Jamal “Keep It Live”

Stream: Jamal “Keep It Live”

Jamal is probably best known for the Pete Rock remix of his single “Fades ‘Em All,” the kind of jam that continues to burrow its way into the Itunes playlists of thirtysomething former hard rocks turned responsible fathers and hardworking citizens. It’s a great song for certain, but it isn’t the best that Def Squad affiliate Jamal had to offer. That distinction belongs to “Keep It Live,” an album cut from his only solo album Last Chance No Breaks that chronicles his life’s journey. Jamal’s lyrical style is minimalist but hugely affecting. In plain English, he conveys the inner turmoil of an impoverished Philly kid hungering for the wealth and prestige available in the larger world. He tries valiantly to stave off the ennui of his grandmother’s strict household and his short stays at juvenile detention facilities, but ultimately the promise of money and street fame lead him to take a gamble and migrate to Atlanta on his own. ATL is where his music career takes off, but “Keep It Live” ends before that chapter begins, with Jamal audibly gassed up off of his own misguided but enthralling youthful dreams of a better, freer life. — Thun

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