J-Zone

Presents a Bottle of Whup Ass

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On the cover of J-Zone's second album (billed as an EP but running well over 30 minutes), there is a picture of a 40-ounce of malt liquor. On the bottle's label is an elderly woman smoking what appears to be a joint and brandishing a baseball bat that she seems fully prepared to use. That woman, it turns out, is J-Zone's grandma. Open up the booklet and she's flipping the world the bird. It's too comical to be threatening, but, indeed, it sets precisely the appropriate tone: Presents a Bottle of Whup Ass packs a mighty wallop, even if you're laughing too uncontrollably at the sick imagery throughout to realize just how brilliantly warped the album really is. As fine as its predecessor frequently was, the more focused yet unrestrained Whup Ass is better in every way; better in fact than pretty much everything else that came out of the rap world, mainstream and underground alike, in 2000. It is a bugged-out, nonconformist's delight that, well, whups some serious musical booty. This is indie rap -- and J-Zone confesses to eating at Red Lobster and driving a crappy car, just like he admitted to picking up all his gear at TJ Maxx on Music for Tu Madre -- but his production is always fresh and original, a long way from the dreary, low-rent beats of the underground. And he and his supporting cast of MCs, trimmed down to just Al-Shid and Huggy Bear this time around, are too busy tripping up egos to go ego-tripping. They take off on the odd flight of fantasy but there is absolutely no fronting, no fa├žades, and no fictionalizations: no thugged-out, jiggy nonsense within earshot, just punchline after hilarious punchline rocked with brutal honesty, as well as the funniest between-song skits since De La Soul Is Dead or Black Sheep's A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. They are certainly unafraid to (ahem) come off as uncool, as one listen to the wet-under-the-covers "Nocturnal Emission" makes abundantly clear. In a sense, the album is an abbreviated test-run for the subsequent full-length Pimps Don't Pay Taxes, which even borrowed "No Consequences" and "190" from Whup Ass. Still, this is too choice to pass up if you come across it.

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