Active I

Active I

 Seattle, Washington, USA
BandHip HopReggae

It's not what you expect.


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.


Against The Brain

Written By: J.Lee and Auras

against the brain, all fall in, against the brain
against the brain, all fall in, against the brain

hoards of unknown witness
they bleed with unsewn stitches
in a group of preachers wit riches
splattered and scattered in sequence
with an evenness that beg to allow reason to exist, resist it
manipulate sound waves and systems
heat given by the energy driven
and supplied by the remote rhythm
i'm distant they can't see me
beamin atcha they dreamin they captured thee
i'm seein right through dat, i do dat
why you mad, you so bad
got to erase the data before it stick
the batter get so thick, yo
ya can't stir dat quick
skin so thick direct hits bounce, ya miss

i can see clearly now the rain's been perfected
i'm liftin off sections of the brain disconnecting kids
not what you expect (against the brain)
i can see clearly now the rain's been perfected
i'm liftin off sections of the brain disconnecting grids
not what you expect (against the brain)

i remain in the distance
but i push resistance against the system's regulations
on how i present this relentless
freedom of speech
pursue the pretentious
let them domino effect off the edges
know the ledge for one, for two, you gotta learn to respect you
still, all i need is comprehension
memory and analytical tendencies to sever the tension
intellect over intervention
press the topic
strength in numbers, change drop it
change often
against the brain to stay sane
not lost in the same old same

we never wanted any problems
but we've been left with no options
and there ain't no stoppin now
full throttle on the hollow souls watchin
it's now or never
fall in, all together
fall in, we all in, we all in, we all in, so where you at?
fall in, we all in, we all in, we all in, so where you at?

Helpin' No One

Written By: J.Lee

They say that everyone ought to have the same set of freedoms
It's an easy way they can justify a false set of reasons (for war)
but it seems they just abuse and hide behind the word freedom (oh yea they do)
it's an easy way to get people to believe in so much fiction

but they shooting and they fighting and they helping no one
they just contributing to the terrorism
provoking and inciting but they helping no one
they generating hate
and it can't be undone

and if we don't agree with their unreason
they might say we lack patriotism
or make us think we'll be held contempt for treason
if all we don't want is aggression

ya know they breeding fear and deceit
they make it easy cause their lies are discreet

more bloodshed in the name of hypocrisy
for a mislead so-called democracy

but they shooting and they fighting and they helping no one
they just contributing to the terrorism
provoking and inciting and they helping no one
they generating hate
and it can't be undone

while politicians con with legislation
and point their fingers pon arab and islam
well the rest of the world be wondering what 's the next nation

there really is no such thing as freedom anyway
ya can't believe in everything they say
ya won't be free until ya reach ya grave
until then ya gonna be babylon's slave
and every time ya wake up and see a new day
another liberty is eroding away
better wake up we're running outta time
and every day more die and no one know why

they helpin no one
they keep on helpin no one
they helpin no one
they say, they say, ya

they keep provoking more wars
revoking more and more freedom
while the people sleepin and snore
inciting and they growing lies
fightin' and they don't know why
the only freedom is the freedom
that's in your mind

Still Livin'

Written By: J.Lee and Rubedog

ain't slippin'
still livin' just trippin'
ain't slippin'
still livin' just trippin' now
here we go
here we go yea
here we go yea

i said hey, i seen you dancing at that disco
how ma' times when a woman wanna be alone
hey, yea yea
i seen you dancing at that disco, oh oh oh
what you'll see, hey yea
just shaking your booty
that's all you neeeeeed, yea, yea
just trippin
that's all you neeeeeed, yea, yea
still livin' just trippin' now

hey hey yea
i seen you dancing at that disco
ain't slippin'

every time ya flippin' out
we like yo, tell ya what we talkin' bout
get low, yellin' while they walk about, we stroll
give 'em what they want, then go

haha, don't stop now...

objective to get the set lit
fuck the shit that come quick or easy, bold
everybody sleazy, everyone old
tellin' everybody to lose their soul kinda crap, it's all ya need woman, yeaahh

free your mind, you'll find the freedom inside
it's gonna be the only free you can find
these motherfuckers think they know the time
but they don't know shit from shinola

ya, imma smoke this cola
roll it, blahh

ain't slippin'
still livin' just trippin'
ain't slippin'

Shades of Green

Written By: J.Lee, Auras, Paradame

ah, ah, wooooo, yo, active i...
somma dem live fi die
somma dem live fi i & i

what happened to the people?
none of em ever equal
they been teachin' from a steeple
you can reach without knowing the way
freedom goin' away but greed stay
but don't ya know
the seed that mek it grow
is blowin away
somma dem eye go blind
but somma their minds can see
the reason they ain't findin' what they need
they focused on the green
and just proceed
with goals they don't need
not hungry but they feed
their mind bleed, but...

i feel no way
i feel no way
i feel no way
that's right i feel no way
i keep seein' shades of green
beginning to fade to grey
no one sayin' what they mean
nobody knowin' the way

well be that as it may
I still feel no way
take no sides in this game they play
we supersede that way
dem say stay, we run far away
been down that straight and narrow
now some might say we stray
you see dem talkin' about the worth and the gain
but green shades of green beginning to fade to grey
it's a shame that the same ones we hate dictate the day to day
and the ones who make a change dem assassinate, but still...


Bridge - (Paradame):
It's funny how people think that they see with their eyes
but little do they know reality breeds in their mind
motivated by money, power, self, and ego,
but we know possession is an illusion, a light show
ultimate end isn't external
it's inside, internal
you are eternal
what is greed if everything we observe is the same?
already own the moon, the sky, says Paradame

the middle man dividend limited by the vision they livin'
we givin' a bit of a different opinion, need none, na, one love ya

(J.Lee and Paradame):
if you knew what you were, would you feel the same?
some of these people think that this life's a game

i feel no way, wha ahh ah...

So Many Fearin'

Written By: J.Lee and B.Smooth

so many fearin'
they not even hearin'....nothin'
they just believin' what they seein' and they....sufferin'
so many fearin'
they not even hearin'....nothin'
they think they're real but they really....frontin'

so many faux facades and fictional odds
entrusting god's a lost cause
freedom got buried far beneath earth's first layer
can't remember my first prayer
studied the major players, ignored the haters
they wanna steal your flavor
observe the bad behavior
eat up knowledge and savor
don't sign evil waivers
magnify the fine print
take Jacob's ladder, extend it to the sky and climb it
pack extra clothes for the change in the climate
team up with Jack and steal from the giant
yell bangarang and play the golden harp despite them
unite with the lost boys to fight and riot
positive thoughts make you take flight like a pilot
being open minded isn't simple as open eyelids
if you're caught up in yourself
you're probably frontin' and became a pirate
stealin' someone's style, livin' in denial and lifeless
do what you want and fuck what uncle simon says, get it


flyin past, at a rate that separates
particles that put weight on my ship's jets
my R2 checks the view
while my boots deflect radiation off my suit
shoot me, it don't matter i'm just energy
absorb molecules of matter in synergy
i'm laughin' all the time, but i aint jokin'
i clown and watch disaster people provoke
you can master everything they teach without passing
reconstruct thoughts, reach and pass 'em on instead
mission: to infect the brain dead with lead-like properties
that might affect the heads of sheep
but help the feeble
they sleepin, to many running the wrong way
beepin', but nobody wanna get the fuck out tha way
dont wanna run dem over, but yo
they don't even care
think they really hearin nothin
too busy fearin' they scared


Our Way

Written By: J.Lee and Unlmtd. MC

we just rising and ain't about to fall
it's in my court now and i ain't tryna drop the ball
i run with it, living day by day
we just tryna send a positive message, our way (our way)

yo, we just begun
i'm runnin' and runnin' to give back all i took from life
i may have been a crook all these years
but now i write in a book, and look with no fear
even though some don't understand
we stand up, never miss
never sit down, hand in a fist
smile with a frown
disrupt the status quo, discreet
no need to crawl before we run on our feet

yo if you want it, go get it
don't sweat it, live your life and don't regret it
focus is the key, and trust me, life is quite hectic
don't let it pass you by
'cause bye bye and so long
come so quick, but they last for so long
this song is a voice in the night
for any kid struggling life, to find what's right
what's right for me might not be right for all
just trust in yourself when you're making them judgement calls


yo I hit them highs, and i hit them lows
i try to be myself that's why I got less than 5 foes
just network, and make them hits to make your neck hurt
and find time between rhymes to speak my divine word
stick to it and do it, the music, whether acoustic or it's digital
do it, and keep it original
practice makes perfect, and trust me, it's worth it
when you get that feeling from other people singin' your shit

why quit? no fuckin' reason exist
shit, for anything....just spit, 'steada pondering
fuckin' lit like a fuse, but i'm fonder of living and go on with our view
we stand united, but not with most of them
divided they fall, so we hand out ghosts and gems
did i mention why?
art never die, creating instead of imitating, we fly....


Thermodynamic Death

Written By: J.Lee and Paradame

what do you not understand?

thermodynamic death, hold ya breath
its good tell everybody
sometimes gotta laugh and watch that train wreck
thermodynamic death, left, hold ya breath
it's good for everybody now break dem ----oise neck
thermodynamic death, wreck, mek dem deaf
its good tell everybody
sometimes gotta laugh and watch that train wreck
thermodynamic death, hold ya breath...

their methods collapse
perhaps theories can explain
wreckage stay trapped in the brain
the thoughts stay self sustained
the program can't be reconfigured
used to resent it to the extent i was tormented
spent my time on the edge, now i'm bent
learned to dredge the lament
self sent with intent to invent with a drone
in a tone abyss
dem swept up like droves of droids floating in a void
unstable thought employed
they enable, shots destroy
the statemen reshape debate
in a way that reshapes fate
and the people that wait
same people create
not weight, we just frequently flying in an inert state
with a frequency dying, i can't work to erase
create living every minute
admit it - (ahhhh) imminent
every time i look around
i see nothing profound
bound to a riddim
so i make sound and pound and kill em
victims get splattered like wet matter their fuckin' brains shatter


heat condensed gives birth to a new form of waves
bringing changelings, you, the mind evolving, descending
a dark and circular ending
watch the bots marching one by one
to the sound of a loading gun
firing shells filled with numbers
hold your breath, we're goin' under
hold your breath, we're goin' under, yeaahhh

(Partial Chorus)

Forward Leap

Written By: J.Lee (Jason Vertz)

oh why
this song make me wanna cry
ooooh, oh why
(don't know why....)
oh why, as i cry...

i'm going outta my mind
can't stay confined
in this dome, no
nothing left to find
when you've travelled time
forward leap with no steps, just fly...right by
never look, never slept once, ever
everybody clever but they lie

oh why, oh why, as i cry...

goin' outta my head
talk with the dead, constantly
try to look ahead
but just go instead
forward leap with no steps, just fly by
never look, never slept once, ever
sever my eye

blink never, always wanna cry, but seldom do
reason why - laughing at the same time, in hell dem too
laughin' at this foo, that dude, and you
but the joke's on all of us, ya
soon come the fall of us
we all in a bit of trouble
sittin' in a glass bubble
subtle threat bein' dada
dem fed the dead but it's fodder, don't bother
prone to attack, booyaka
own ya they bought ya
anata wa bakka deska
wacca dem jaw gotcha

i'm going outta my mind
can't stay confined
in this dome
nothing left to find
when you've travelled time
forward leap with no steps, just fly...right by
never look, never slept once, ever
never die


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:

Set List

Over 100 original tracks available to perform.
EVERY set is different, but we usually perform the favorites (including Shades of Green, Get Up, Against The Brain, Kill a Man, What's The Time?, Thermodynamic Death, B.Smart, etc.)