January 21, 2010

J-Zone - A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work (September 14, 2004)

Housed behind one of the goofiest and least hardcore hip hop album covers in recent memory is A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work, rapper/producer/Old Maid Billionaires CEO J-Zone's third full-length album (and fifth project overall).

At this point in his career, J-Zone had already expressed his lack of interest in performing behind the mic, choosing to exorcise his artistic demons behind the boards. Thanks to the cult following he garnered for two EPs and previous two albums, he was able to catch the ears of artists as well-known as Biz Markie, Masta Ace, Tha Alkaholiks, King Tee, Cage, MF Grimm, and R.A. the Rugged Man. After proving his worth with hyper-entertaining sonic backdrops for Al-Shid, Huggy Bear, and himself, Zone showed the hip hop world that he could easily adapt for bigger names without compromising his own integrity.

Perhaps that is the reason he was tapped by The Lonely Island for that "Santana DVX" song featuring E-40.

Anyway, A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work progresses even further away from Music For Tu Madre than even $ick Of Bein' Rich could ever dream of doing, a fact that J-Zone even admits to on one of the album's songs. He still handles all of the beats (I don't believe he would have it any other way), but for someone who is trying as hard as he can to step away from the microphone, he keeps letting himself get pulled in, ceding only when other rappers such as Devin the Dude, Celph Titled, and Al-Shid pop in to say hello. In fact, in many ways this is the only real solo album that J-Zone has ever recorded.

Which may be why it doesn't entirely work.

Zone begins A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work with a loud burp, and then, as a goof, introduces his backup female R&B group, who sing a ridiculous song that instantly evaporates from your mind. Kudos to Zone for keeping these rap album intros interesting, though.

Strangely, Zone's second two bars tell the same joke as his first two lined do: obviously, at this point he wasn't really paying attention to lyrics anymore. So it isn't surprising when Celph Titled steps onto the scene and demands all of your attention span. Celph makes this song better than it deserves to be.

J-Zone decides to take on other hip hop personalities in a game of b-ball. Some of these lyrics are goofy, as they're in the vein of Biggie's “Dreams” and Curtis Jackson's “How To Rob” in their capacity for name dropping. The beat is pretty weak, which is not very helpful for a track that you'll only listen to once, if that, just for the sheer novelty of it all.

Not so much a song as an interlude, and not so much an interlude as a studio-constructed experiment. In a “fuck-you” to college radio that doesn't play his shit anyway, Zone kicks a verse with all of the curses backmasked, and then plays the same verse with everything reversed except for the curses. It's amusing, and it is consistent with the spirit of fun that caused me to pay attention to J-Zone in the first place, but it's understandable that most folks will probably skip past this one.

When I first read about this collaboration, I was worried that Devin's stoner flow wouldn't translate well over the frequently manic instrumentals that J-Zone is known for. However, Zone's skills as a producer shine through, adapting to his guest's flow for the greater good. The instrumental itself is reminiscent of his work on his own “38th & 8th” off of $ick Of Bein' Rich, except that this is much deeper: Devin and Zone live their crappy day-to-day while having a cautiously optimistic outlook for the future. This was really fucking good, especially Devin, who remains truly calm even as all of the bad shit piles up around his verse.

Zone's diatribe against guys who practice poor hygiene (and women with “foul clits”, by far the most vulgar and graphic description of a certain type of woman that I have heard...in the past hour) plays more as an interlude than anything that should be classified as a full-length song. In the past, Zone probably could have made this subject matter kind of funny, but this utterly humorless track, which barely masks the contempt he has for his marks, isn't worth listening to.

This was a step in the right direction. Zone's self-deprecating style makes a triumphant return, even though he is more unabashedly cocky than ever before: having four prior albums under your belt can do that to a person. I found the beat kind of annoying, especially as the melody constantly climbs up and down the scale, but the lyrics on here were funny enough.

Even after reading the title and taking a wild stab in the dark as to what the song would be about (I was right, by the way), I still didn't see the Onyx reference coming. That gag lifted this trite song to another level that isn't fully deserved, as this track is more mean-spirited than amusing.

A skit that leads directly into...

I find songs that describe the events of a preceding skit to be redundant as best, and fucking useless at worst, and I'm sure a lot of you do, too. Which is why I found it funny during the “Crutches” skit that J-Zone actually told his friend Dick $tallion that he would record a song that explains why he was walking on crutches, leading us to “Disco Ho”. The result is one of the bounciest tracks in Zone's catalog, one that's funny as shit (especially when even he sounds surprised that he's dancing to a Ja Rule song). Dick $tallion's chorus works for the song's needs, but is forgettable otherwise.

11. FLIGHT 212

J-Zone explores his love/hate relationship with his home city. Who says that all New York rappers have to love New York? The beat is less aggressive than I would have expected, but the track is still alright; it isn't anything special, even though I found the line about there being “more rappers than fans” in NYC pretty fucking funny. Probably close to the truth, too, given the sheer number of unknown rappers that populate some of your favorite blogs.

Zone's longtime right hand man Al-Shid delivers yet another impressive performance: I guarantee that, should these two hook up for an entire album, it would be among the most entertaining of whatever year it comes out. The beat is decent, but the true draw here is the lyrics: once Shid spits that he'll “orchestrate an ass-whupping / now that's music to my ears”, he'll win over the folks that have never paid attention to any other J-Zone write-up.

A goofy short track that consists of J-Zone apologizing to the many folks that he has wronged. Could have fit in on Pimps Don't Pay Taxes, had it not been for the the fact that it most certainly could not have.

For this interlude, Zone plays an instrumental that he claims is perfect for low-budget porn directors to use during a sex scene. Not surprisingly, this is far dirtier than anything that has ever appeared on any J-Zone album. Too bad the sound bites are unsettling and unsexy, but at least they draw attention away from the beat, which is pretty boring; I don't think anybody will be fucking to this interlude for quite a while.

J-Zone passes off an audition tape to become the fourth member of Tha Alkaholiks as an actual song, describing a night of getting shitfaced that could have also led into the events of “Disco Ho”: I guess that all of his nights out involve drinking and then doing something that he regrets later, usually resulting in some sort of physical pain and/or hospital stay. The beat is weak, but Zone's attention to detail still makes this track fairly entertaining, if a bit terrifying, especially if you truly are a lightweight in the drinking department. It's called building up a tolerance, Zone.

Had it not been for the fact that Zone recorded this track long before I started HHID, I would swear that he composed this as a response to my write-ups. J-Zone's autobiographical drive through the neighborhood of his career is clear, concise, and to the point, addressing criticisms from critics (his lyrical content has regressed, his songs aren't as funny anymore) and his own hand (he hates his own production on Pimps Don't Pay Taxes: he feels it's the weakest of the bunch, but I would have to disagree) with honest candor. I wish that he would actually address whatever the fuck happened to Huggy Bear, but whatever. This shit was both nice and unexpected.

“Old Maid Theme” contains a dope instrumental that sounds like the score to a heist scene for a flick that has yet to be filmed: perhaps that was the inspiration for his To Love A Hooker project, the soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist. “Biscuits II” is just an outro, one where Zone thanks those who helped him with his album (he mentions that all of his big-name guests bailed on him except for Devin the Dude – have to say, I'm wondering who was scheduled to originally appear) and dismisses everyone else.

FINAL THOUGHTS: By recording and releasing “The Zone Report”, J-Zone may have actually successfully diffused any criticism of his own albums, but it still needs to be said that A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work will only piss off his biggest fans, especially those who have followed him for his entire career. The project doesn't fail because of the artist's regression or progression or however you want to interpret his lyrics: instead, it fails because J-Zone doesn't sound inspired with most of the beats and almost all of the lyrics. His guests (the few who appear, anyway) easily overshadow him without even really trying, but once again, Zone wouldn't have it any other way. A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work comes across as an album that Zone's label forced him to record, but that isn't even true, because Zone owns his own fucking label, so I can't understand how this came out so weak. However, the fact of the matter is that this is J-Zone's worst album.

BUY OR BURN? Burn this one. This project pales in comparison to the preceding four albums, even $ick Of Bein' Rich, which had its own problems. Check for the songs listed below and be on your merry way.

BEST TRACKS: “Greater Later”; “The Zone Report”; “Heavy Metal”


Catch up on the rest of J-Zone's catalog by clicking here.


  1. yo max. it will be amazin if you review the coup (steal this album) and aceyalone (all balls dont bounce) coz two of these albums are one of the underappreciated albums in the westcoast of all time (hiphopjunkie)

  2. anybody wearing tube socks to the beach deserves to be heard.

  3. I could be mistaken, but that album cover mirrors a scene in Mickey Rourke's classic "Angel Heart". Or a different film I saw, can't be quite sure, but it's from a movie.


  4. AnonymousJuly 13, 2014

    I've been following your blog for a couple of years and can't help but notice that you're a cynic to the point you make some artists seem horrible.
    With all the hating you do and downplaying of good records I have ome thing to say Max.
    Don't quit your day job.

    1. It's difficult for me to "[downplay] good records" if I don't think they're good to begin with. That's the whole "music criticism is subjective" thing: these are my opinions, and you get to read them and decide for yourself whether you want to take a chance on something or not based on my opinion. If you agreed with everything I wrote, there's no way you would have kept reading this site for a couple of years now.

      As for this project, I wrote about it four years ago and haven't sat through the entire thing since, but J-Zone has released MUCH better work, and I say that as an unabashed fan of the man. Not everything he touches will turn to gold just because he's J-Zone: everyone has their off days.

      Thanks for reading!