I recently moved back to my hometown, and I learned that a lot of my friends were starting to meet the criteria for being grown-ups: kids, spouses/fiancés, and jobs where I can’t come through and get hooked up with free stuff. With each child born, another friend’s party effectively ends. Recently, my fellow survivors of the pregnancy epidemic and I traded stories of our recent exploits: only entering cars by jumping through the windows Bo Duke-style, drinking champagne off a high heel, wrestling in front of a church and the State Capitol, and a bunch of other stuff you shouldn’t do if you want to set a good example for your offspring. Sure, we’ll be 30 in a few years, but to bastardize a phrase the youngsters use, “grow up for what?”
J-Zone isn’t feeling the grown-up movement, either. Office jobs? Grown-and-sexy R&B? He’ll pass. Despite penning the brilliant Root for the Villain on how bullshit the music industry, and most everything else, is, he’s returned with Peter Pan Syndrome, a razor-sharp collection of hilarious takes on everything from gentrification to cell phone addiction to slip-and-fall scams, all while he confronts the reality of his situation: a man in his mid-30s who, either by choice or by circumstance, does not fit into the role that society expects him to.
J-Zone on Peter Pan Syndrome is like a combination of Phonte Coleman and Redman: he has mature issues to address, but he attacks them with such outrageous humor that you’re not sympathizing with him, but rather you’re rooting for his harebrained schemes to succeed. He and his ridiculous alter-ego/sidekick Chief Chinchilla decide to rob art galleries on “Jackin for Basquiats”, but do so not just for the sweet payout, but also with a sense of justice, as J-Zone remarks “Art is living poverty and putting it into work, and now it’s for bragging points?” On “An Honest Day’s Robbery”, they ditch their day jobs in favor of selling drugs to planning a slip-and-fall in Whole Foods, the land of Zumba enthusiasts buying organic vegetables, to robbing a bank. As grim as the progression sounds, J-Zone’s humor (and the promise of a conjugal visit) keeps the mood light, even as he sits in prison by the end.
He does not allow himself to wallow in self-pity, despite the myriad of frustrations he faces daily. Instead, he’s got a smartass fix for pretty much everything. To wit:
J-Zone on gentrification: We need an “’Ed Koch-era, good-old Al Sharpton when he was 300 pounds in a jogging suit and gold chains’-era crime wave. Checks and balances for transplants.”
J-Zone on the state of R&B: “Only R&B singers I respect from the last two decades: Jodeci, Aaron Hall, and R. Kelly, because they’re goons.”
J-Zone on why he’d rather date “ugly chicks”: “It’s like playing Mike Tyson’s Punchout on Nintendo. Why you wanna get the code to fight Tyson and keep getting f-cked up in the first round, when you can just keep fighting Glass Joe?”
The whole album is a ridiculous quote-fest that softens the dark edges of the very real anxiety J-Zone feels as he gets older. He plays Soulja Boy’s anti-Ice-T rant on “Rap Baby Boomers” and laments the fact that rap is a young man’s game and basically asks his fellow elders, “What are we doing here?” Considering that his last album sold 47 copies in a month, he knows the struggle of sitting in a Human Resources office with only “rapper” on his resume. “Peter Pan Syndrome” details the hardships of not having had a “real job” in his 30s, facing constant rejection by women and employers due to his lack of personal and professional development. “I tried working at a Starbucks, but that’s where everyone with a Master’s go,” he jokes, but it’s scarily accurate, as this author worked with a former lawyer at Starbucks during college. Cold world out there. The album reaches its darkest point as he even mentions suicide, but it’s brushed to the side moments later as Chief Chinchilla asks him, “Are you gonna grow the f-ck up, finally?”
J-Zone on growing up: “HELL F-CKING NO!”
J-Zone is obviously incredibly aware of his lot in life, and his usage of humor, and perhaps the creation of this album itself, is therapy for him. He gets to come to the studio, crank out some filthy, dusty instrumentals (“Gimme a Hit”, “The Drug Song (Remix)”, “Roaches in the Kitchen”) on his drum set and talk a ton of shit, free of music industry politics (it’s on Bandcamp.) Peter Pan Syndrome is fun to go through for his quotables and stories alone, but more importantly, it’s relatable in that many of us will not reach our dream job or land our dream girl/guy. But despite all that, it’s important to keep your humor about you, and a surefire way to do that is to never grow up.