Chicago, Illinois emcee J-Merk combines forces with Swedish producer B.B.Z Darney of Mic Theory Records to deliver an extremely solid hip hop project amply titled “Born Dead”, which focuses around the concept of a walking dead society and dumb downed mentality brought on by the evil powers that be. From the very instant we are brought into this world, we slowly begin to die. Not only physically but mentally and emotionally, walking talking zombies. J-Merk aims to shed light on this subject and hidden agendas within the album’s thirteen tracks. Full of intensely deep lyricism, dark rhythms and very seldom guest features, “Born Dead” showcases the mentality & views of the Chicago artist and the moving instrumentation of B.B.Z. Let’s take a closer look at each of the project’s tracks in this GYBU album review.
The intro, amply titled “The Saga Begins”, serves as the perfect foundation for the album and J’s deep lyricism. The somber feeling of the production on this track matches Merk’s delivery with bars such as, too many rats in the streets, rap & revenge/ the filters on the lense/ hear my spirit thru the audio, the saga begins. “Pearly Gates” features Kid Fade Of Psychward fame and 7Odds own Dreamtek over a production from B.B.Z. full of eerie organs and choirs, a nice fit for the “Born Dead” theme. The trio is a great fit, from first listen one would believe them to be an official group. “Wake Up” features boom bap drums and smooth, mellow horn samples that serve as a canvas for J-Murk’s brush as he paints a picture of the current state of affairs with society being dumbed down and his drive to make it to the finish line by any means necessary. Murk gets very personal starting at this point of the album starting with “No Gimmicks”. Speaking on the sad realities of the violence in Chicago, death and the everyday struggles of life itself which leads over into “One Life To Live”.
On this particular song, Merk leads off with a dedication to his grandfather’s passing at the time of recording and from that point on he gives inspiration for pushing thru the tough times and staying strong thru his music. This is one of the standout songs of the project. The clever use of J’s back and forth rhyme scheme is brilliant here. This song also serves as a turning point in the album where the subject content gets more positive. Even the beats take on a more positive tone. The greatness continues on “Hold It Down” starting with its epic intro. This is yet another standout cut from the album that pays tribute to America and the fight for survival. The beat is phenomenal here full of lush pads, choirs and hard drums. The chorus shines bright on this one. “I Believe” moves “Born Dead” back into its somber feel and touches on the subject of other life forms as evident on the hook. “Verbal Vendetta” carries a feature from uMaNg, who’s voice is a nice fit to this particular beat. “I’ma fight against the evils as the end comes nearer” are just a taste of the deepness that is found on the song. “Long Road” serves as Merk’s personal memoir of his own struggle and pain on life’s mission.
“Pressure Makes Diamonds” but can also burst pipes is how this next joint kicks off and complex rhyme schemes soon follow full of flows filled with content ranging from past and current civilizations.
“The Champ” contains alot of sports references and serves as a self proclamation from J-Merk for those wack emcees and feeble minded individuals out there. “Semper Paratus” is the motto of the United States Coast Guard and is Latin for always ready which describes the Chicago emcee to a t and features a dope sample of Prodigy from Mobb Deep in the hook. As with the intro track, “The Saga Begins”, the outro of “Born Dead” is appropriately titled “The Saga Continues” which is alot less technical in rhyme complexity and is a nice way to bring an incredible album to a close. J-Merk also gives some vocal introspect at the tail end.
“Born Dead” is a complex hip hop album that will take some time to soak in all it’s content. I myself have listened to the album for weeks and still am picking apart the lyrics. So if you’re chasing music that offers instant gratification, this isn’t for you. This is a project that deals with real life, no sugar coating is involved. BBZ does an outstanding job with the production, as well as, DJ Philogic turntable cuts. Both Merk and BBZ make a hip hop heavyweight duo. When in rotation, you’re almost taken back in time to when hip hop was all about knowledge and struggle. To when the music had a meaning to it. I highly recommend this album to anyone that appreciates real hip hop, to those that enjoy picking apart complex lyrics and for anyone looking for music with a true meaning behind it. We may have all been “Born Dead” but that doesn’t mean we can’t find our purpose within life. “Born Dead” is available for purchase now via iTunes, Google Play & Bandcamp (Link Below):
Reviewed by: @blitzb_60505