New years demand fresh tactics.   So when Jake the Snake moved to New York this year to pen his new release, When in Rome, he shed his skin and emerged from underground a tougher, more enlightened J the S.

At this point, Snake has amassed as strong a career as an MC can build in Boston.   Before he could legally buy alcohol, he graduated from the local battle circuit and begun to script vicious narratives.   In just four years, J the S dropped two internationally distributed full-length albums and a pair of venomous mixtapes, landed singles on Rap Network, Rap Attack Lives and CMJ charts, and enjoyed rotation on more than 300 college radio stations including Boston’s renown WERS, where he earned “Artist of the Month” honors in June 2007.

On the strength of his 2006 album, Strategy of the Crown, which featured guests including Ras Kass, Trife Da God and Devin the Dude, J the S followed up with his DJ Vlad-hosted Year of the Snake Vol. 2.   The sequel to his Peter Parker-hosted Vol. 1, the mixtape proved that he could rock consecutive projects with — or without — headliner associates.   Featuring limited assists from Boston cronies such as Loose Notes and his own Greater Good crew, J the S gave fans enough original material to choke on until now.

In May 2008, J the S drops his most important project yet.   Beyond cameos from the likes of Joell Ortiz, Skyzoo, Slaine and Ras Kass, When in Rome introduces rap fans to an MC whose pilgrimage to Hip-Hop’s pinnacle was a long, disciplined and rewarding journey.      

Though he was bred in Boston, J the S spent his first years in the West Indies, where his father hustled.   After his mother got concerned and relocated to Massachusetts, a young Snake was introduced to criminal elements on the street and at home.   A volatile domestic situation and negative role models inspired a notebook full of rhymes, as well as a dedication rarely seen in young artists.

Despite coming up in Boston behind underground icons such as Mr. Lif and Esoteric, J the S remained faithful to blacktop Hip-Hop.   As a result, he became a regular show opener for hardcore artists such as Kool G Rap, Cormega, The Beatnuts, Boot Camp and Wu-Tang.   Beyond his East Coast ethos, J the S is also marked by his experience as a middle school teacher and his socially progressive mission, which has landed him on bills alongside Dead Prez, Brand Nubian and KRS-ONE.

“I’m an intelligent artist, but I’m more about pimping the system before it pimps you than I am about some unrealistic optimism,” J the S says.   “I tell stories and innovate too, but I’m not on some backpacker nerd shit either.”

He might be an anomaly, but J the S is poised to be a factor in roughneck Hip-Hop’s return to form.   With his When in Rome (which will feature collaborations with fellow rising stars Skyzoo (“Pump”), Slaine (“Get Low” Remix) and Joell Ortiz (“Do You”) prequel this March and subsequent third album, The Last Days, coming next year, he is determined to penetrate rap music’s commercial consciousness.   If he can pull it off in Boston, where pushing Golden Age street styles is less common than being a Republican, he can do it anywhere.      

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