With his intelligent, conscious lyrics and soulful grooves, Brooklyn-based rapper, DJ, and producer J-Live rose from the hip-hop underground at the turn of the millennium thanks to acclaimed releases like 2001's The Best Part and its 2002 follow-up, All of the Above. A former middle school language teacher, J-Live carved out a unique and respected recording career throughout the remainder of the 2000s, touring internationally, and continuing his educator role by teaching hip-hop classes and workshops. Also known as Justice Allah after adopting the culture of the 5% Nation, the Harlem-raised artist has founded two independent labels (Triple Threat and Mortier Music) where he has deepened his catalog with albums like 2011's S.P.T.A. (Said Person of That Ability) and 2015's His Own Self.
Born Jean-Jacques Cadet in Spanish Harlem, J-Live first garnered notice with the release of his 1995 single "Longevity" and its B-side, "Bragging Writes." With his strong, confident delivery and soul-inflected grooves, he immediately appealed to fans of underground hip-hop and with subsequent singles started to generate a palpable buzz. With tracks produced by luminaries such as Prince Paul, DJ Premier, and Pete Rock, the impending release of J-Live's full-length debut, The Best Part, was hotly anticipated and originally slated for release by Raw Shack Records, which had handled his first two singles. Over the next several years, however, he was beset by a host of troubles, with various label politics causing his record to get shelved first by Raw Shack and later by Universal-affiliated Payday Records. J-Live's ongoing saga became something of an underground legend, with a handful of high-quality bootlegs appearing and rumors that the artist himself was responsible for them. In the interim, he graduated from SUNY Albany and worked in the late '90s as a middle school teacher, first in Brunswick and later in Brooklyn, all the while continuing to embellish and refine his debut. He kept good company, making cameo appearances with Handsome Boy Modeling School and J. Rawls before finally releasing The Best Part on his own Triple Threat Productions label in 2001.
With his long-delayed debut earning its due acclaim, J-Live's career began in earnest and he wasted little time delivering his follow-up in 2002's critically lauded All of the Above, this time via the Coup d'État label. He compiled his early singles into the 2003 EP, Always Has Been, which was released simultaneously with a companion EP of new material called Always Will Be. J-Live released his third LP, The Hear After, in 2005 on the Penalty (Ryko) label, following up with the Reveal the Secret EP in 2007. Then What Happened? debuted on BBE Records the following year. During this time he continued to collaborate with a variety of different artists and toured heavily in the U.S. and abroad, where his distinctive emcee sets combined his ability to rhyme while accompanying himself as a DJ. He also became involved in leading workshops, classes, and speaking engagements, earning a reputation as a hip-hop teacher.
Following 2011's S.P.T.A., J-Live founded another independent label, Mortier Music, to release future singles and albums like 2014's Around the Sun and his two 2015 albums, How Much Is Water? and His Own Self. He returned in 2018 with the single, "Hating." ~ Timothy Monger & Martin Woodside