Big Jaz, aka Jaz-O, is widely known as the man responsible for bringing Jay-Z in to the game when he dropped “Hawaiian Sophie”, way back in 89 which guest-starred a young Shawn Carter dancing around in a Hawaiian-print shirt for the video. But the professional relationship goes back even further to 1986 when Big Jaz and Jay-Z formed a very short lived act called HP “High Potent.” They released a song called “HP Gets Busy” which considering the year (86) Jaz and Jay display shockingly advanced lyrical abilities when compared to other acts of that time period. That particular track is in my opinion far more advanced than the later recorded track “Hawaiian Sophie” which (probably due to label marketing) appeared to come off as a little too much like “The Fresh Prince.”
Fast forward a few years and one rapper would become a multi-platinum selling artist, while the other would be….well, not quite so successful. All the elements present for a personal beef would inevitably follow. But if you heard the story at the time it unfolded you would know that Jaz had legitimate reasons for coming after Jay. I’m not going to go in to detail here as it’s been covered in depth elsewhere. But I will start with the first single from Jaz’s album “Let’s Go” which started the whole rift between the two. During the filming for the video of “Let’s Go,” when Jaz got understandably pissed at Jay for not showing up to feature his verse in the song. The rest is history.
Now on to the album, which I must point out early on, got a mixed bag of reviews when it first dropped. You either love it or hate it. Me?…I love it. Production wise, this is one of the most experimental albums of the the last decade. Some of the beats range from straight Preemo standard hip hop, to interesting musical arrangements, to straight up bonkerz! This album has something for everybody and you can pull a track out to suit every occasion or mood. It may not be a spectacular CD by pure hip hop standards, but it has moments were it really shines. “I Do” is a decent track with a nice beat and solid lyrical contributions from both Jaz and Dibiase, who is the best lyricist in the Immobilarie clique… in fact, his skills by far surpass those of his Immobilarie comrades, Jaz-O excluded. “Let’s Go” has been described as run-of-the-mill track by some but it’s actually one of my personal favourites with it’s extremely catch hook and up tempo beat.
“Love Is Gone” is a DJ Premier-produced track about when “best friends become strangers”. One might think that this track is directed at Jay-Z, but being that the beef didn’t really start until after the full album was released, makes that assumption questionable.
Regardless, the beat is nice and the lyrics well-written, blending well with the Preemo backdrop.
Another good track is “Diaries”, which samples from Jay-Z’s “Izzo”. The song takes us down memory lane with Jaz & Dibiase talking about their times growing up in Marcy Projects in New York, and coming up in the hip-hop game. Well placed samples and a beat that changes tempo from time to time make this one of my favorite jams on the album.
Dibiase’s lyrics really add some entertainment value to the album.
On “Take Me Papi”, he flashes a little wit about the intellect of the women he seems to run into…
“Diabase, layin’ my game on strong/
she’s like ‘dia-ba-see’, sayin’ my name all wrong”
And on “I Do“, he brags to us a little…
“It’s like 30 g’s a verse, they pay me for spewin’/
My label calls me Shaq, they wouldn’t trade me for Ewing/
You know them guys, who flow N.Y./
Nicknamed ‘Sony’ ’cause I’m so N.Y.”
Not only can they make you crack a smile at times, but Immobilarie’s “Heron & Crack (Just Say No)” promotes an anti-heroine & anti-crack cocaine message (I’d say anti-drug, but they seem to promote smoking bud)… not only is it a positive message, but they describe the kind of damage that the drugs can do to the person, the family, and the friends involved… not something I expected when I bought the album.
[youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K4Gx93SMy0″ width=”800″ height=”600″]
But my favorite track on the CD is “Deadly”, which has one of the sickest beats I’ve heard (produced by Jaz-O himself). Not only that, but he gets a little political at the end, expressing his displeasure at a certain ex-President’s migration to New York:
“Throw meals to the poor/
Throw bills to the board/
Who in Harlem? Throw Bill to the dogs/
Don’t need no friends, don’t need your favors/
Love ain’t a feeling, love’s a behavior/
You know that’s right, you ain’t gon’ act right/
You brown-nose, then you back-bite”
I get the feeling that if Jaz wasn’t trying for commercial success, he might have a little more political and social commentary on this LP.
Other tracks worth a listen are “Pledge Allegiance”, which features Brownsville’s finest, M.O.P., and the pride of Carson, California, Ras Kass. “718”, another Primo-laced track, contains yet another nice beat, which seems to be the strength of this album.
Overall, there’s something to be said for Jaz. A resilient figure in a fickle hip hop industry. Some of the lyrics may be a little played out, especially when he gets on the whole consumerist tip, placing far too much emphasis on money, fame and designer label’s, but his unmistakable rhyming ability masks any hint of lyrical slackness, plus the beats on this album alone make it worthy of 4-stars. This album is a straight banger that definitely deserves it’s place in the category of most slept on albums.