Lil' J

All About J

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Arriving quickly on the heels of Lil' Bow Wow's and Lil' Romeo's commercial success in the rap game, Lil' J couldn't help but appear as an imitator. It happened when Kris Kross first broke through and had been happening for decades in the pop world -- with one teen success comes a wave of imitators. Yet it's a disservice to call Lil' J an imitator, even if that's ultimately what he is in the eyes of the public and his record label. The kid has skills. That's the bottom line and what you'll realize if you actually give his debut album a chance. He may be barely a teen but he sure can rap, and while his subject matter usually sticks to juvenilia, that's partly the beauty of it. If the rap game is short on anything, it's innocence and good-hearted fun. This is exactly what Lil' J brings to the table, particularly on songs like the lead single "It's the Weekend." What makes All About J even better, however, is the plethora of talented producers. You get Clark Kent and L.E.S. representing N.Y.C., Jermaine Dupri representing the Southern sound, and L.T. Hutton bringing a little West Coast flavor to the album -- essentially the sort of variety Lil' J needs if he hopes to cross over from coast to coast and everywhere in between. Of course, with any teen rapper, you really can't expect too much lyrical virtuosity or much naughtiness -- two of rap's best qualities -- but the innocence is a nice change of pace. So even if Lil' J isn't quite on par with Lil' Bow Wow and even if he can't help but seem to be riding on Bow Wow's coattails, Lil' J is definitely worth investigating if you enjoy the Will Smith-style of PG-rated rap.

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