15 Years Later, J-Live Reflects On His Gripping 9/11 Commentary On “Satisfied”
Today marks the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Within hours 2,996 people lost their lives that tragic day, as a result of four plane hijackings and subsequent crashes in New York, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. For all who lived through it, the events and their impact continue to have effects.
Hip-Hop has its own touchstones to that unforgettable day. Jay Z released The Blueprint, and Fabolous released Ghetto Fabolous—albums that would prove to be escapism for fans, from two artists who grew up within an eye-shot of the forever altered Manhattan skyline.
Another New York Hip-Hop artist, J-Live would prove to have one of the most poignant statements following 9/11. The Brooklyn, New York based MC/DJ/producer released his sophomore album, All Of The Above seven months after the attacks. First single, “Satisfied,” produced by The Jigmastas’ DJ Spinna, was J-Live’s stream of consciousness and honest songwriting, arguably at its absolute best. Independently released, the album is revered in circles of “true school” (a term J-Live helped coin) and Underground Hip-Hop purveyors.
For their “Verse Behavior” series, Watch Loud recently spoke with J-Live about the song. Nearly 15 years later, and why he spit reverberating bars like those of his jarring second verse:
“Hey yo, the air’s still stale
The anthrax got my Ole Earth wearin’ a mask and gloves to get the mail
I know a older guy that lost twelve close peeps on 9-1-1
While you kickin’ up punchlines and puns
Man fuck that shit, this is serious biz
By the time Bush is done, you won’t know what time it is
If it’s war time or jail time, time for promises
And time to figure out where the enemy is
The same devils that you used to love to hate
They got you so gassed and shook now, you scared to debate
The same ones that traded books for guns
Smuggled drugs for funds
And had fun lettin’ off forty-one
But now it’s all about NYPD caps
And Pentagon bumper stickers
But yo, you still a nigga
It ain’t right them cops and them firemen died
The shit is real tragic, but it damn sure ain’t magic
It won’t make the brutality disappear
It won’t pull equality from behind your ear
It won’t make a difference in a two-party country
If the president cheats, to win another four years
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s no place I’d rather be
The grass ain’t greener on the other genocide
But tell Huey Freeman don’t forget to cut the lawn
And uproot the weeds
‘Cause I’m not satisfied.”
“The thing about it was I was hearing a bunch of raps kind of trivializing things. ‘Knock you down like the Twin Towers’ and bullshit like that. I remember whose line it was, but I won’t say it [now] because they’re a friend of mine,” admits Justice. “But I was like, ‘Nah, that’s not what Hip-Hop is for. This is too big for that. Plus, everything in the song was true. This brother of mine lost six people. This girl [I knew] turned down a job that would have had her right there on the top floor. She got twins. It don’t get no closer to home [than] that.”
He also breaks down the “Huey Freeman” reference, made years before The Boondocks moved from comic strip to television. “I remember having lunch with [Boondocks creator] Aaron McGruder through [Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival creator] Wes Jackson a couple of months before 9/11,” explains J. I was a big fan of the comic strip, this was before the show. I remember totally understanding why the comic was the way it was, how he feels about race in this country. He was definitely speaking through Huey. Hip-Hop is Gangstalicious now.”
Elsewhere in the Watch Loud feature, J-Live breaks down his personal frustrations with Donald Trump and then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for their impact on events after 9/11, into today. He speaks about the value of dissent in America, and his songs dealing with police brutality in the 2000s, years before Black Lives Matter.
Last year, J-Live released How Much Is Water. Since 2002, he has worked with Kool Keith, R.A. The Rugged Man, and Oddisee, among others.