J.Stalin pushes the envelope by vividly reiterating his Mob Bay Area persona and turmoil of his harsh upbringing in his latest album, SID: Shining In Darkness. Featuring plenty of heavy hitters (E-40, Philthy Rich, Too $hort, Joey Fatts), the Mob Music figurehead gives hardcore, but lucid lyricism throughout the LP that has definite standouts. Among them is “Stay Strapped”, which was released prior to the album, shows the West Oakland rapper brazenly professing a few things. Despite dealing with fake people around him, he stays strapped everywhere he goes and keeps his money straight. The catchy, melodic hook helps carry the aggressive theme of the title.
Advertently, J. Stalin continues to exhibit the true extent of his message by never diverting from chasing his street dreams. Often, the President of Town Thizness Entertainment uses his disorderly backstory from where he grew up and the environment it creates of obtaining money and packing slugs as inspiration. Many of the tracks convey this intensity as he unleashes his frustration on tracks like “Anger Management,” which he made evident that it helps him from being tied down to the ghetto. The song also touches on J. Stalin’s battles with people who thought he wouldn’t amount to anything. Clearly, all he needs is the mic to highlight his resilience and struggle.
“Weirdo,” featuring Lil June, gives an earnest old school vibe of gangsters kicking it in the back of the clubs. Don’t get him twisted with these other weirdos as he says he is “too cool for the dance floor, I been a G from the get-go.” “Fuk That” featuring Too $hort goes in with an infectious beat, embracing the whole throwback West Coast vibe. He emphasizes the well-known theory in rap on the hook, too. “Money over bitches,” so you better not mess with his money.
“Anotha Quelo (Remix)” featuring Lil Blood and Joey Fatts is one of his most crowd-pleasing tracks, giving a laid-back aesthetic that fits well with topics of Pesos and selling cocaine. All three MCs are exceptional in detailing their relentless grinding. Another to add to the album’s strong list is “Bring Um Out,” which has the Vallejo legend E-40 doing what he does best. And “All The Girls” is enjoyable for the references of nabbing all the lovely ladies in the room.
Shining In Darkness is easily considered one of J. Stalin’s most cultivating yet. While Prenuptial Agreement and Miracle & Nightmare On 10th Street (with DJ Fresh) resonated with fans, this one adds to his catalogue of hard-hitting mob music. This is the life J. Stalin chose, and he’s finally shining in darkness. –Sarah Alston