September 17, 2009

J-Zone - $ick Of Bein' Rich (July 22, 2003)

After the release of his first full-length project, Pimps Don't Pay Taxes, producer-slash-rapper J-Zone told anybody who would listen that he had no plans on rapping again. He felt that he had already done everything he could with the art of the rhyme, and his heart was in the production side of hip hop anyway, so he intended to produce full time and leave the verses to the experts.

The critical acclaim and success (relatively speaking) of Pimps Don't Pay Taxes derailed those plans. Zone found himself in high demand, helming the boards for artists such as The High & Mighty, Cage, MF Grimm, Biz Markie, and Wordsworth, all while helping out his fellow Old Maid Billionaires Al-Shid and Huggy Bear, now simply going by H.U.G., by releasing singles for both. Zone even found the time to release a 12-inch single of his own, for "S.L.A.P.", a goofy non-album track that shared a kindred spirit with his earlier work from his first two EPs.

His second album and fourth release overall, entitled $ick Of Bein' Rich, chose to further explore an alternate universe in which J-Zone was hugely successful and was running out of ways to spend all of his money, Brewster's Millions-style. What remains a mystery to me is what exactly happened with the Old Maid Billionaires: while Zone retained the name for his vanity label (with distribution handled by Fat Beats), he and H.U.G. had some sort of falling-out, which resulted in him not appearing on $ick Of Bein' Rich at all. Al-Shid pops up on one track, but it seems that the damage was done, and J-Zone elects not to refer to his past life as part of a trio too often on this project. If anybody could enlighten me as to what the fuck actually happened, I would appreciate it, since I'm a fan of Huggy Bear's and would like to know what he's up to now.

Undeterred, J-Zone decided to use $ick Of Bein' Rich as a vehicle with which to convince other rappers outside of his immediate circle to join him in his quest for underground hip hop supremacy. As such, he handles probably a few too many songs solo, but when he brings in artists such as Masta Ace, Celph Titled, and J-Ro from Tha Alkaholiks, the transition is seamless, and the man is able to prove that he is pretty versatile when he needs to be.

The album as a whole, though, needs a bit of work.

Not as funny as his previous album intros. In fact, this isn't really funny at all: it comes off as the beginning of yet another Penthouse Forum letter that rappers love to compose (although it must be noted that Zone is in no way sexually explicit with this track). This isn't a good sign.

Okay, this rap album intro is more like it. $ick Of Bein' Rich really didn't have to have two different intros, though, did it? There are rap albums in third world countries who would kill your parents for a rap album intro of their own.

I have to be honest: this J-Zone tirade is actually much more mean-spirited than anything else the man has released to date. The humorous lines (of which there are few) seem forced, and the overall moral to this story seems to be that J-Zone hates both his fans and his underground success. That was weird. Also, not something that your fans would actually want to hear, Zone.

This song gets the train back onto the right track. J-Zone claims to only rhyme for the money, a fact that he brazenly cops to, and his justification is kind of funny. Not as much as his first three projects were, but funny nonetheless.

This is fucking hilarious. Zone's description of his busted-ass ride will remind you of the funnier self-deprecating tracks from his older projects. This shit was nice.

Zone sure loves his grandmother, as she seems to play some sort of role on all of his albums. At least she seems to be more supportive than Consequence's mother, anyway.

7. 38TH & 8TH (FEAT AL-SHID)
Al-Shid takes over this dope beat to provide listeners with a cautionary tale of the down side of getting head while driving. The attention to detail is extraordinary, and the sense of humor is much appreciated, making this the best song on the album so far easily. It probably also helps that J-Zone cedes the microphone to his old running buddy. I cannot stress enough how nice this instrumental is.

All sorts of wrong. Although a lot of what Zone says has crossed everybody's minds at one point or another, that doesn't necessarily mean that you want the man to be your personal spokesperson.

$ick Of Bein' Rich has the distinction of being t he first J-Zone album to feature artists outside of the man's immediate camp. Masta Ace is first up to bat, with an interesting (and graphic, at times) performance that is good enough to explain why the man is still in the midst of a career resurgence of his own today.

I don't think I've ever written this about a J-Zone song, but there's a first time for everything: meh.

A fake commercial, one which is much more annoying than it has any right to be.

Underground stalwart Copywrite battles absolutely nobody for seemingly no reason, but he rides Zone's beat like a motherfucker.

This one-joke song is performed by Captain Backslap (Zone's alter ego) and Dick Stallion. Clearly, J-Zone felt that, after his success on the first three entries in his catalog, he was entitled to say whatever he wanted on wax, so on here he and his boy go after women who have too many children. Pretty ridiculous, but I mean that in a "you'll only listen to this once because it sucks balls"-kind of way. At least he tries to take the piss out of himself on here, as well.

Kind of offensive to Asians, to be honest. This originally appeared as the b-side to "S.L.A.P.": why that song didn't make this album's final tracklisting and this shit did is beyond me. Here, Zone takes his stalker-like affection for Lucy Liu (evident on his other albums) to new lows, creating what could possibly be his most embarrassing song ever. This was a misfire.

I was left wishing that Tash could have found a way to appear on here, as he would have sounded terrific over some of J-Zone's demented cartoon scores, but J-Ro and King Tee manage just fine on their own on this entertaining-as-hell song.


Zone comes across as the cheapest Scrooge in the history of mankind. However, he's funny, so this bizarre excursion works. The beat is a tad bit annoying, though not enough so to avoid hearing the track altogether.

I still don't understand what compelled Zone to have a conversation with himself during this song's intro, but I still enjoyed his track-length confession. This is probably the closest that $ick Of Bein' Rich ever comes to the heights of Pimps Don't Pay Taxes, though.

Zone's instrumental is fucking awesome, and his future partner in the Boss Hog Barbarians exhibits a chemistry with him that is palpable. Rhyming alongside Celph Titled actually makes J-Zone sound more comfortable than he has been for the rest of the album, which kind of sucks, as this is the last real song on here, but that's just a minor quibble.

20. BI$CUIT$
An outro masquerading as a song-length track, which features J-Zone thanking every single person who contributed to $ick Of Bein' Rich, oftentimes individually. And with that, we're out.

FINAL THOUGHTS: $ick Of Bein' Rich is entertaining enough, but it isn't very consistent, and some of this is downright mean and boring. J-Zone seems to be bitter and pissed off about his circumstances. As such, about one-third of this project is a misstep. The sense of humor is still intact, but Zone's production is still the real draw of the album anyway, and for the most part, the man does not disappoint. Using the album to prove that he's no fluke behind the boards when it comes to other artists was also a great idea, as working with the likes of Celph Titled and Masta Ace seem to have helped him step his own production game up, increasing his own stock tenfold in the process. If you look at $ick Of Bein' Rich as a demo tape of sorts for the second chapter in his career, moving beyond the salad days of the Old Maid Billionaires, instead of what you probably hoped was a natural progression from Pimps Don't Pay Taxes, this album works a hell of a lot better, but be forewarned: some of this album doesn't sound that great at all.

BUY OR BURN? I recommend a slightly hesitant purchase, because the two-thirds of the album that click work extremely fucking well, but the rest of the album sucks. For the first time, a J-Zone project features tracks that you will be skipping on a regular basis. Fans may be disappointed, and newbies won't understand what all the fuss is about.

BEST TRACKS: "Eatadiccup"; "38th & 8th"; "Vling Around The Collar (Fake Gold Chain)"; "Prima Donna"; "Choir Practice"; "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme"


Other J-Zone projects can be discussed by clicking here. Trust me, you'll want to click here.

1 comment:

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