Movies that glorify the Mafia and organized crime have had an allegorical impact on hip-hop for decades. Even if drawing inspiration from films like Scarface, The Godfather, Goodfellas, has become considered passé, very few musicians have ever approached the concept with the type of authenticity than Harlem native Jim Jones brings to the table with Wasted Talent—the 41-year-old rapper’s first new album in seven years.
Centered around the climactic ending to the Chazz Palminteri film A Bronx Tale (1993), when we hear the 17-year-old protagonist Calogero Anello (played in the film by Lillo Brancato Jr.) say, “You just have to accept people for what they are, and I learned the greatest gift of all… the saddest thing in life is Wasted Talent…”
It is a statement that is echoed throughout the album from the very beginning with The Heatmakerz produced track “Never Did 3 Quarters,” a reference which some speculate may refer to his on-again, off-again beef with former ByrdGang affiliate Max B, who is currently serving out a 75-year sentence for conspiracy.
Jones links up with Jadakiss on the track, “Dust & Powder,” a funky track about hustling drugs, which he follows with this frantically chopped-up vocal beat by producer Rain910 on the track, “Catch on Yet,” featuring Trav.
And the special guest features just keep on rolling in with a cornucopia of emerging young talent, such as YFN Lucci, Lil Durk, Mozzy, Alexza, Ball Greezy, 5 AM, and 27-year-old rapper Bronx rapper Axel Leon. It also features production by the 808 Mafia, Non-Stop, DJ RellyRell, SmittyBeats, Dougie on the Beat, RonOilers and more.
“Living My Best Life” features R&B singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger on this memorable track that speaks to another of director Robert DeNiro’s interesting life lessons in the film about how “the choices that you make will shape your life forever.”
Having previously announced plans for a Dipset reunion, you had to figure that Jones was going to make sure there was plenty of room for Cam’ron and Juelz Santana to tear things up. The Diplomats co-founder samples the single “Diplomatic Immunity” by Drake on this track that closes with another clip from the film, where we see a young Calogero talking to the priest about the fifth commandment, “Thou Shall Not Kill.”
The album technically comes to a close with “Pray” an uplifting and inspirational melody composed by Kyle Smith, but also features three bonus tracks. The first, “Bag Talk” features Ball Greezy on this salsa-tinged hip-hop track from producer Foreign Teck, which he follows up with the Jahlil Beats production, “Still Dipset,” featuring Juelz Santana. It closes with the single, “Once Upon A Time,” which was released late last year to promote the long-awaited return of The Diplomats.
This is hardly the best record we have ever heard from Jim Jones but it has been a long-time coming and is just extremely gratifying the whole way through. And since Juelz Santana was recently released from custody, following an incident at Newark Liberty Airport on March 12, this may not be the last thing we hear from Dipset in 2018.
RATING: 4 / 5