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Jax: Don't call him a throwback 

Rapper pays homage to golden era without getting stuck in the past

Binkis Recs is one of the pillars of the Atlanta hip-hop scene. Formed in 1997, the trio is one of the scene's gatekeepers, mentoring younger artists and serving as a link to the salad days of the late '90s when left-of-center rap thrived through local acts such as Massinfluence, Scienz of Life and Micranots. Even DJ Drama got his start as part of the Binkis camp.

The Binkis crew – Flux da Wondabat, Killa Kalm and Jax – have issued several CDs over the past decade, but only one got national distribution (2003's The Reign Begins, issued by Day by Day Entertainment). These are now-you-see-them, now-you-don't discs that can mostly be found through online hip-hop stores, Binkis concerts and, occasionally, local stores such as Earwax. Sadly, the latest Binkis Recs release, Jax's fifth solo album Sharper Images, may not get the wide audience it deserves.

Sharper Images is soaked in classic hip-hop references. The title track, produced by ATL's Mudfish, sounds like an outtake from Boogie Down Productions' By Any Means Necessary. On the chorus to "I'm Serious," Jax raps, "I'm serious/Serious can get/Especially when the mike's involved, I don't sweat it/Naw, I don't perspire/To use my kingdom, you must use fire," referencing a famous line from Run-D.M.C.'s "King of Rock" in the last stanza. At one point, he calls himself Jax the Ripper, recalling LL Cool J's "Jack the Ripper."

Jax writes rhymes denser than the snap-and-trap superficialities preferred by many ATL rappers. He's admittedly reminiscent of the so-called golden age of hip-hop of the late '80s and early '90s. But, as he puts it on "Shift," "'88 is not coming back/Nobody can replace Rakim or G. Rap/Slick Rick or Kane/'94's gone/You can't imitate Nas, Biggie or the Wu-Tang/It's just not the same/What you should do is take lessons from the eras passed/The eras made/And apply it to your own era/Leave a legacy using your own lyrical weaponry."

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