From the New Museum to the Guggenheim
You can set the time to a J-Live rhyme...
I think J-Live should have been in that Wu-Tang/Nas discussion. But though he was floating around then, he kept having fall outs with his record companies. I never saw this, but word has it that back in the day, dude would rhyme will cutting and mixing. Strictly on some MC shit, I thought he was amazing.
Here he is The Truth off of Handsome Boy Modeling School, a great song that J-Live just murders with a kind of extended justice system metaphor:
The people versus you and your sensei
For teaching that style of wordplay, weaker than Wednesday.
Regardless of what your friends say, you're all dissable
Stricken from the record, and deemed inadmissible.
While this long of the law, grabs the mike ta
Shoot dope rhymes first, and ask questions later
The def sentences of this live litigator
Will close the case tighter than the jaws of gator.
There's a beautiful high-low irony here--employing the metaphor of the justice system and the educated vocabulary of the law, while participating in the culture that has little regard for the justice system and possibly less for organized education. Great MCs use that kind of implicit irony all the time.
One of my favorite examples in when Ghostface, telling the story of a robbery, knocks on a door and the drug-dealer inside answers, "Who goes there?" Rap lyrics, by their very restricted structure, encourage the incorporation of some of the the most seemingly unrelated iconography and vocabulary. But the great MC has no limits--the world is their pallet.
As for J-Live, I've heard very few very few MCs, at least from the East Coast school, who sound more comfortable dispensing the complicated wordplay that that school prizes.