CD Incredibad, and when I wrote about his debut EP, Music For Tu Madre. And that's all I can remember. What the fuck kind of fan am I?

Well, I'm going to fix that today.

A Bottle Of Whup Ass, J-Zone's second EP release, was his first which was not a requirement for college graduation. Music For Tu Madre wasn't heard by very many people upon its initial creation, but it was held in a high regard by those lucky enough to get an early look into Zone's mind, with the offbeat samples and running commentary regarding the decline of hip hop in general. A Bottle Of Whup Ass, the follow-up effort, features more of the same, but kicked up a notch, thanks to Zone's newly found confidence (both behind the mic and the boards), as well as the efforts of his two sidekicks in the Old Maid Billionaires, Al-Shid and Huggy Bear (now known as H.U.G.).

A Bottle Of Whup Ass was the first album I had ever listened to from J-Zone, but I latched onto this shit immediately, hunting down his debut almost as soon as the disc stopped playing in my Discman. (Yeah, that's how old this album is.) One of the reasons I like hip hop websites is because of discoveries such as this: in a roundabout way, A Bottle Of Whup Ass is one of the reasons why I decided to tell people about artists and albums that they may not have looked at otherwise.

So you can either thank or violently attack J-Zone with a blunt object, depending on your preference.

One of the few rap album intros I actually like. It's goofy, short, and to the point. If you opt to skip this track and jump straight to the music, you would save only, like, nine seconds of your life. Not sure if it's worth paying $1.39 to for nine seconds of audio, though.

J-Zone reintroduces himself to the masses, and by “masses”, I mean the four people who were aware of the Music For Tu Madre EP upon its initial release. This is a great “intro” song, and Zone's comments as to the location of parts two through seven of this series are pretty damn funny.

This is, quite possibly, the essential J-Zone song. (It may only be a coincidence that this song was the first J-Zone effort I had ever read about.) It takes a ridiculous concept (all laws have been suspended for the day) and runs with it, leaving us with a fucking hilariously anarchic track. J-Zone's comments about “Ice Ice Baby” and Huggy's assaulting of Zone himself are especially memorable. And Rosario Dawson wasn't even as hot back when this track was released as she is now, so I have to applaud Huggy Bear on his excellent taste and psychic abilities.

This brief interlude is rather creepy sounding, and you'll probably only need to hear it the once.

5. 190 (FEAT AL-SHID)
Can also be referred to as “the Al-Shid drinking song”. Some of the vocal samples are grating, but the attention to detail (and J-Zone's cameo on his own song) leave an entertaining taste in your mouth. (Whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.)

An amusing skit about the plight of “nice” guys the world over. Also leads nicely into the next track.

I have to say that writing a song about catching blue balls and naming it “The Smurf Syndrome” is fucking genius. (Also, the vocal bit from Ernie from Sesame Street is hilarious.) Obviously J-Zone's tale is more specific to his own situation (since the girl in his sights wants him to produce a song for her), but the general idea is universal. The ending is both funny and depressing, but the song is still really good, though. Also, Lucy Liu is still pretty hot today, too.


Zone and Hug provide listeners with their own version of DMX's “Born Loser”. I ended up feeling worse for Zone and Hug than for Earl Simmons, though, even though the tale presented here is told with a deprecating sense of humor: DMX seems incapable of even listening to a joke, let alone telling one. The sheer imagery of crashing your vehicle, flying through the windshield while screaming “yes y'all!” is hilariously absurd.

Zone's beat provides a harrowing pace (I imagine newspapers running down the line at the plant) that Al-Shid opts to ignore entirely while spitting this one-verse wonder. The contrast sounds fantastic, though.

As a companion piece to the previous track, Shid comes in from recess to spit some more shit over a much darker (and, in most ways, far more interesting) Zone instrumental. J-Zone was smart enough to surround himself with friends who double as really good rappers, which already elevates the man above, say, almost every other rapper/producer ever. (That's right: I just placed J-Zone among the best producers in the game.)

A pretty funny self-depreciating interlude. Kudos on the use of an educational record sample: that component makes this sound like Zone's interpretation of Prince Paul's genius, and I mean that in a good way.

I'm not sure what compelled Huggy Bear to write a song against organized religion on what is otherwise a goofy-ass album (the power of Christ, maybe?), but here you go. Although there are other rap songs that explore the same subject matter in a more successful manner, Huggy proves himself to be one of the better underground rappers out, regardless of skin color. Does this guy even still rap, or is he too busy assistant-managing the Ralph's over on 5th Street? Because he's good.

The deejay track, which I don't come across nearly as much as I used to.

J-Zone ends his album with a track full of shout-outs.

FINAL THOUGHTS: A Bottle Of Whup Ass is a vast improvement over Music For Tu Madre: the fact that J-Zone's debut EP-slash-thesis project was already a really good listen simply makes this feat even more astounding. Zone's blunted Cartoon Network instrumentals (by way of more contemporary Prince Paul) are complimented by hilarious rhymes, skillfully delivered by friends Al-Shid and Huggy Bear, but the best songs on here are the ones that feature himself behind the mic. His self-deprecating (I've used that word too many times during this review, but we'll all live) wit and realist view on the absurdity of hip hop cliches was refreshing back in 2000, and today it still sounds fantastic. A Bottle Of Whup Ass is Zone's finest hour, although one shouldn't discount the rest of his catalog. I'm still wondering why it took me so goddamn long to write about this album, by the way.

BUY OR BURN? This project is a must-own. You should do whatever it takes to get a copy of this EP, even if it includes stealing cars and pushing elderly men down the up escalator. You can also simply buy it from iTunes, since J-Zone cut a deal with Apple a while back, but I'm sure he would appreciate the level of passion involved regardless.

BEST TRACKS: “No Consequences”; “Orphan Babies”; “The Zone Mission Part VIII”; “The Smurf Syndrome”; “Recess”; “Holy Water”; “The First Day Of School”



  1. I'm gunna get this asap. You've introduced me to a lot of great underground stuff I've never heard of before, so thanks for that. Also, glad to see you're doing another stunt blogging month.

  2. AnonymousMay 04, 2009

    I am loving this! There's no shop except Itunes who delivers this in my country, and I really want to have an original of this cd! And that dude huggybear is he making cd's?
    Anyway Max you should start an importwebshop for every cd you review.
    Greetings from the country referenced to in 'First day of school'

  3. Great review. This EP is great, Zone is criminally underrated.

  4. People should check out J-Zone's Live At The Liquor Sto album that he put out with his radio show alter ego "Chief Chinchilla". It's very dope.

  5. very good music, thx for reviewing this album, probably i'd not known anything about j-zone

  6. Definitely J-Zone's magnum opus.