Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
There is something about mixtapes that I love. This love stretches back to my days as a secular hip-hop head. I use to spend hours searching for mixtapes. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly how this love developed and grew, but nonetheless it did grow. The passion and hunger that the artist displays on a mixtape is something I’ve always been drawn too. And I’ve always felt that you get to see the real artist on a mixtape, and I appreciate seeing that. It’s hip-hop without all the glitz, glamour and politics. It’s pure.
When I came to Christ, and started listening to Christian hip-hop, I tried to find the same type of “mixtape artists” that I loved so dearly in the secular game. At first, I had a real hard time finding any. As time went on, I slowly started to find some artists that put out legit mixtapes, but none could really fulfill this void that I had. Then I was introduced to “No Excuses Vol. 1.” At that point, I was slightly familiar with J Johnson, but that was mostly off of features he did here and there when he was J Silas. “No Excuses Vol. 1” was different from the stuff I had heard from him previously, and it was exactly what I had been looking for from an artist in CHH. It was a true mixtape in every way. It was gritty, lyrical and real. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that J Johnson was coming back from his hiatus to drop “No Excuses Vol. 2: The Ghostwriter.”
I’m a big J Johnson fan, so needless to say my expectations for this record were very high. I was expecting to be blown away by a tremendous record that was sure to dominate my iPod for weeks to come. Anytime expectations are that high, the first impression is immensely important.
My first time through “No Excuses Vol. 2” I got everything I expected. The mixtape lived up to the high expectations J’s stellar career has set. It was an easy listen from start to finish. Even though there was 32 tracks on the mixtape, I was still left wanting more when I was done. J brought his incredible lyricism and fiery passion that he has become known for. He also delivered a wide variety of topics that he finessed his way through them with ease. After my first listen, J delivered everything I wanted from this mixtape and more.
“Jackin’ For Beats”
The idea of “Jackin’ for beats,” or using a beat that another artist has already used, has been something that I’ve always been drawn too. For an artist to get on a beat that has already been rapped on is difficult. I think it shows a lot of talent if an artist can take that beat and make the listener forget about the original.
That is exactly what J Johnson was able to do on “No Excuses Vol. 2.” You forget about the original songs. J attacked classic Nas and Jay-Z (just to name a few) beats and made them his own. He didn’t borrow flow patterns or lines from the songs, he attacked them as if they were his. JJ showed off every bit of talent he has on this record. He chose a variety of beats that forced him to change his flow and style several times throughout the mixtape. That made the flow of the record smooth, even with the large selection of beats.
If your not a fan of the “jackin’ for beats” idea, then “No Excuses Vol. 2” isn’t for you. But if you do like it or if you’re on the fence about the idea, J shows that a lot of good things can come from it. J trampled all over some great secular productions and proved that some MC’s in CHH are just as good as their secular counterparts.
J Johnson is back!
It’s been a few years since we last heard from J Johnson. His last album “The Struggle” was critically acclaimed, and then he seemed to drop off the face of the earth. He popped up every once and awhile for a feature, but even that was rare. It wasn’t until this year that we saw JJ a little more consistently, showing up on Tragic Hero and Eshon Burgundy’s albums. Hopefully those features mixed with his mixtape means that JJ is back.
A lot has happened in CHH while J has been gone. The genre is a completely different place, than it was when he left. Where CHH is now, is tailor made for J Johnson. There is a premium on lyricism and “real” raps, both JJ does great at, and that was showcased on this record.
J showed that he hasn’t lost a step in his hiatus. It seems as if he’s gotten better. He is at the top of his game right now, and that is really good. Hopefully the release of “No Excuses Vol. 2” means that J is here to stay, and that we can get an album too. CHH is better off with him.
“No Excuses Vol. 2” is a great mixtape. It was the perfect reintroduction to CHH for J, and the perfect way to remind everyone that he’s still around. He gave a great lyrical performance and put out one of the best mixtapes of 2012. The story behind this mixtape isn’t about if this record is good or bad, it’s that J is back. J Johnson is a great artist and everyone in CHH is glad he’s back.