Long Island-born, Brooklyn-based DJ/producer/emcee J57 is probably best known among hip-hop heads as a member of the Brown Bag All-Stars, one of the more prolific and underrated crews in contemporary hip-hop. And over the last couple of years in particular, J57 has received attention and critical praise for a production style that channels the sound of hip-hop’s golden age — i.e., big, boom bap beats, heavy synth-based orchestration paired with ridiculously tight, catchy hooks. As a result of being mentored by the legendary DJ Premier, the Brooklyn-based producer, DJ and emcee has assisted Premier on production work with the likes of Nas, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. And naturally, those contributions have directly led to collaborations with Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Method Man, Raekwon, Mack Wilds, The Roots and others; in fact, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past few months, you’d likely remember that J57 produced “The Purple Tape” off Method Man’s recently released The Meth Lab.
Also, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past couple of years you’d also be familiar with local emcee Koncept, who like the aforementioned J57 is a member of Brown Bag All-Stars. Over the past few years, there have been few emcees who have been as productive, prolific and consistent as Koncept, who has released a number of impressive singles and albums. Of course because of their connection in Brown Bag All-Stars, it shouldn’t be surprising that J57 and Koncept have been frequent collaborators, including for Koncept’s forthcoming EP The Fuel, slated for a November 20 release.
EP title track “The Fuel” featuring guest vocals by Akie Bermiss features Koncept dexterously rhyming about having the desire and determination to succeed in even the most difficult of situations, including desperate, hand-to-mouth poverty, working soul-crushing jobs with you dignity and sense of self intact. And he does so over a soulful production that features soaring organ chords, Akie Bermiss’s earnest vocals, and boom-bap drums. It’s conscious and thoughtful hip-hop based around deeply personal experiences and hard-fought wisdom — and it clearly draws from hip-hop’s glory days, when a song like “The Fuel” would dominate even mainstream radio. But no worry, real hip-hop featuring emcees actually saying something important over dope production is still alive and well; sadly, we all have to make more of a concerted effort to find it and support it.