Unfortunately, J-Live flew under a lot of people’s radars. This is in large part due to the shelving of his debut album and not really belonging to a crew or particular scene that blew up. But J-Live plugged away, proud to call himself a hip hop triple-threat: emcee, deejay, and producer.

As he preps his fifth full-length album, J-Live releases this EP as a teaser. It’s a fulfilling six-song collection, with his own production mixed in with the likes of Locsmif and Nicolay. A few of the songs deal with J-Live’s struggle to gain respect in the industry and feeling the frustration of obscurity. (Side note: If you aren’t familiar with J-Live and you want to know what the deal is, you need to check out his stellar performance of “Hush the Crowd.” on the Basement TV DVD where he deejays and emcees at the same time). A few other songs vent frustration with society in general, but encourage the listener to take action.

Lest you think this is a serious downer, let me direct you toward “Fitness,” a track produced by Locsmif and featuring Homeboy Sandman. It will quickly find itself in the middle of my party jams rotation. Not only does it have a great driving beat, but it also features some great lyrical work and trade-offs between Sandman and J-Live. They have chemistry and complementary deliveries. I also have to give some major props to Sandman for dropping an unforced line about Frederico García Lorca. That’s not easy to do.

There are two things on which I do have to take J-Live to task. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but there are a couple of points on the EP where I believe there is an opportunity to interpret his lyrics as homophobic and sexist. I’d like to believe that this isn’t the intent, but I can’t in good conscious not comment on them. The first occurs in “Undivided Attention,” an otherwise great song about being politically active. In the song, though, he drops the line “I ain’t even about some gay pride, but if they fightin’ and dyin’ then why the fuck they gotta hide?” I want to believe this was meant to simply to argue against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I just wish it wasn’t framed in the context of “I’m not gay, but…”

The other point of contention comes in “Calculations,” which contains the line “Man needs woman to live, and woman needs protection for the children and kids.” I want to believe that the sentiment here is how we need more functional families to can stick together, but it’s unfortunate to do so in such a binaristic way. It’s not nearly as bad as what you will hear on many hip hop records, and it’s really a testament to how much the rest of the EP resonates with me that I felt the need to pick apart these two moments.

To highlight some brighter lyrical moments on the record, there is a great role-playing moment on “The Way I Rhyme.” It walks you through a show in which J-Live is performing, and plays out a scene where a guy doesn’t know who he is, but a female fan schools him, and then brushes off his advances. It’s really refreshing. “How I Feel Part 1” will resonate with anybody whose deejayed to a crowd that was too controlling or demanding. It’s the number one reason why I am now the proud owner of a J-Live “Real DJs Don’t Take Requests” t-shirt.

If you already know J-Live, you were probably sold when I said there was a new EP. If you’re new to J-Live, start here and work backward. It’s funky, soulful, smart, challenging and playful. In six songs, J-Live provides something that the majority of artists couldn’t achieve in twelve. What are you waiting for?