Oxford, North Carolina native and now Tampa, Florida transplant, JXY True released a 15-track album, No Death, No Art on March 5, 2021, executive produced by Yung Nab. NDNA is an artistic expression conveying the sacrifices JXY was forced to make in order to become a better individual. Without laying his ego to rest, there is no art—no rebirth.
Early on, JXY knew that his purpose was rooted in the arts and explains, “the older I got the more I realized the power of the gift I was blessed with. I create in various forms”—one of those being music. He notes that his main sources of musical influence come from artists like J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, Joey Bada$$, Rexx Life Raj, and Isaiah Rashad.
When asked about his preparation for this album he says, “life at the time wasn’t the best and I fell into a depression that I had to create my way out of. Most projects before this one I would take the initiative and force myself to hit the booth. No Death, No Art was different.” JXY wants listeners to experience the honesty of his story.
No Death, No Art begins with “Legends Never Die,” a calming, yet powerful introduction to JXY’s testimony. He eloquently asserts himself over piano keys and soft harmonies, alluding to what the rest of the album will entail, seamlessly fading into “Overnight,” an energetic track with snare drums and hard-hitting bass. JXY raps about achieving one’s goals and about understanding that it takes time to elevate to higher heights. He sings the chorus, evoking emotion: “I been working for this life my whole life / whole life.”
Track three, “Babylon” keeps the energy flowing with jazzy trap-like instrumentation. JXY’s flow is aggressive as he scolds individuals who talk the talk, but lack action. The track is also a play on words referencing the ancient city of Babylon: “Headed to Babylon / Most of these rappers just babble on about being on / but they on the bench.” The mood shifts with “Sacrifices,” as it embodies a more serene sound, which allows JXY to showcase a different side of his lyricism. The use of consonance creates a sense of urgency and adds a rawness that makes this a standout track. He speaks to the time invested in his journey and reaping the benefits of the seeds that were sowed.
Track five, “Carried Away,” has a lengthy introduction, which may cause listeners to pass on it. Once the song begins, the message is worth receiving. JXY raps about getting lost in his emotions and focusing on his failures, versus shining a light on his small wins, which in turn direct his path. The emotional chaos creates confusion and despair surrounding love and his musical journey. The featured artist, Geesus Shuttlesworth was a great pick, showcasing a stronger delivery. “The Reign II” is another play on words detailing how struggle brings the rain, but JXY also takes up space as he steps into his power. CJ Monét’s soulful vocals add warmth to this track. There is another great transition into a melancholy old-school soundscape with “#StriveOrDie,” a track dedicated to the remembrance of lost ones, trust, and loyalty. Featured artist, Beautiful Kassinova attempts a fast-rapping style, but it is off putting, as his breath work makes it difficult to enjoy and comes off a bit forced, creating a contrast to Jay’s smooth flow, leaving the hook as the highlight of this track.
JXY sheds his old self: actions, emotions, and persona on the titled track, “N.D.N.A. (No Death No Art).” The message flows into track nine, “Me Vs. Me II.” It is a blatant message about JXY grappling with the thought of taking his own life. He is in a power struggle with two sides of himself: the over-thinker and the voice of reason—the devil and the angel on his shoulders. “Deja Vu” is one of the exceptional tracks. JXY is still trapped in his thoughts and contemplating the value of life. He flaunts his vocals on the hook with a slow-paced tempo. LV’s heavenly vocals help to create a sense of hope.
Shifting into a more upbeat sound, JXY gets aggressive in his delivery on “Conquer.” Featured artist, Phasod was the highlight of this track—his smooth cadence and tone complimented the beat. Track eleven, “P.O.M. (Peace Of Mind)” is infused with strings and keys that create a calming atmosphere. JXY takes a step back to gather his thoughts, receiving messages as they come. Featured artist, Anthony Baxter’s tone is a great contrast to JXY’s.
JXY pays homage to Dreamville artist, J. Cole on “Word2Cole,” and keeps the negative energy out, highlighting his accomplishments from graduating, owning businesses, and creating through art on “D.N.D. (Do Not Disturb).” The album ends on a positive note with “Unchained.” JXY speaks on his spiritual journey and even references angel numbers. In the end he breaks free from the constraints of his own mind and the expectations of society. JXY’s ego has been laid to rest, allowing for a beautiful rebirth.
No Death, No Art was JXY’s way of reflecting through impactful, open, and honest conversation—his form of therapy. The production and track sequencing created a consistent jazzy hip-hop sound, which is one of the standout elements of the album. Tracks like “Babylon” and “Sacrifices” display JXY’s ability to deliver a direct and polished flow, whereas “Deja Vu” showcases how versatile he can get with his vocals.
Highlighting areas of growth, the album’s runtime was overextended (54 minutes). There were a few repetitive messages within the songs, which made me question if the album would have translated better with a shorter tracklist, allowing for a quicker runtime and creating an intended focus. One of the things that added to the extensive runtime was the use of open dialogue leading into the songs—it was overdone. However, there were moments where the dialogue flowed well without feeling the need to fast forward to the verse. When it comes to lyricism and delivery there is room for growth, as some of the metaphors were predictable. JXY’s flow was difficult to follow on a few tracks, making his rhymes come off as forced. The inconsistent delivery throughout the album negatively impacts the listenability. I did note that JXY has a strong suit in developing hooks. They were catchy and played in my mind after listening.
Although NDNA isn’t an album that I would keep on repeat, there are a few stand-alone tracks that capture his potential. I appreciate the depth and authenticity in JXY’s messages as well as his artistic expression. His truth is something that someone will be able to see a piece of themselves in.