Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon. 

J-Zone is like the Charles Oakley of rap. A railroad nail who’s not afraid to get under people’s skin. He’s a lyricist, a producer, a writer, and thrives off living on the other end of glory, constantly challenging himself by going completely against the grain. He’s self-deprecating, sharp with his criticisms and downright hilarious like an old-school uncle with a beer in his hand and a story to tell.

If you’ve heard the name but only vaguely remember the face it might be because he briefly stepped away from rap to take a “real job,” which panned out about the way you’d expect if you’re familiar with his body of work. Nevertheless it did help inspire his first book, Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit and a Celebration of Failure. It was an undertaking written for those who “plan on entering the music business and want to read true accounts of how utterly dysfunctional and useless most of the people in it are.” Pure comedic gold can be found all throughout its pages.

On the musical tip, Peter Pan Syndrome – his first album in seven years – was a big hit especially among those who thought the rap game had gone completely soft, “Gadget Ho” ripping into social media fanatics with Tyson-like ferocity: [LISTEN]

"Gadget Ho"

In addition to a great concept the production gleamed, particularly the live drums. It gave the whole album this rich, organic profile throwing perfect dimes to songs like “Crib Issues:”  [LISTEN]

"Crib Issues"

Rap needs J-Zone now more than ever to remind us that it didn’t always used to be this way. But rest assured he’s not a throwback either. His critiques are still very much in the moment, he just delivers them through battle-tested methods. More than anything he proves that craft is still very much a real thing – just doing work, consistently moving forward, and throwing bows every step of the way. Charles Oakley.

Looking forward, J-Zone divulged over email details of a new project he’s working on with two other artists set to drop in 2015: “I’m the rapper and the drummer for the group, but I’m not producing it. We’re trying to destroy all that nice guy rap assimilation shit and let people know it’s okay to showcase human emotions like anger in your music and address race, class, privilege and other touchy issues while still being funny and entertaining. Our goal is to alienate and lampoon as many people as possible. The word ‘hater’ was created to make us indifferent to bullshit.”

In the meantime there’s always Peter Pan Syndrome, Lunchbreaks (a new album full of breaks laid out by J-Zone himself), and a grip of well written pieces for Ego Trip. J-Zone’s time is now, and he deserves a little love from those tired of the same old rap runaround. Tell it J.