Mixtape Review

Y-Jay & Fame

When Gr8 Minds Collide

8th ElemEnt. Records / 2011

by Andrew C. Schlett

 Continuing with this rather unexpected but enjoyable diversion by your intrepid reporter (me) into the previously unexplored (or more honestly, ignored) arena of music that is known as hip-hop, today we take up another of the three discs that were dropped at the mad-bash 8th ElemEnt Release Party last April 8th at the Summit Music Hall in Denver.   This disc is When Gr8 Minds Collide by Young Jay and Fame.  8th ElemEnt, April 8th, Gr8 Minds, and there are eight songs on this disc.  Surprised?  Don’t be.  It’s all about the 8.  The 8th ElemEnt clan is tight, yo!

Y-Jay & Fame are two young men with a vision: that of themselves at the top of the hip-hop scene, not only here in D-Town but across the nation and the entire world as well.  This is pointed out quite clearly to the listener at the very outset; the disc starts with an audio excerpt from a college professor lecturing about the composition and classification of stars, and then the beat-box kicks in, the rhythm comes up, the music fills out and brings the boys to a similarly lyrical analysis of stars, albeit ones of hip-hop.  The rap and rhyme flows smooth; you can tell that these two have spent many hours bouncing raps back and forth, practicing off of each other to hone their skills and ending up with a tight duo act and a very appealing product for the hip-hop market.

Also obvious early into the disc is the genuine appreciation that Y-Jay and Fame hold towards all those involved in their eventual, inevitable rise to the top.  The song “Incomplete” opens with shouts-out to all the people who have shown support for all the 8th ElemEnt crew, and for everybody who is on their side.  Families, friends, their moms, their friend’s moms, everybody is nodded to in this song, over the smoothest rhyming and dopest beat that keeps even me bopping in my chair as I write up this review.

The fourth song, “Fit 4 Me” really stands out for its tight, well-constructed lyrical flow and the fly-ass music backing it, and the inherent attitude of presumed class, which is in this case legitimate, that accompanies most hip-hop.  They acknowledge their creds as reformed street thugs and the outlet that their music careers have provided. ‘8th ElemEnt / not irrelevant / hottest crew in Denver / makin’ moves and I’m reppin’ it’/ Y-Jay through the mic to your eardrum / musically shocked by my lyrics and my slick tongue.’  Music can set you free, boys.  You’re on the way!  If you could have one last wish / fit 4 a G, fit 4… me!

“Hard Feelings” also busts with a tightness and solid beat that carries you along even as if the words were a mountain stream that you could whitewater raft in a kayak.  Lots of credit must be given here not only to the artists, but also to the production and mastering guy, Jesse O’Brien.  Really, I get the feeling that if you listened to Y-Jay and Fame swapping rhymes a-capella over your kitchen table, you’d probably enjoy it.  To hear them with the full benefit and advantage of a professional studio and professional mixing really enhances the raw, but very real, talent that these two young men have.

My favorite song on the disc probably has to be “4 A.M.”  It’s a mellow, slow rhythm and beat over a mellow, slow rap flow that reflects, pretty damned accurately, what it’s like to stay up all night, to work hard and party hard as well, trying to meet deadlines, get songs written, be hammered, blunted and bleary-eyed but still producing, still driven to work hard because to let up is to slip up.  ‘Much greater than Alexander was great / who would have thought of a Fame and Jay mix tape? / Awake at 4, trying to get the shit done / tryin’ to find fans and we’re grateful for each one!’  Seriously, y’all.  Talk about a good attitude and a good work ethic!  Who says the youth culture of today is lost?  Oh wait.  I may have said that once or twice.  Or a few thousand times.  But it doesn’t apply in this case.  Young Jay and Fame are both only 18 years old, but they comport themselves with an unexpected maturity in both their music and their stage performance, which I was happy to be in time to check out on the night of the album release party.  These kids get it.  They understand what will be required of them to succeed, and they also understand their obstacles.  They write, they rap, and they don’t let the haters give ‘em no flap.  A little AndrewC freestyle for ya there.  Dig it, yo!  (I suck.)

The next track, “One Nation”, is a musical homage to 8th ElemEnt so sincere that if the label were its own country, this could be its national anthem.  All of the artists in the 8th ElemEnt posse are singled out for reference.  NexKin, Mr. Poedic, Bogs 1, Killer Kemist, and several others are spotlighted in these lyrics.  As a side note here, all of this material, by all of these artists, is available at the website which has been recently upgraded, by the way, and is pretty nice.  They describe the 8th ElemEnt family as ‘One nation under G’, referencing not God but instead G. Ficca, the founder and real force behind the 8th ElemEnt label, and the entire family is well represented in this song.

The disc closes with ‘A Short Goodbye’, another very smooth crystal-clear vocal composition referencing life, youth, growing up in a single-parent family on the mean streets of the Denver urban ‘hoods, gang activities, and the salvation from that life that hip-hop music offers.  ‘The future opens up and the rest goes by / the going gets tougher but you continue to try / yesterday was yesterday so make it / a short goodbye.’ 

Setting aside and moving beyond the drags and constrictions of the past, opening up to the real possibilities of a level of success that previously had only been a pipe dream, this is the real theme of this debut come-out CD as a whole.  These two young men see themselves already as a success; they are just working hard and waiting for the rest of the world to figure that out as well. 

8th ElemEnt sees the success in them.  So do their fans.  For that matter, so the hell do I.  If Y-Jay and Fame can gain any sort of exposure from this record, any sort of distribution and more widespread notice, they will be on their way to a place that is still, to them, a pipe dream right now.  Hey youngsters, try to remember that your CD was a pipe dream once too.  One step leads to another, and the world belongs to you, not the other way around.  It ain’t easy, nothing’s given to you, and you ain’t entitled to nothing but the air that you breathe.  What you have is what you can get.  And that’s not just for Y-Jay & Fame; that applies to us all. 

Who says hip-hop is not accessible to the common man?  When Gr8 Minds Collide is called a ‘mix tape’, which somehow must be different from an EP.  It is a pretty damned good mix tape, though.  If I’m going to start a small hip-hop library on my CD shelf, this is certainly one to start with!  I look forward to their next release, and hope to get reviews of some more 8th ElemEnt material fairly soon.  All dem playas are pimps!