“Nowhere to go but up” is the 5th studio album from hip-hop artists J-Carter. Throughout the respectable album length of 24 tracks, I was impressed by J-Carter’s talents as a storyteller and lyricist who raps about his life, perspectives, and the wider world. J-Carter’s has nailed the formula of making songs that touch on different subjects and points of view. But, perhaps what I most enjoyed in this album was J-Carter’s unfiltered way of sending a bold message. He isn’t afraid to say what he thinks and respects his opinion.
Alpha is the first song that carries a lightly nostalgic and jazzy touch to it. J-Carter raps about the alpha mindset and what it means. For him, an alpha is someone who can stare down the barrel and still manage to do what’s right. Another Puppet is the embodiment of J-Carter’s boldness. He raps at length about the sellout culture within the hip-hop community and how some of the game-changers have become complacent and cool with the way things are. Best Tomorrow and Code Red were the next two tracks in the album. Best Tomorrow changed up the flow with its acoustic instrumental and melodic singing. Code Red was J-Carter’s way of flexing his story-telling skills. He showcases his Eminem-esque juvenile side here. Enough is Enough is a mature track with an energetic performance. J-Carter manages to have amazing chemistry with his feature and rap about relationship dynamics as well as toxic relationships. I felt that he could reach the level of nuance required for a touchy subject like this. Finally, I really enjoyed Eyes on You and For Your Love. They were the tracks that offered to show J-Carter’s softer and loving side. For Your Love stood out to me thanks to its island/afro-beat, which felt like straight from an R&B album. J-Carter has a penchant for taking his audience from one composed scene to another. Through his lyricism and wordplay, he’s able to craft a romantic and loving relationship but also the harsher realities of life and society around us. I Am One Drink Away is one such example of this stark contrast.
Just Want the Best is the next song with tons of energy and showcased J-Carter’s determination to never sell out on his values and keep true to himself. At this point, I felt that he has a grounded and self-aware approach in a field where many players lose their purpose and values. The next couple of songs, such as Kill Myself 2 and Lost Ones 2 were heavy-hitters due to their grim subject matter. The former is a dark suicidal track that juxtaposes J-Carter’s hatred for himself as fuel for his determination to end his life. For me, this was a high point in the album and one of its deepest tracks. Lost Ones 2 goes into a slightly different territory, with J-Carter focusing on death and fighting against its inevitability. I enjoyed how songs were strategically arranged to address similar topics one after another. This logical grouping helped differentiate the album’s various themes. Love Beyond 2 concludes this chain with its deeply emotional and subject matter. It is an exploration of the meaning behind words of affirmation. I especially appreciated the buttery smooth singing that was used here.
Mask On is another bold song by J-Carter. It’s a song about his skepticism and non-conformity to mainstream narratives. He dives deep into his thought process and believes that everything deserves to be questioned. In order to cement his argument, J-Carter talks about his observations during the pandemic and the ironies that he saw from people and the government. Money on E is the next song where J-Carter raps about how it’s not worth chasing money. He circles back into his thoughts into the sellout culture. My Turn was the song that raised my eyebrows. The beat uses a sample from Travis Scott’s Oh My Dis Side. The song is abundant with J-Carter’s existential, contemplative questioning and a good showcase of his curious side. I couldn’t help but notice J-Carter’s strong Wu-Tang influence in this song. Pleasure to Pain was another high-point thanks to its smooth and relaxing nature coupled with mellow singing.
For me, this was the cutoff for the last act of the album. Songs from this point onwards were more emotional and introspective. Real Talk leads the queue with its acoustic instrumental giving it a laidback nature. J-Carter raps heart to heart here, and I thought it was the perfect song to listen to late at night. Sexier than Ever 2 was a slow and intimate song that was quite well-produced and multi-layered. Soo Many Regrets starts with a beautiful sample, jazzy influence, and heavenly singing. J-Carter dives deep into his own psyche and fleshes out his deep and introspective nature. Tell Mama has organic instruments with J-Carter giving a tribute to his mom. The song starts with a Hey Mama feel to it but evolves into its own distinct island sound. This World’s Insane is a culmination of J-Carter’s feeling of skepticism about society and those around him. He takes a step back and looks around himself. I especially enjoyed the clean delivery and precision that helped get the message across. Voiceless was the last song that had elements of societal critique and J-Carter’s shot at racism against the black community.
The level of depth and the wide reach that J-Carter garners throughout this album is a testament to his contemplative nature. He talks about issues that are close to his heart, his observations, and critiques society’s crevices. The thing that makes him unique is that he is not afraid to say what he wants and uses the mic to express 100% of his authentic self. I found this level of honesty and commitment fascinating and respectable. Overall, I enjoyed listening to “Nowhere To But Go Up.” I highly recommend listening to this amazing album!