Jeff Spec :: Rhythm and Blues :: Avery Records
as reviewed by Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez

Jeff Spec is much like the hard-working but unspectacular veterans that provide the backbone for many baseball teams. Guys like Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley don't generate the superstar buzz other players garner, but they do their jobs well and have definitely earned their spot on the roster. Jeff Spec's lyrical skills are good but overall unimpressive. He does his job well, and there is a place for him in the rap game, but based on the material found on "Rhythm and Blues" he'll never reach superstar status.

The production on "Rhythm and Blues" also dwells in the unspectacular. Handled mostly by Jeff Spec and a producer named Sweet G., the beats remain consistently good throughout. The only complaint with the beats is the fact that sample-wise, a few are not original. "Learn Ya" recycles a very familiar horn loop on what is an overall unenergetic track. "In The Air" uses a Phil Collins sample which has been used by both DMX and Beanie Siegel before. "It's Only Right" also straight jacks a sample used on another song before. I'm not saying Jeff Spec or his crew are biting other styles, and they have a right to reinterpret or reuse samples, but in this case the originals far outshine the remakes. Outside of this small misstep the rest of the production is on point throughout. "Who Am I" flips vocal and guitar samples sweetly and adds thump with a resounding bass line. "Rhythm and Blues" is a reggae influenced joint that sounds like something Damien Marley would rock over. "My World" meshes piano keys, electric guitars, and vocal samples to infuse the track with emotion.

Lyrically, the album is on point but not outstanding. Jeff Spec's style is very straightforward, meaning he focuses on delivering his lyrics and doesn't use his voice to add to the effect. Plenty of emcees have gotten by with little to no emotion in their flows, but with everyone from Jay-Z to Rick Ross recognizing that the voice is also an instrument the lack of feeling in Jeff Spec's voice does stand out. Conceptually, Jeff Spec stays focused on a mix of personal narratives and battle raps to form the backbone of his songs. The album's opening track, "Learn Ya," is the perfect example as Spec puts new jacks in their place but still manages to blend elements from personal experience into his raps. "All In Together" finds Jeff Spec expressing the passion and drive that fuels his career and love for the game. Spec gets extra personal on "My Thoughts" where he touches on his childhood, amongst other things:

"I put my pain on so I could climb up out it
I'm no clown or coward
Never put myself in no drama so I could rhyme about it
Create nothing or lie about it
It's all real life, speak out my heart, but it's a higher power
But I ain't seeking approval
I don't need you to like me
But these words that I'm speaking could move you
Look deeper into you, let me speak my mind
My story rhymes hysterically for me
Only thing that lets me show emotion
Put my thoughts down, my face never show em
And select few of those that know em
Grew up more close than open
Rock clothes with holes in em
Raised by only moms, age three home was broken
Can't let it go unspoken, had to straighten my face
Watched pops move away to the states
So this music was my way to escape
I'd be by myself playing tapes
Or either writing or laying awake"

Jeff Spec is actually at his best when he gets personal with his rhymes because the personal details of his life help to give him a unique identity.

By no means could Jeff Spec ever be described as a bad rapper. By the same token, the best adjective that could be used to praise him would be calling him good. "Rhythm and Blues" is a decent release that showcases a man that is obviously passionate about his art and takes it very seriously. But good intentions aside, there is nothing about Spec that makes him recommendable over the next guy. Surely enough fans will have a personal preference to root for Jeff Spec, but that's a choice you'll have to make for yourself.

Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10

Originally posted: May 2, 2006