Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Have you ever heard a song or record that changed the way you listen to music or that changes what’s acceptable and expected from artists? With “Growing Pains” Json did that for me. For several reasons Json has not only changed the CHH genre but changed the level of expectation of him as an artist. Json has always been considered a “good” artist by anyone’s standards. He has top-notch talent and his potential goes without saying. Every time Json is on a record there are the highest of expectations. And he’s put out “good” records, but he’s lacked a record that would push him past “good”. Until now! This is by far his best record.
There were several things that Json did on this record that made it his best:
- First was his musicality: Sonically it was a step up from all of his other offerings. The beat selection and the way in which he rode each beat made each song standalone. He drew you in with the music and kept you with eloquent lyricism and beautiful wordplay. I have never heard Json as versatile as I heard him here, he showed off his entire repertoire. With songs ranging from the bass knockers that he’s known for to more tenderhearted lyrical tracks, Json had something for every fan.
- Second was his lyricism: Json also showed some growth lyrically. This step up in lyricism is another thing that made this Json’s best offering. He showed the lyrical ability to address different (difficult) topics with finesse and made it seem easy. His story telling ability was top notch, he put you in the story. That was made clear during the song “Secrets” featuring JR. Json took a heart wrenching story about child molestation and made it real with beautiful word play and imagery:
“Someone’s next to me/ their weight is on my bed
My covers pulling back/ a hand is on my leg
I want to sneak and peak/ but I just can’t seem to let myself
Is my father checking me/ I’m nine and I often wet myself”
This is a lyrical muscle that Json has never shown before, but it ran rampant throughout this entire record.
- Third was the concept: I’ve always been a fan of an album with a great concept, mainly because it is very hard for an artist to stick with a concept for the entire record. A lot of times the concept gets lost somewhere in the middle of the record, but that didn’t happen here. Json never ventured away from the concept and actually kept the concept as the focus of the record. He did it by sharing his and others’ “growing pains” and talking about the result of those “growing pains”, which are growth and maturity.
- Fourth was the demographic: Json has historically been a “Christo-centric” rapper, but probably the most surprising thing about “Growing Pains” was that it wasn’t overly saturated in scripture. It still carried a strong Christian message but any person can listen to this record without feeling like they’re being “preached” at. That was another thing I absolutely loved about this record. “Growing Pains” truly is for anyone. Everyone goes through struggles, and Json touched on plenty of those struggles. With topics ranging from low income to moving to a new place, loneliness, trust in relationships, deep emotional pain, confidence, and even child molestation, Json touches on real life topics that any person can relate to. Showing the versatility and boldness to address these different topics takes this record to the next level.
- Last was his transparency: There was a lot of gut wrenching honesty. That honesty connects the listener not only to the artist but also to what the artist is talking about. There were several times throughout the record where I felt what Json was feeling because of his honesty. One example of this is when Json shares his heart on the song “Held it Down” featuring Butta-P and Ron Kenoly Jr.:
Know what happens to a man/ when the woman that he’s feelin’ isn’t wit him
When it’s not crackin’ with his plans/ and I know that it’s rocky now but calm down
The truth is that I’ve always held a job down/ I understand that you worry
But I do need to be my help mate/ and just allow me to lead you
That kind of honesty and insight into a rappers personal life is very rare, and also very refreshing. With so much acting going on in the world (church included) the transparency Json showed was a breath of fresh air.
With “Growing Pains”, Json matured as an artist. He has become a complete MC; very few artists in CHH can do what he does. He showed off all of his talent on this versatile and transparent record. “Growing Pains” is truly an album for everyone, and is definitely a must have in your iPod.