Tampa, Florida hip-hop production trio J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League (Rook, Colione and Barto) have been extra large in the game and super supportive of the music and culture for the last decade at least, producing beats for numerous rap and r&b megastars and earning the respect of their peers in the industry all along the way, and yesterday, they released a compilation LP, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. For All, composed of new and old material featuring heavy spitters Rick Ross, Wale, Lupe Fiasco, T.I., Jeezy and more. For a beat-gang hardly known for their own compilation projects but rather contributions to other artists’ albums, this LP is a milestone-first for the crew, whose only other group project was the 2009 Grammy Kids mixtape. Overall, it’s a typical affair that smacks of flavors from Maybach Music and We The Best including many of the same rappers and singers from those very camps and schools of style, with few new others who themselves are still quite glitzy, relegated to the end as well unsurprisingly.
Drake and Ross open J.F.A. in “Empire,” rapping about getting it, with getting rich not out of the question. It’s a proper JL banger but not the best track on here. “All I Need,” a new re-working of 2Pac’s “Me & My Girlfriend” featuring Wale and Chris Brown, is a bit fresh but faintly lame due to CB. A few quasi-fillers then roll out before “No Problems,” the unexpected Lupe/Future collab that provides some much needed mid-album substance. “Leave The Club” is a typical pop-attuned intimacy joint (featuring Joelle James and CB again) that is not for everyone, and “Forever and a Day” is a hustling, grinding rap-PSA from T.I. The next four cuts are obviously for publicity and sales and will no doubt attract fans calibrated more toward urban r&b crooners like R. Kelly, Jeremih and Future. Within that mix, Rick Ross’s “Icons” is so blasé that it offers nothing of what it should coming where it does and so close to the end.
At last the final track “Punchlines” pops up, and everyone can exhale. Lupe Fiasco with assistance from battle rappers Loaded Lux, Math Hoffa and Soul Khan emcee fiercely to save their lives it might seem in this more-than-adequate closer to J.F.A. Throughout all of this album, the men of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League do their parts with aplomb, though the vocal layers are so completely predictable and guessable, making “No Problems,” “Punchlines” and maybe “Empire” and “All I Need” the only worthwhile cuts from one to thirteen. In fact, some parts of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. For All are straight up vapid and vacuous, especially to hip-hop heads who are expertly and overly familiar with this terrain. Originally, J.F.A. was supposedly unavailable for stream, accessible only through purchase via Luxury Sound Society, but J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League subsequently decided to stop the bleeding (and leaking perhaps) by putting it up for stream on SoundCloud and Audiomack, apparently retracting their first strategy. A good move it turned out to be, but a lacking record the final product truly is.