Review : J. Stalin - Prenuptial Agreement
PitchforkJovan Smith was a child of the crack-blighted urban 1980s, born in the Cypress Village housing projects of Oakland in 1983. His family was profoundly impacted by crack's tragic presence, from his older brother's death to his mother's decades-long addiction and his own drug-related conviction. These facts aren't intended to push his "authenticity" or to reduce him to the product of outside influences. Stalin is, importantly, an MC whose vocals bleed the earned confidence of a man for whom insecurity is an impediment to survival. Vibrant and exploding with personality, J. Stalin is a knowing, mischievous wise-ass whose charisma hangs between unapologetic cockiness and the ability to cut through rap's fantasy-addled drug fetishism and provide sobering reality.
His poignant backstory does explain how seriously Stalin takes this subject matter, particularly because his attitude could otherwise be perceived as arrogance. As a rapper, J. Stalin is not particularly concerned with wordplay, preferring directness; his verses are to the point and uncluttered. The Prenuptial Agreement's primary missteps come from poorly conceived hooks and beats (the unfortunate waste of an E-40 cameo, "Get Off Me", in particular). At its best, which is an impressive bulk of a 22-song running time, J. Stalin is a boisterous "Neighborhood Star" whose uninhibited exuberance is as effective at capturing the tragic heart of urban drug culture as he is just spitting game to the girl he met on the block. He epitomizes an all-too-rare characteristic in street rap: an ability to entertain without trivializing the significance of the tragic underpinnings that give his songs their power....full text
HiphopdxScouted by 2Pac collaborators DJ Daryl and Richie Rich, J. Stalin has experienced commendable success over the past four years. Nominated for the 2006 B.A.R.S. Awards’ Best New Artist category and granted the San Francisco Chronicle’s 2008 Bay Area Album Of The Year award for Gas Nation, Stalin has been crowned by Bay Area legends E-40 and Too Short as the next big thing out of the Bay. Considering himself as a blend between Messy Marv and TQ, the West Oakland native, born Jovan Smith, has modeled his persona after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, due to their common initials, short stature, and tough disposition. Forever married to the block, Prenuptial Agreement provides a 22-track vignette of Stalin’s relationship with his 10th Street dwelling within the Cypress Village housing projects.
While the creation of Gas Nation was due to a promotional opportunity, facilitated by hasty arrangement of previously recorded tracks, J. Stalin painstakingly took the time to work out every detail in his Prenuptial Agreement. With nearly as many guest appearances as one of Stalin’s Livewire compilations, the album benefits from the assistance by both regular guests such as The Jacka and his Livewire and Town Thizzness affiliates as well as high-profile studio album first appearances by cosigners E-40 and Too Short, Explosive Mode collaborators Messy Marv and San Quinn, and Glasses Malone. ...full text
ItunesRepresenting for West Oakland, J-Stalin got his first big break appearing on Richie Rich's 2002 release Nixon, Pryor, Roundtree. Since then, he has been grinding non-stop, working with pretty much everybody in the local scene, including E-40, the Team, Keak Da Sneek, and San Quinn. He's dropped well over a dozen albums and mixtapes, both as a solo artist and with his crew Livewire Da Gang. Prenuptual Agreement, his seventh LP, is another solid collection of street-savvy rhymes set to thunderous beats and high octane synth work. Lyrically he sticks to what he knows; the projects, the drug game, handling his business with the ladies, etc, over the course of 22 tracks perfect for the sideshow or after-hours club. Whether mellow love jams ("Get Me Off," "Last Night") or rowdy anthems ("Stop My Shine," "H.N.I.C."), Stalin continues to impress. Also worth a listen: the horn-laced "Self Made Millionaire" and ominous crime story "Red and Blue Lights."...full text
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