J-Live Details Making A Pete Rock-Produced Gem From The Best Part

In 2001, J-Live released his debut album, The Best Part. The LP, originally intended for release at Payday/London Records, was among a group of projects halted after the label experienced a merger and distribution. “We ended up having to redo a lot of stuff. They used to call it ‘The greatest record never heard,'” J-Live recently told Ambrosia For Heads over the phone. Upon some bootlegging and its eventual proper release, Heads heard a hungry New Yorker with a passion for lyricism over production by Prince Paul, DJ Premier, DJ Spinna, 88-Keys, and others. “When I revamped [the album] and put it out myself, it was the end of the beginning, so to speak.”

“Kick It To The Beat,” a collaboration with Asheru and Probe.dms, was part of that revamp. It is currently the first song on the Ambrosia For Heads throwback playlist (follow here). The guest MCs were deliberate choices. “That song takes me back to hanging out with [Probe.dms] in Harlem, and obviously touring with Asheru through 7 Heads for all of those years [which was] his label and my management for all those years. We did a lot of work together at home and abroad, from the [D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area] to overseas.” In addition to touring, J-Live and Asheru collaborated frequently during the early 2000s. “When I came up with the concept to [‘Kick It To The Beat’], I figured it would be dope to get more than one perspective on it.”

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“When I heard their verses, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is perfect; this is exactly what I’m looking for.’ I had each of them do the hook. It just came together really well; it was definitely one of them organic songs,” J-Live says. “In this [current] era, a lot of times there’s so many people that you wanna collaborate with. But you end up doin’ it online, ’cause you might be in different cities and what have you. These were like actual running buddies that I’d see on a regular basis, so it was cool to do it like that.” J says that the song was recorded in a major Midtown Manhattan studio, one of several used for The Best Part sessions.

The song was produced by a legend. “To have it be over a Pete Rock beat was only the icing on the cake.” Pete’s brother and InI collaborator Grap Luva, also produced multiple songs on The Best Part. Grap, another 7 Heads affiliate, had presented a tape of Pete beats with his brother’s permission to J-Live. “Later on, when it was solidified that we’d would work together, Pete came by the studio. It was dope. I went down and listened to joints in his truck and was obviously blown away. But by then, I was stuck on what would become ‘Kick It To The Beat.’ And that was actually off of Grap Luva’s tape. It was kind of like ‘demo love’ as it were. I’d already picked a beat I wanted before hearing the other stuff, and the other stuff was amazing too.”

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Picked midway. Midtown Manhattan. CVees.

Probe, a triple-threat MC/producer/DJ like J-Live, also produced “Get The 3rd,” and remained in J-Live’s creative orbit as a mixer for subsequent albums.

J-Live also revealed that he has a recorded a live rendition of 2002’s All Of The Above, his sophomore album, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The triple-threat enlisted a seven-piece South African band for the concert. “It was dope because a good friend of mine—DJ Kenzhero—was the promoter that first brought me out there. I’ve been going out there since like 2006; it was my fourth time when we did this record. He has a really dope Jazz restaurant with like a speakeasy downstairs [with] a beautiful performance area. He puts on a lot of events. I felt like because of the Jazz/art motif and just the vibes of the place, it would be a good setting to do a record like All Of The Above with the homage to [John Coltrane’s Blue Train] on the cover. It’s just a really, really jazzy record.” With an intimate setting, J-Live considers the recording a great success, and looks forward to its upcoming release.

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The AFH Throwback Playlist (follow here) also features classic songs by Madvillain, Mountain Brothers, Prodigy, Ghosttface Killah, dead prez, Little Brother, and many more.

#BonusBeat: This month, J-Live released a new single, “Lose No Time”:

Press photo provided by J-Live