The Rest Is History

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Jin isn't a standard rapper, and his long-delayed debut album, The Rest Is History, certainly isn't a standard rap album. It seems as though it was intended to be a standard rap album, for commercial reasons, but in the end it's not. You see, Jin is a Ruff Ryder -- that loose network of New York-area rappers who were once red-hot (back when DMX was on fire, back in the late '90s) but were by this point, in late 2004, quite passé (the only still-successful Ruff Ryders, the LOX guys, had long ago distanced themselves from the brand). However, Jin, an especially gifted Chinese-American rapper from Chinatown, isn't your typical Ruff Ryder. He has an amazing command of the English language and is best known for his ability to freestyle; his life experiences, though, are vastly different from his fellow Ruff Ryders, who are mostly all hardcore rappers. Unlike them, Jin doesn't rap about guns, drugs, money, sex, hustling, and all that stuff. He's much more earnest -- an amiable young man with good intentions who has made it this far because of an exceptional work ethic and sheer talent, not because he's down with anyone's posse or because he has a criminal back story à la 50 Cent. Plain and simple, Jin is exceptionally gifted, and that's very apparent throughout The Rest Is History. In fact, Eminem is probably his closest contemporary in terms of comparison -- both are outsiders recognized for their rapping ability, not their street cred. The difference is, Eminem is in sole control of his music while Jin isn't. Throughout The Rest Is History, he's forced into the Ruff Ryder mold, and it's not an ideal fit (he'd fit the Quannum mold much more naturally). Still, there are some songs here that don't feel forced. "Get Your Handz Off" gets the album off to a lively start, "The Come Thru" is a fun collaboration with Twista, "Learn Chinese" is the most personalized song here (and for that reason, the album highlight), and there are trademark contributions from both Just Blaze ("Club Song") and Kanye West ("I Got a Love"). Plus, some of the late-album tracks, the album-closing "Thank You" especially, shine because they're not so commercially molded, allowing Jin to do what he does best -- rap from the heart rather than with a particular style in mind. The Rest Is History showcases Jin's talents at length, but its stilted moments are as plentiful as its impressive ones, if not more so, perhaps explaining why it took the album a year to see the light of day.

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