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Taken from RapReviews (Oct 24, 2023)

Just-Ice :: The Desolate One

Rate: 6.5/10

by Steve 'Flash' Juon

The Desolate One coverart
The Desolate One coverart

"My voice is the hammer, your head is the nail"

Mr. Joseph Williams Jr. b/k/a Just-Ice may be one of the most vexing rappers from my youth. I still have very fond feelings about some of his classic 12'' singles, and his strong alliance with KRS-One only increased my positive response to his music at the time. I didn't know the term "mark" back then but when it came to Boogie Down Productions and anything to do with BDP I was the markiest of marks. D-Nice? Check. Ms. Melodie? Yup. Just-Ice? Of course! All you had to do was have KRS-One make a cameo on the record or someone from Boogie Down produce the track and I was down. "And Justice For All" wasn't just a Metallica record, it was the personification of my BDP fandom on Just-Ice's third album "The Desolate One."

How could I not love this? The constant BDP references and interjections by KRS-One were music to the ears of a young Flash, and if that wasn't enough KRS produced the entire album. There's no doubt Just-Ice was down with BDP and vice versa. And when Just-Ice drops the line "this record is better than the previous" in the opening song, he's not wrong. Kris Parker had a good ear for the samples and breaks that suited Just-Ice best. The reason I'm vexed though is that I can't listen to Just-Ice with the ears of a young BDP mark any more. I want to love this record as much as I did back then but there are times when Mr. Williams forces my hand with his stilted flow and awkward bars. It unintentionally reminds you that he started out as a bouncer throwing unruly punks out of NYC's hottest night spots. Being a smooth loquacious lyricist wasn't really a qualification for that job.

"Welfare Recipients" is the very definition of another term I didn't know in 1989 - CRINGE. This song sounds like the rantings of an ultra-right wing conservative MAGA d-bag. "Whatever the case I think my message is sent/there's a problem in the city with these welfare recipients." You don't tend to think of golden era rappers as sounding like red MAGA hat wearing brainwashed Trumpublicans, but they'd certainly be vibing to him bashing people standing in line for hours for "butter and flour" then "cheese damn that's another hour." He claims he's "not downing any one" but there's no way he's not casting judgment on poor people when he calls them "too lazy to work." It's NOT a good look and it hasn't aged well.

It's also pretty ridiculous to hear him casting aspersions on the speech impediments of other rappers on "In the Jungle." He does it in the most passive aggressive way too: "They sound like they have a mouth full of manure/You know who I'm talking about, I'm pretty sure." Oh really? I'm pretty sure at least one of the people you didn't say by name would have led his posse to your posse and bodies would have been on the ground all throughout the Boogie Down. It's probably better Just-Ice didn't say his name but it's still pretty cowardly to talk about him in such a vague way. For a guy who used to be a bouncer who shouldn't fear any man (and certainly carried himself that way) it doesn't match his image at all, especially when he brags about being "the epitome" of everything on "Hijack."

"Call me daddy, but you ain't my son" is another of the many examples of incredibly poor verbal execution here. Let me break it down for you like this - I'm a fan of "The Desolate One" for nostalgic reasons only. It evokes a certain time in my life where my only cares in the world were where and how to get deeper into rap music and hip-hop culture. The very isolation I felt growing up where I did, without the ability to tap into the culture on demand at any time, made albums like his take on a larger importance than they had in retrospect. This one doesn't stand the test of time because even at his peak Just-Ice was an average rapper at best, and at his worst he was looking down from his ivory tower on the people who bought his records. Considering BDP started off in a homeless shelter the irony isn't lost on me and really makes me wonder how KRS reconciled producing this album.




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