Active I
Gig Seeker Pro

Active I

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
Band Hip Hop Reggae


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Alt.culture Review of B.Smart"

J.Lee began his mission in Seattle to make good music, real music. He was bored with spinning other people's records and decided to put out his own. J, also known by several other aliases, including A. Wattson, Mezus, and Z.Trevor, records almost all of the instruments himself, taking inspiration from some of the classic artists of the past, including Bob Marley, the Beatles, Herbie Hancock and even Fugazi. J himself is the 'active' in Active Ingredient, putting together the funk of Marley, the catchiness of the Beatles, the quirkiness of Herbie Hancock and the sweaty brow of Fugazi's Ian, and a touch of the Beastie Boys beat box and guitar mix.

Based on the lyrics, I bet I can guess which songs had a twist of herb in the brew. The first couple of songs ("Be Smart Don't Think," "What's Goin' On," "Bent Metal") have the bouncy fun lyrics that come about when someone sits down and scribbles whatever comes out and then giggles about it when no one else is looking. However, J does show a deeper and more political side of himself when he writes pieces like "A Better Way Another Day," in which he confronts corruption and religion with a vibe that makes sense without being pushy. He reveals his muse in "Herbalizer," and then with a puff, the activist in him is calmed again to go back to making music for enjoyment only.

Directions for use: Flip on stereo, pop in Active Ingredient's Be Smart Don't Think. Sit down with glass in hand. Bob head and continuously to rhythm, letting groove marinate in head until all nagging thoughts are conveniently washed down with drink. Suddenly jump up and dance like the dork you are. Hope no one sees you. Sit back down and groove. "Be Smart Don't Think," this is the key to pleasure. As J says in "Bent Metal," "I am blind but I don't mind." Neither will you. Listening to these tracks, you'll just be glad you're not deaf. - Kena Sosa

" on B.Smart"

Active Ingredient is not just a typical band. In fact, reading the group's biographical information on its Web site address will leave any listener baffled. Active Ingredient is the brainchild of one person -- J.Lee.

On the album, "Be Smart Don't Think," J is known by several aliases, most commonly A.Wattson. J writes and lays down all the tracks, performing most of the instrumentation himself - the exception being the various musicians and mc's that collectively make up Active Ingredient.

The tracks of "Be Smart Don't Think" is created through the fusion of funk, hip hop, jazz, reggae, rock and dance music. It's certainly hard to place this album as solely a jazz album because of its diversification. On one hand, any listener can compare tracks such as "Bombin" to a hot dance mix in a nightclub, while "What's Goin' On" gives a slow, steady reggae tune to slow-dance to. J is very talented and portrays each "person" in Active Ingredient very well. I'm not sure if there are other musicians out there who could pull the same feat.

While "Be Smart Don't Think" would appeal to the younger audience, seasoned jazz listeners may place Active Ingredient in the category of "Hot Dance Music/Club Play" on the Billboard music charts. - by Natasha Mitchell

" Haiku Review"

minty fresh hiP-hoP,
cool-jaZZy funk, reGGae grooves
but me no expert

AI is J.Lee and some worker bees... - Glen Brooks

"(an older short review)by J-Sin"

Active Ingredient has plenty of ingredients....Mixing reggae with funk and hip-hop to create some great underground tunes, Active Ingredient is everything you want to listen to while smoking in your den... -

"Derek Sivers Quote (on B.Smart)"

Our editor recommends it highly. To me it's a perfect, sunny day in summer CD. I love the God Only Knows interpretation. Very, very cool. - CDbaby

"Noah Krubert short review"

"Damian Marley meets Beck"

Active I is some of the most original material I've heard in years. I predict a quick rise to fame with this creative music. This is a "new hip hop" that needs to be exposed to the masses... - BITE! Magazine


AudioDose Presents: SOulDOpe (2010)
The M Thesis (2008)
Creation Steppa Vol. XVIII: Against the Brain (2005)
B.Smart Don't Think (2003)

To watch the "What's the Time?" music video, go to:



If there’s a common message in the music of Active I, it’s the possibilities that exist in following one’s own path and persevering through what may come, rather than taking the path of least resistance and following the herd. The Seattle based hip-hop artist, producer and entrepreneur has forged his own unique musical sensibility and it’s one that is in full bloom on his eclectic and electric new album, The M Thesis.

Active I (the “I” is for “Ingredient”) is the brainchild of rapper, singer and producer, J. Lee, a mainstay in the Seattle hip-hop scene for the past five years. Hailing from Philadelphia, J. grew up in the sway of soul and funk legends like James Brown and Stevie Wonder until he heard Public Enemy in the late 80’s, which sparked his lifelong love affair with rap. But J’s biggest musical inspiration in becoming a musician was and remains Bob Marley, music that, as J. says, “tears through your soul.”

By the age of 13 J. was already experimenting with four track recording and in high school, while playing in rock bands (he’s also a fan of 80’s hardcore legends like Bad Brains and Fugazi), he got fully into production and sampling. After gaining experience in the Philadelphia underground club scene, J. moved to Colorado, where, as he puts it, “Got re-energized." Out there he DJ’d, helped produce snowboarding videos and started making film and television music. Dateline NBC, America’s Next Top Model and other various TV shows all used J.’s material. “I enjoyed being a faceless creator for productions,” says J., “but everyone kept telling me, ‘you should put out an album.’” He continues, “I'd been waiting to hook up with a big label, but instead, decided to take matters into my own hands.”

Moving to Seattle six years ago, J. quickly began making his mark on the scene by opening his own studio and forming the well-renown hip-hop collective Top Left, a 6 MC crew that has started to create a huge impact on hip hop culture in the Pacific Northwest and has been released on J.’s label, Audiodose Records. And Active I has had several releases, including the debut, Flavors of Fusion (2001), Be Smart Don’t Think (2003), the limited edition Creation Stepper vol. XIII: Against the Brain (2005) and now, The M Thesis.

Recorded in four months, The M Thesis, which typical of J, is not an album that is easily categorized. Traces of reggae, rock and industrial are incorporated woven into the fabric of the songs, that while based in hip-hop, expand on the possibilities of what the music can be. MC's Auraswon and B.Smooth from Top Left help carry the record's message with multiple appearances, along with MC/singer Rubedog, who has been featured on every Active I release.

Lyrically, the album employs J.’s love of paradox; of what he calls, “complex simplicity.” He says, “I write about fear, greed and the discontent that’s out there. There’s an underlying sadness. But there are other sides that are more positive; and the songs touch on both sides.” “Get Up,” encapsulates that sensibility perfectly; over a hypnotic reggae beat, the song’s lyrics are both an acknowledgment of the ills of society, while also being an exhortation for the masses to do something about it. Few rappers incorporate physics theories into their rhymes, but on “Thermodynamic Death”, a track which also introduces female singer Paradame, J. does exactly that, rapping about the theory of heat transfer and how it applies to society at large. "Our Way", an upbeat track co-written by Canadian rapper L.Mighty, completes the album's feeling, with a message that imparts an unbending devotion to individuality and passion.

This is not usual fare for a hip-hop album, and it is fitting for an artist who long ago quit trying to be anyone but himself, and has created incredible music as a result. “I want this music to have an impact in people’s lives," J. says, "but in an almost subversive, subtle way. I’m serious about what I do, but I don’t take myself seriously.” The M Thesis reflects that mission perfectly; music that both entertains and enlightens and provides a glimpse into a world that we can only get from J. Lee’s music.