New projects from Pac Div and Jones impress listeners

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | April 19, 2018

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CPX INTERACTIVE / CC-BY SA 2.0 

Jim Jones is making a comeback with his new album, Wasted Talent.

As we near summer, more and more music continues to drop. Recently there has been a swell of releases, especially in terms of hip hop. Here are two records that haven’t been getting the coverage they deserve:

Pac Div is a group that is rarely mentioned in the grand pantheon of hip hop. They are a criminally underrated California-based group made up of Like, Mibbs and BeYoung. After taking a six-year hiatus, the group released 1st Baptist, a fun, loud and exciting record.

This is a project filled with experimentation. Each song feels like a blank page, upon which each of the rappers just go off in their own unique ways.

One of the best tracks off this project is “APT 10.” The beat is tough and slow and the verses are crazy, with each rapper choosing a different way to attack the instrumentation.

One thing is consistent between all of them though: Their flows are relentless. The ad-lib in Siri’s voice of “You have ten bad bitches in your apartment” on the chorus is hilarious and works startlingly well. 

Throughout the project, all the production is somehow simultaneously low-key and impressive. On “Time Will Tell,” the beat consists of just a simple sine wave bass and a swelling synth. This works flawlessly, though, fitting the overwhelming braggadocio of the verses.

Another phenomenal track off this project is “Stoked,” which has this earnest chorus that hard not to laugh at. “If it ain’t about guacamole, don’t talk to homie,” is one of the quotable brags on this song.

“Stoked” is a great example of Pac Div’s comedic capability. Recently, some rappers have been taking themselves and their songs too seriously, so it’s great to hear a group that values the fun that hip hop offers — without becoming a parody act. 

On this project, it sounds like every artist has enjoyed writing and loves rapping their verses. This results in a great energy emanating from every song.

Pac Div should also be praised for their ability to switch styles. Every song on this project is completely distinct. Few projects cover as much ground as this one. The song “Gorgeous” sounds like an old Slum Village cut, with a smooth bass-heavy beat and melodic verses and hooks.

“No Fux Given” is a more modern trap-sounding song, complete with tough verses and ad-libs. 

“5 Dolla Bill” is a classic Cali song, with a ringing piano backing, a simple groove, and the iconic Dr.Dre-ish high pitched melody. All three of them run through all of these styles without a hint of disjointedness.

Overall, 1st Baptist is just a technically great album. The rapping is top notch; the production is simple but beautiful; and the chemistry between the members is clear. It is a quick, amusing listen that I can’t stop coming back to.

Jim Jones is one of the most underrated members of the iconic Dipset (also known as the Diplomats) which is a collective formed by Cam’ron and Jones in the late 1990s. 

After years of silence — and a few features — Jones finally returns with his new project: Wasted Talent. Frankly, my expectations for this album were insanely low, and there are a few good reasons for this.

First, Jim Jones’ features in the past few years have just been on boring trap songs, and his verses have done very little to help those tracks. 

Second, there are very few New York rappers from the early 2000s who have been able to transition into modern rap. Artists like Fabolous, Jadakiss and even 50 Cent have tried and failed to adapt their sound.

However, on this project, Jim Jones surprised me. While he does stumble on a few of the tracks, he finds a way to mix his style with newer production.

The best songs on this project are those that are classic Jim Jones: the heavy gangster pieces that are layered with samples and booming kicks. “Catch on Yet (feat Trav)” is a phenomenal introspective song, built on a screwed, eerie singing sample. 

The way the beat cuts in and out is unexpected but fitting. Jones sounds overwhelmingly powerful and introspective. 

“Epitome” is another similar track, with a hype symphonic sample that is supported by a heavy 808 and a tough kick. Jones runs through this track with ease: He switches between classic New York braggadocio and a surprisingly developed thoughtfulness.

This album also provides some great Dipset fan service. On “Diplomatic Immunity,” Jones flips Drake’s song of the same name to bring Cam’ron onto a track. 

Soon after, with “Still Dipset,” Jones crafts a tough self-affirmation track alongside the still sharp Juelz Santana, who sounds just as lively and clever now as he did 10 years ago. 

The final bonus track though, “Once Upon A Time,” blows the other two out of the water. Cam’ron and Jones rap flawlessly over a classic sounding beat — big choral chops over a booming drum break. Both flex with ease. This is exactly the kind of music I want from Dipset — that proud, powerful music that makes you want to wear pink and strut through Harlem.

Unfortunately, not every song on Wasted Talent is great. The duds on this project are extremely, extremely bad and nearly un-listenable even. “Chicken Fried Rice” has this terrible autotune-heavy chorus, that sounds like it was sung by a dying man. 

This problem is even worse in “Head Off” — a song ruined by an absolute lack of pitch awareness. Lil Durk’s chorus is completely off-key. 

I can’t stress how horrific these songs are, and even more frustratingly, how unnecessary. Jones could have easily left off the hooks and left the verses to make an infinitely better product.

Nonetheless, while this project has some major issues, Wasted Talent is a bright showing by one of the most overlooked rappers of the previous era and only brings more attention to the need for a new Dipset project.

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