When it comes to mixtape DJs, there are a few names that spring up immediately and J-Love has to be one of them. This Queensbridge native stamped his moniker with authority all over the five boroughs of New York City during the Nineties and into the Two-Thousands by delivering a tsunami of exclusive sounds from the hottest artists rapping about street life. Mobb Deep, Cormega, Nas, Tragedy Khadafi, the entire Wu Tang Clan and it’s numerous affiliates sought representation through the street savvy skills of J-Love. J-Love took the mixtape game to a whole new level, a level which nobody could surpass as he so adamantly reminded everyone with an entire series of level-themed mixtape titles. This here is J-Love Not on my level… The continuation.
Running down the tracklisting of this tape, the first thing you’ll notice is the element of continuity with the artists featured. J-Love doesn’t simply drop a single exclusive track from a big name rapper, instead he drops several. On this tape, members of the Wu Tang Clan, Busta Rhymes, KRS One, Punisher and Canibus all feature more than once which can only be a good thing. J-Love also took the time to blend songs featuring the same rappers together which keeps things flowing nicely. There is even evidence of this continuity in the song order for example when Mad Skills and Canibus drop their amazing battle raps Lick the balls ’98 and 2nd round KO respectively; or where Cappadonna’s Run is followed directly by RZA’s The Chase.
I need to stop and discuss these two examples briefly because there is some follow-up to each of them. First, Mad Skills – later changed to Skillz – was an emcee that blast onto the scene from relatively unknown Virginia State. He didn’t lose any time to prove himself through creative and fairly witty battle raps. Lick the balls ’98 was a rare B-side that exemplified his quick-witted delivery. Canibus was also a very talented battle-rapper who burst onto the scene and didn’t hesitate to take shots at rap’s more established artists if he thought they lacked respect towards underdogs like himself. 2nd round KO is probably one of the greatest instances of firing back at your lyrical opponent and pretty much stopping them dead in their tracks (pun intended!). In this case, it was Queens legend LL Cool J who had invited Canibus to join him on the 4, 3, 2, 1 song where Canibus sang about borrowing the mic off LL’s tattooed arm. For some reason LL took this as a diss and made sure the track was re-arranged so that he could vent a few verbal assaults at the young up and coming rapper. Canibus only found out about the double take once the song was released and settled the score in probably his most famous song to date 2nd round KO featuring none other than Mike Tyson on adlib duty.
Second, we have Cappadonna’s Run that was released on his debut album The Pillage in 1998. Even if the song has pace and good lyrical subject matter, it didn’t make such a big wave as his affiliate Ghostface Killah’s release of the song under the exact same name some six years later in 2004. As a rap fan, I have always wondered why two Clan members would drop songs by the same name? But then, you have RZA using every possible slang word and synonym to describe leaving a location at speed with his single The Chase taken from the Bulworth movie soundtrack. RZA produced all three tracks so does this mean we can expect another sequel to The Chase in the near future..?
If I had to pick a single song from this great mixtape, I think I would have to go with Cormega’s One to Love. The song is a direct response to Nas’ One Love track where Nas dictates letters he’s written to friends locked up in prison. One of the friends is Cormega, who regrettably spent some time incarcerated during the early Nineties – an experience that faltered the rappers budding career. Cormega’s response is careful to answer each of Nas’ statements and questions and describes what life is really like when you’re locked up.
DJ J-Love Not on my level.. The continuation is a perfect example of good mixtape execution with it’s loyalty to a genre of rap music and lyricism, continuity in the artists featured and the songs played. J-Love doesn’t go too much for the cutting an scratching that other DJs master. Instead he keeps it straight forward but powerful elevating him to that unique level so many other DJs envy.
The Crow – Cappadonna / Method Man / Raekwon
Street Stories – LA the Darkman
It’s Alright – Noriega
Misery needs company – Fat Joe / Noriega
Parental Discretion – Punisher / Busta Rhymes
Knowledge Reigns Supreme – KRS One
Drop it heavy – Showbiz & AG / Punisher / KRS One
Run – Cappadonna
The chase – RZA
Generation EFX – EPMD / Das EFX
Boyz to men – Canibus / Lost Boyz / A+
Black Trump – Raekwon / Smif n Wessun
Watch that – AZ
Rock the body – Cappadonna / Method Man / U God
Work – Gangstarr
Young thugz – LA the Darkman / Masta Killa
That’s how we roll – Punisher
One to love – Cormega
Lick the balls ’98 – Mad Skills
2nd round KO – Canibus / Mike Tyson
Bitches – 2Pac / Greg Nice / Snoop Dogg / Outlaws
Coming Off – Busta Rhymes
What the game made me – Jay-Z / Sauce Money / Memphis Bleek
Lighten Up – Rakim
Veronica – Onyx
They talk about it – Method Man / KRS One / Prodigy