The legend that is Jaz-O dropped a 10-track mixtape-slash-album last week titled The Warm Up and it’s a very enjoyable listen. The Originator has always been one of the all-time Hip-Hop greats but for some reason he’s never been elevated to “G.O.A.T.” status. With a well-documented feud between him and Jay-Z lasting around two decades, along with a couple of name changes, and a lack of mainstream label deals, Jaz-O’s career hasn’t been as successful as (some of) the people he came up with. Thankfully, Jaz gained a distribution deal last year and this release is I assume, a taster of what’s to come.
The Warm Up (sometimes spelled The Warmup) is, like the title suggests, a selection of tracks that showcases Jaz-O’s underappreciated but superlative musical skills. If you don’t already know, Jaz-O raps, sings, and produces music but it’s his eloquent and masterly delivery and flow that always impressed me. Back when the original Roc-A-Fella Clique (Jaz-O, Jay-Z, Sauce Money, and sometimes Tone Hooker) were making music together, they were all highly-skilled rappers but even amongst lyrical perfection, Jaz-O was somehow the most perfect.
This album begins with “Fisher Pricer” which unfortunately contains a low-pitch sample (“Rolling up with a Fisher Prices, toys with the bigger prices”) which I have to say is kinda out-of-style in 2020 but as soon as you hear Jaz-O’s flawless flow, any problems instantly disappear. As the hook suggests, the song is about cars which is an overused and overdone subject in Hip-Hop and under normal circumstances hearing “Aston Martin”, “(Lamborghini) Aventador”, “Maserati”, and “Bugatti” would be very corny but there’s something about Jaz’ delivery and style that makes you forget about the late-90s-early-00s content. The fact that Jaz is one of the pioneers of “player” Hip-Hop, starting this LP with an aesthetic that he helped create is arguably needed and the “Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator ’99)”-referencing lyric (which is now also over two decades old) still holds up… “Fucking BM’s on the road when you had to be in bed in the PM”.
The first track’s hackneyed topic and sound is pretty much the only issue I have with The Warm Up, and from the second song to the last, this album picks up considerably. “High” sports a much better “’70s-in-the-’90s” sound and the “high” sample cleverly replaces the use of that word in each line. The track’s R&B hook also shows that Jaz-O is adept at singing (although he already proved that in “Ain’t No Nigga” and “Free Palestine”).
“In My Sleep” features a more impressive flow with much better production. The song sports a mellow sound and a catchy chorus. There’s also some humourous lyrics including “murder on them buns, honey call me burger”.
The upbeat “Kingz Kounty 4Evva” also contains a ’70s sample. This is a completely infectious track that could easily get into the charts if it was promoted properly.
“Lookin’ Like” features horns and angelic sounds giving a sense of grandeur to the track, and when Jaz-O raps that he’s “the illest you ever saw”, this song is proof.
Next is “M-A-R-See-Why”, a song dedicated to his home; Marcy Projects, Brooklyn. With the line “mama birthed me but you made me”, this is a personal and emotional joint.
“My Reality” is reminiscent of the Zuckhits-produced tracks from The Immobilarie’s Kingz Kounty album and “So-So” is a sexy track containing a chopped, pitch-shifted vocal sample.
“Straight Shot” features the sound of a church organ along with a catchy throwback hook and this is followed by the nostalgic “Yesterday” which brings this album to a close.
The standout joints are “Kingz Kounty 4Evva”, “Lookin’ Like”, “My Reality”, and “Yesterday” which are all highly re-playable. But that being said, even “High” “In My Sleep”, and “Straight Shot” are decent enough to revisit (the only track I keep skipping past is “So-So” which is err… so-so). Had the old-fashioned sounds been replaced with something more modern, this would be a very impressive release but as it stands, there are problems with the production. Given the issues Jaz has had with the mainstream music business however, a throwback sound is welcome since we haven’t heard from him in a long while.
The Warm Up is released on Jaz-O’s Kingz Kounty Media Group imprint but distributed by indie distributor Equity Distribution which is part of Jay-Z-founded Roc Nation. With Jaz-O and Jay-Z seemingly quashing their beef, lets hope that The Jaz aka Big Jaz aka Jaz-O finally makes and releases a classic album that we all know he can. Whatever the issues with this album, it’s nice to hear from The Originator again. One thing is for certain: even after making Hip-Hop for over three decades, Jaz-O’s lyrical and vocal style hasn’t aged one bit.