If sanity in hip-hop is sexy, then J-Live might fuck around and become Denzel. The New York underground fixture's fifth indie release, Then What Happened?, is a consistent collection of songs that promote common-man sensibilities and simple humanity — traits often absent in hip-hop these days. J's strength is his conversational rhyme style. He raps like he talks. On "Ole," he spits rhymes about watching a ho-hum OnDemand movie and still manages to be lyrically superior to 95 percent of the rap on radio stations today. "The Understanding" and "OohWee" offer more of the same. In fact, the project stays in this common-dude lane for too long. It's a good formula, but it has limitations. Most songs follow the same verse-hook-verse pattern. That gets old. Too bad, because Then What Happened? is a solid album that falls victim to the freshness going stale. Synopsis: It could have been two songs shorter, but given rap's current climate, the 13 tracks here are refreshing, if only for a couple of weeks or so.
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