by Jack Diablo

Album: Grab What You Can
Artist: Tough Junkie
Label: Colemine Records
Release Date: June 9, 2009
Tough Junkie’s initial foray into hip hop may have been akin to a kid with a chemistry set, crafting beats out of tape decks to accompany his rhymes the way an aspiring young scientist might mix the contents of test tubes to get a reaction. Junkie’s been getting a reaction here in Jacksonville for years, a positive one, and now after years in the lab obsessing, perfecting, evolving, the rest of the world will be exposed to one of Jacksonville’s best kept secrets.
The result of TJ’s sonic experimentation is Grab What You Can, his new album on Colemine Records. Even though it’s his “official” debut, a neophyte Junkie is not. With appearances on a whopping 43 albums under his belt, he has been making moves, educating himself, and finding new sources of inspiration all in preparation for this moment. Grab is the culmination of years of hard work, but it is only the beginning.
Junkie’s style is not easy to classify. It is at once underground, Southern, unconventional, abstract and philosophical but without being pretentious or inaccessible. The style may vary slightly from track to track but it remains consistent in form and there is an undeniable thread of unity throughout. Expect syncopated beats and jazzy rhythms that share rather than compete with the vocals for the forefront.
As a bonus, Tough Junkie has included samples from a host of sundry local groups from Airport Factory to Elevated Hip Hop Experience to Face Eraser. A number of guest appearances are made as well including Willie Evans Jr., Piasco Picasso, J. Dash and many others. Soul and funk prevail as heard on Matt Amburgy’s organ accompaniment on ‘Even More Better’ and the samples in the standout track, ‘Every Dream.’
When he’s not rhyming, Junkie waxes philosophical on the music industry and the creative process between songs and even offers up a recipe for the “ill snack” of Honey Buns and ice cream. If that doesn’t illicit a chuckle, ‘Splitting Wigs’ will split your sides as TJ goes nostalgic by mentioning nearly every Duval rapper’s whack hairdo decisions.
Grab What You Can is truly a breath of fresh air. It’s anything but thuggish and refuses to follow the trends of hipster rap. It’s classic without being dated and innovative without being incomprehensible.
Stop by Royal Treatment Records on Main Street and you just might catch TJ behind the counter as buy your copy. It’s also available on iTunes and at music stores almost everywhere.