After what seems like an eternity, fans of MC Jin, one of underground hip-hop’s living legends, are finally being gifted more of his original music. What’s more incredible is he’s offering the full-length album completely free of charge. What’s better than an artist who just owns his craft gifting people the results of their creativity? Make no mistake, “Nobody’s Listening” is most certainly a gift, one that gives us an eternity of insight, introspection and abundant positivity.
1. “No Promo”
You get a grand total of seventeen seconds before the mixtape slaps you in the face with a beat so thick and heavy it damn near cracks your chest open. Jin’s lyrical prowess is by now indisputable. But from the moment “No Promo” begins, new listeners and those who haven’t heard from him in a while are awe stricken at the depth of his vocabulary, the purity in his pen. A wordsmith’s wordsmith, I’d liken him to Ab Soul—words just come to him and tie together, like a wrapped gift for anyone who takes two minutes out of their day to listen to what he has to say.
2. “Rhyme Book”
It’s fitting Jin would release “Rhyme Book” as his lead single. As this is a reintroduction of sorts, allowing listeners to get acquainted with the man behind the MC was certainly integral in opening the eyes and hearts of those both new to his music and who’ve been on his side since his days with the Underground Rap League (URL). Here we get an in-depth look at the scope and vision of the lyricist, being at once impressed and completely unnerved by the effortlessness in his rhyme scheme and delivery.
At the end of the day, Jin is always as humble as he is confident in his skill. “4ThaTeam” is the perfect example of a man who never forgets that he’s not an island, that he is stronger when around people not only invested in his well-being, but who have always been in his corner. He dedicates his life to making sure that those he cares about are taken care of, proclaiming, “I do it for the team.”
4. “Check To Check”
What’s even more compelling about MC Jin is that he’s very clear on the facets of who he is. Jin the MC is almost larger-than-life, voracious on the beat and fearless in his delivery. However, when he walks off that stage, he’s just Jin, a husband and father working hard to keep his family provided for. It’s almost humbling to listen to the man unpack who he is and describe the day-to-day pains of trying to keep his family fed and his home life balanced. It’s in these moments that we realize that even someone touted as one of hip-hop’s finest MCs is just a man, just another human trying to navigate through life and have enough at the end of the day to keep food on the table and roof over his head like the rest of us.
5. “Donnie Yen”
On the backs of a seeming call to arms for all men to step up, the bravado and self-confidence of MC Jin flourishes. Making obvious reference to Donnie Yen’s powerful role in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Jin likens himself to a Jedi, the force running through him. He’s earned his right to be a bit haughty. He lives and breathes for three things: his family, his faith and his craft. If he seems a bit brazen, it’s because he’s fought through self-doubt and not a little bit of racial discrimination to be who and where he is today.
6. “Timberlake Your Love”
And just because he can, Jin throws down a slow jam for the special one in his life. He even takes a moment to reference Leroy and Laura from “The Last Dragon” when he speaks of being on 7th Heaven and never wanting to come down. The Shakir “Shak” Standley Justin Timberlake vocal mix added an extra layer of smoothness to this already silky slow jam. Jin channeled his inner LL Cool J, proclaiming to his significant other that he needs love with none of the pretense or bravado.
7. “Two Pairs”
Taking to heart his lyrical dexterity, Jin has always been a straightforward rapper. He tells a story from his soul and spares any of the frills. With “Two Pairs” he opens up about being in the studio with Kanye West, then offers his insights into the manic behavior of a man he did and continues to look up to and respect. What’s even more miraculous, and very much appreciated, is the lack of judgment in his lyricism. In a time when it’s very en vogue to pick apart a man with obvious mental and emotional issues he needs to sort through, Jin takes the human approach, asking us to peel back our facades and take a serious look at our insecurities, our own frailties.
8. “Fatherly Advice (feat. Chance The Son)”
It’s safe to say Chance dropped the hottest feature on an album this year so far. Just like his father, he writes what he knows and never mind the theatrics. Honestly, “Fatherly Advice” is a sincere piece of music, a reminder that this life isn’t just about what’s happening to you in this very moment. There is a legacy that everyone leaves behind. For many that legacy is their children. As evidenced by the precociousness of Chance’s own lyricism, Jin is setting a very clear road map for his son to follow, guiding not only his artistic endeavors, but his growth into a man he can proud of.
9. “Everything’s Not Okay”
Let it not be said that MC Jin is one-dimensional. The man knows how to own a beat, matching each song cadence for cadence. And in the space of Shak Standley’s construction, Jin chugs along, a freight train running on precise lyricism and seemingly effortless flow. In the penultimate track, Jin confronts the unusually high number of deaths, tragedy and just plain tomfoolery that was 2016. He questions how one can go on in a world where turmoil is around every single corner, the soul not being afforded even a moment of respite. But even in the midst of all the upheaval, the questions of what it’s all worth, Jin fights back. There’s no sense in pretending everything’s cheery. Within the narrative of being bombarded with insanity, however, we have to keep living, keep moving on.
10. “Nobody’s Listening”
Seems Jin is not only a wordsmith, he’s a master of controlling narrative over the entirety of an album. Here we have a series of conversations Jin’s having with himself. Within an album that’s more about reflection and observation. Over the course of the album we get to see the inner workings of a man, what his mind perceives and his soul questions. In the title track, Jin seems to go back through and question whether anyone’s even there. It’s a thought we all have at various stages in our lives. Thoughts of whether our ruminations are reaching anyone, particularly a higher power, plague us and force us to question the validity of our own sanity, the stability in our own hearts. The placement of this track isn’t a coincidence and certainly was no accident. After it’s all said and done we have to ask ourselves: how do we truly know that anyone’s really out there listening to our fears, our insecurities?
In a time of upheaval, where people are unsure where to turn and are wondering where the good things are in the world anymore, MC Jin comes through, pen and heart in his hands, and gifts us all this beautiful piece of music. It’s fitting he dropped his album on Valentine’s Day. There’s so much heart, so much soul and positivity in this mixtape. The album proclaims “nobody’s listening,” but Jin’s is a message that certainly won’t fall on deaf ears.