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REVIEW: J-Zone – ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ Album

Rapper, producer, and professional curmudgeon J-Zone explores growing old not so gracefully on his new ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ album and our own Andrew Martin (@Andrew_J_Martin) gives a personal take on the project. 

At the age of 28, I realize I’m not old by any means. The World Health Organization, as of 2011, lists that I should live to reach 76 years old, which means I’m several years removed from my ability to have a “third-life crisis” or any nonsense like that. Yet, I maintain the fact that I’m a salty bastard who often can’t deal with the menial bullsh-t that I feel plagues our culture. That’s where rapper/producer J-Zone and his new album, ‘Peter Pan Syndrome,’ enter the equation. While I, as a white suburbanite, can’t directly relate to the record’s gentrification-related woes, I am more than well acquainted with his comments on technology and society at large.

This topic, among others, is addressed with straight-for-the-throat humor and blank-faced middle finger raps—a combination that works greatly to J-Zone’s advantage. He might come across as bitter or grumpy to some, but most will be pulled in by his easily relatable lines about dudes being caught in the friend zone and women who’d rather pose for photos at the club than actually dance. Beyond his unparalleled wit, J-Zone possesses a great “rapper voice” that holds your attention along with perfectly dusty production.

Many of the instrumentals are driven by and lean on his own skills on the drum kit, which he acknowledges on another highlight, ‘Hog Slop’: “Fuck rap i went and learned to play the drums.” This musical deftness allows J-Zone to have total control over every aspect of the album, with the same going for his guest features (Has-Lo, Celph Titled, and others). He even provides his own features under names like Chief Chinchilla (an iced-out goofball who happens to be a rodent) and Swagmaster Bacon (your standard trap rapper who loves pork).

The album is presented in the tradition of Prince Paul’s finest work, including his 1999 classic ‘A Prince Among Thieves’ and De La Soul’s ’3 Feet High and Rising.’ This means that, yes, there is a concept tying together the 22 tracks on here and, yes, there are plenty of hilarious skits, oddball characters, and scathing critiques on everything in J-Zone’s sights. In the case of ‘Peter Pan Syndrome,’ no one is necessarily safe from his scope. This includes soft R&B singers (‘Black Weirdo’), those down with gentrification (‘Trespasser’), those against interracial dating (‘Miscegenation On Ya Station!’), and superficial men and women (‘Gadget Ho’). Basically, if you have figured out a way to annoy J-Zone over the years, you’re getting aired out on here.

‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ arrived following several-year-long sabbatical from rap music for J-Zone that started after 2007′s ‘To Love a Hooker.’ Fed up with the industry and its nonsense, his original plan was retirement so he could work on other endeavors and express his frustrations outside of the studio. This led to the release of an acclaimed book on hip-hop, ‘Root for the Villain,’ and a slow-moving return to music. It kicked off with a superbly filthy single in 2012, ‘The Drug Song,’ and continues now with fantastic ‘Peter Pan Syndrome.’ Here’s hoping J-Zone never grows up.

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