JJ Spade (politely) introduced himself and this album to me as “a 16 track album which deals with social issues” and “balancing a rap career with a 9-5 job.” His pitch was better than most I get in a chronically overflowing RapReviews inbox, so when he offered to send us a review copy of “Tax Season” I said yes. For some reason that made me flash back to the now obscure Oakland rap group Capital Tax (“THE MASHA”) but considering JJ hails from Mississippi they’re about as far apart culturally as they are chronologically. I believe based on his album’s artwork that his label is called Destined Ta Shine, but there’s no accompanying website or Twitter to go with it. JJ’s on Bandcamp though and in fact the same album he sent us a hard copy of is currently available for free download.
“This commercial got me fiendin for some nachos
My car broke down again – motherfuck these potholes!
I grab my cell phone, put on my headphones
I’m walkin out the do’ and yeah I see this redbone
That right there in those booty pants, you know it’s real
A nigga been hollerin for two weeks tryin to close the deal
Was fin’ to head down Fort or Vacation
But last week crazy niggaz done shot up the gas station
So I’m – walkin down High Street
I’m shufflin OutKast, U.G.K. and some Mobb Deep
I’m mindin my business, I hope these niggaz don’t rob me
It’s funny these white folks thinkin the same thing about me”
“High Street” is a good starting point for Spade. The 5th Child instrumental is a mellow harmonized backdrop that allows JJ to give his slice of life rap, as he ponders whether he’ll make it from local emcee to stadium headliner, confidently asserting “I’m the next to blow/[..] you’ll be bootlegging me out the Texaco” next to rappers like Lil Wayne. If you don’t dream it you can’t achieve it, but he’s also realistic about his current spot in life – he wants a new whip to roll down High Street but “ain’t got no credit to get it” so he’s got a long struggle ahead to achieve his goals. Spade shows he’s got a little talent behind the boards too on songs like “Bring It Back.”
At times Spade reminds me of the Crooked Lettaz album back in late 1990’s – a group I wish had never broken up even though David Banner was clearly destined for greater fame on his own. The same mixture of Southern style swagger and intelligence can be found though, and even though Spade is doing this on a budget it doesn’t show through on songs like the Alumni Beatz produced “Gone In My Zone.” Spade’s frankness is refreshing:
“Uhh, I am not a rapper
I’m just telling life stories, this is just a chapter
Lookin at these niggaz, all of ’em is thinkin backwards
They lookin at me like my mind’s in outer space like NASA
God-given gift but I am far from a pastor
But closer than we both admit of who I’m takin after
I step into the booth you know your boy be beastin
But they tell me ‘Quit dreamin, quit schemin, quit reachin’
‘You are not a rapper if you was you’d be on TV!’
‘Where’s your CD? Where your big booty hoes in the bikinis?’
My shift supposed to end at 6, how long have I been here?
I see my supervisor – is this gon’ be me in 10 years?”
Now Spade is by his own admission far from perfect, so it’s almost hard to pick out flaws, but there are a FEW on “Tax Season.” There’s an unnecessary and annoying “Mista Mane” skit, which precedes an equally unnecessary club song called “Turn Me Up” featuring M.D.O.T.T. and D.O. Dubb. It’s really out of character compared to the rest of Spade’s album. As much as I admire Spade’s uncompromising honesty, there are times on tracks like “4Real4Real” that you start to feel like you’ve heard him tell the same story about “playing the cards they dealt me” a dozen times already. I realize “Nope I’m Not a D Boy” parodies the sound of trap rap songs to make a point, but it makes the song a little less appealing as a result. On the whole though “Tax Season” is a promising introduction from Spade, enough so that I’m a little stunned he’s not charging for it. He needs to know his worth and at least put down a “name your own price” option so people could still download it free if they can’t afford it, but pay if they can.