Album Review: J57- I’m The J57

Cover art by: Levi Felder

I wasn’t going to write about it.

While that infamous first line has intro’d some of my favorite pieces I’ve written, I really did mean it – I wasn’t going to write about this one.

I was midway through a busy week, full of personal transitions, emails that stole my attention and business meetings that had me privately nervous. On top of that, it’s difficult writing about music you love. Part of me dreads it. It’s like taking apart the components of your favorite sandwich to analyze why it is you enjoy it, instead of just taking a bite.

While configuring a grocery list that would make the most economical sense for the week, the first verse off of the second track on J57’s new solo album, I’m The J57, had me acting like a cheerleader again. And cursing. Because I knew then, I was going to write about it.

“Dollar signs and dotted lines, I won’t apologize, got brought into Interscope with 11 fucking dollars to my name, left it all behind, hopped on that plane, got the call from my momma saying never ever change who you are.”

There was something about listening to this specific song on the trainride from deep Brooklyn into the city that compelled me to want to send it to everyone in my contacts list. It hit me and it resonated.

This is an album for dreamers, for fighters and for artists. Where you’ve been, J has likely been there too. That’s a key component to the magic of his music; his experiences are real and far from embellished.

If you’ve worked until 4am on a vision that only you could see, this album is for you. If you’ve put a decade into studying your craft and sacrificing more than sleep, this album is for you. If you’ve ever had to explain why you can’t make your brother’s birthday dinner, this album is for you.

I’m The J57 is made from blood, sweat and tears. Autobiographical, whimsical and fucking fierce. J57 doesn’t need you to believe in him, but when you do, he’ll notice with gratitude.

The beautiful paradox of J as an artist is that while he has been preparing for a career producing music for majority of his life – rapping about how he’s been ignored for the bulk of it – he doesn’t put his tragedies in front of his handshake. When he tells you a story, it’s partly because he trusts you’ll appreciate it and partly to get it out of his system so he can move on to the next thing. J is fearless but he’s also human. This album shows that side, and more.

Regardless of if you’ve been taking notes or not, J57 has had one hell of a 2015 and is endlessly running off of his own Fuel. His solo album has been patiently awaiting its airplay throughout some of 2015’s madness, which saw his first production credit with a Wu-Tang affiliate, the highly anticipated release of The Fuel EP with Koncept and the launch of his own label, among other accolades. However, while the album has been aging like wine for a chunk of those key milestones, I’m The J57 isn’t a simple year in review—it’s music that tells a story framed by production that holds its own place in time. In case you didnt get the memo, this dude’s out here making music for 2057. No one is making music like this. His influences range from Portishead to Premier and subtly find their way into his distinctive sound, curiously and brilliantly.

J more than earned a spotlight of his own to dictate his solo record, but he approaches the project unlike what you may expect. His handcurated features and guest production further showcases that while J is finally in a position where he can put both middle fingers up, he only does so to the cogs of the industry he’s immersed in, and furthermore, does what he can to build others up.

J excels both as a rapper and as a producer, but his strengths as a tastemaker shine through his decisions to continuously create with others and thats what makes his story so interesting. A compliment from an artist like him actually means something and that translates in his music as well. Every guest vocal, every sample, every co-production credit was hand selected tactfully by J, for the sake of creating the best possible art.

If I’m The J57 is your introduction to J57 and his extensive catalog, I hope it surprises you. He spilled his soul authentically in a way other artists can’t even come close to achieve, and that is why he isn’t going anywhere but up.

by KC Orcutt

Brooklyn resident KC Orcutt aims to capture moments found in music. Her freelance writing career has brought her to many places over the years, including London, Croatia, Prague, all over the US and on tour with her favorite hometown rappers. Happiest when working with words and people, KC is first and foremost an enthusiast of her craft and supporter of all things dope.

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