As previously reported on some site you might’ve heard of, after selling a mere 47 copies of his last album J-Zone has decided to quit his career as a recording artist. What was once born of passion became a burden that he no longer felt like shouldering. And seeing how he has always been fairly successful as a writer, didn’t need to. Now back on the daily grind with the rest of us 9-5ers, he looks back at what he loved, what he hated and how a retired underground sensation fits in among the working stiffs.
In one word: hilarious. Zone doesn’t actually fit in anywhere and revels in his role as an outsider. He’s a man out of another world on the office floor, a man out of another time in this day and age and people have a hard time figuring out what race he is, which puts the idea of ‘post-racial America’ firmly to rest. He laments the disappearance of his favorite hunting grounds as a crate digger, New Yorkers who turn so insular in their boroughs they don’t recognize anything a mile away from a train line and those in his social circles who force him to pay an increased phone bill by unnecessarily texting him. The same humor that crafted his over-the-top persona on record is turned towards even more self-deprecating stories in his writing. J-Zone often sounds like the hip-hop equivalent of the cantankerous old man. Imagine Dennis the Menace, his neighbor, as a b-boy and you’re halfway there.
It’s not hard to see a bit of his grandmother’s personality–an elderly woman nicknamed ‘Evil E’ that he lives with and has taken care of for the past decade–rubbing off on him. The schtick could easily turn grating after a while but thankfully it never does, because as overblown as some rants and generalizations are while aiming for laughs, that aim maintains steadier than that of ya average JFK-sniper and throughout the book always holds genuine emotions and convincing arguments at its core. And besides all that, his well-honed pen game is sharper than ever.
While the book is a collection of separate essays grouped together into three sections, it’s not hard to discover a central theme: failure. Not only does J-Zone find humor in his failure and uses that to cope with life, he actually celebrates his failure as the shadow to his successes. The risks he has taken in his career may not have paid off much in a monetary sense but have granted him opportunities and experiences whose worth can’t be expressed in ducates. The stories of pressing his first albums and touring overseas contain a palpable joy and make it easy to understand why he wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on any of it. Success can only exist by the grace of failure, he seems to be saying, so don’t be afraid to give your passion a shot. There’s never as much to loose as you think there is; in fact, there’s so much to gain.
Just be ready to turn into one frugal muhfugga when it backfires.