Wednesday, August 30, 2023

J.U.I.C.E. - The Man 2xLP


90s Tapes (2023, Reissue) 

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

This is another 90s Tapes release by an artist I had never heard of prior to this album going up for sale.  Doing some digging, I found out that J.U.I.C.E. was a force on the freestyle battle rap scene in the late 90s.  It's admittedly a scene I don't know very much about as I had kind of moved on from hip hop by that point and was pretty wrapped up in punk and indie rock by then.  Apparently J.U.I.C.E. crossed paths with Eminem as both were working their way up the battle rap circuit and during that battle, J.U.I.C.E. came out on top. 

Their careers took different paths from their, as I'm sure you have figured out.  And again, I never heard of J.U.I.C.E. until this 90s Tapes double LP came to light.  In 1998 J.U.I.C.E. put out a four song cassette EP called The Man.  This double LP takes the demo versions of the songs from that release and adds in a myriad of extra, unreleased tracks from the same era.  While hip hop in the late 90s typically doesn't resonate with me the same way the releases at the beginning of the decade do,  there's a lot to like about these songs.

The production is solid, but maybe not as strong as the early 90s beats that I usually gravitate towards.  The drums, bass lines and samples can be understated at times, but they are still good and have a lot in common with the more backpacker indie rap sounds of the early 2000s.  I can appreciate that style as well.  It's really the lyrics and delivery that makes this album stand out.  J.U.I.C.E. obviously a very gifted MC and he uses his freestyle skills to put together tracks that showcase those talents.  

He has a complicated flow, but not one that's outlandish just for the sake of it.  Some tracks have strong narratives while others have J.U.I.C.E. just throwing down battle rhymes.  It's a good mix and I think it would be difficult for anyone to not walk away impressed by his skills.  I feel like if he had come around five or six years earlier, he probably would have ended up among my very favorites if the production was a little more in line with the sounds of 1992 or 1993.  But that's just my personal bias on hip hop production.

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