Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
Christian hip hop is funny because it encompasses much more than just hip hop. We host pop artists that may be considered hip hop because of the sound they choose. We host spoken word artists who are associated with rap and we have even hosted artists like Marz, that would not be considered CHH, but get brought in by association (Thi’sl, Andy Mineo, JGivens). A lot of times it’s because there isn’t a market for them on CCM radio and their message is too Christian for mainstream.
Speaking specifically about pop artists, it seems like it is not that easy to make it in the CHH culture. Many know the names of J. Paul, Chris Cobbins, Leah Smith and plenty more, however, not many can name the albums that they have (if they have them). Some have put out album(s), but it seems that when these artists put out projects, CHH does not talk about them for long or give them the same exposure.
Fans may love them on a hook to different rap songs, but they might not follow their individual careers. This makes it tough on the singer, because they can keep their name in the picture by doing features and sometimes they fail to put out full projects as consistently.
That isn’t necessarily the case with Jor’Dan Armstrong. I remember stumbling upon his album Champion back in 2009. He had music that sounded great for radio, but it seemed like not too many people in CHH knew of him. It seemed that he wasn’t featured on many rap songs and that made his audience smaller. His sound was too pop for gospel and not enough rap fans were hearing his music.
He put out another album entitled Stronger in 2012 and this project had features from Dee-1 and even Canton Jones. More people took notice and people began to check out his music.
His career has been fairly under the radar despite putting out music and even a mixtape, and now he’s back with a new project for 2015. Prior to releasing this project, he featured on Uncle Reece’s “I Can’t Help Myself.” There is no doubt that he has talent, but what can we expect from his latest release?
In this review, we will discuss his project, 52 Weeks of Summer, that dropped March 31, 2015.
The first thing you will notice about this project is the Cali sound (YG, Chris Brown, DJ Mustard, Omarion) that has been pretty dominant on mainstream radio for the past year. Jor’Dan starts the project telling the listeners a story about his summer in California. This story is the backbone of the entire album and it makes the sound a little more bearable. However, if you are not a fan of this sound, you will not be able to listen that far into the album.
The sound and vibe of the album is simply fun. Each song sounds like a song that you could turn up and play in the whip. He has a track called “Friends,” that is about hanging with your people and having fun. Another song, “We Made It,” has a vibe that makes you just want to walk around on the beach and enjoy the breeze with your friends.
While this vibe is cool, sonically, it can get redundant. Similar to the criticism of DJ Mustard, when the beats are flooded with synths and bass with a basic drum pattern, many of the songs begin to sound alike.
Now, If you’ve followed Jor’Dan’s music, he’s always kept up with what’s popular. And while this project sounds like it is the Christian version of many 2014 mainstream radio hits, he still puts out his own original flavor. It’s easy to write it off because it sounds similar musically, but content wise, he still shows his own personality.
Right now, the West Coast sound is winning and it makes sense as to why he chose that style for the entire project.
When you use an album title like 52 Weeks of Summer, you can pretty much go whichever direction you please. As you listen to the album you’ll hear a story about Jor’Dan’s experience in California, and how he had fun while staying true to Christ.
Jor’Dan’s never been an artist to make super explicit claims about Jesus, but his music consistently speaks about his relationship with God. In his song “Bout Dat,” if you aren’t listening, you might think he’s just talking about trying to be successful and getting ahead of the crowd. However, as you listen, he is talking about doing all that God says while doing life.
On “You Should Know,” he references black cards and material things, which could turn people off that aren’t interested in those type of things. Again, as you listen, he’s referring to trusting in God’s blessings over what people may think is cool. He has a bridge that says, “My desire is to please you/to be more and more like you daily.” It sounds that he tries to make it clear for people, even though his songs may sound like they aren’t that deep.
Towards the end of the album, Jor’Dan has an interlude and concludes that it is possible for Christians to have fun. So it seems that the concept was to prove that Christians can love God and have fun too. While the album has fun and dance-worthy tracks, that concept lacks. The argument that Christians can have fun seems almost irrelevant considering how much CHH has advanced in that area. While the interludes stayed true to the title of the album, the impact of the concept was rather shallow.
Stand Out Tracks
“Let Him Do It” – This is the first track after the intro and it sets the vibe of the entire album. Soaked with the Cali sound, this track is all about letting God do what He does. It’s a track that you can play to get your day started and rest in knowing that God is able to do far more than we can imagine.
“Bout Dat” – This is a track that you get all your friends and mob out. This song features Uncle Reece, Adrion Butler and IZ. It has the feel of a popular remix in the 2000s where people would jump on and try to kill it on their turn. Aside from the feel of the track, it’s all about being what we say we’re about as Christians. It’s definitely a song encouraging Christians to not back down.
“I Got 2” – This is another track that has the heavy Cali feel but has a bit of an island twist. It is upbeat and is about how we have to praise God for all he does. It’s implied that we should know that we have to choose God because we know how much He’s done for us. This song is a song where the listener may be encouraged to reflect on all the things that they should be thankful for.
The End of Summer
Jor’dan Armstrong definitely delivered a summer-friendly project and after listening, it will be a hit or miss for people.
There will be the people that love the West Coast sound and soak this album up. This album attracts those that are just looking for clean fun and a good time in their music.
There will also be a camp of people who feel that this project sounds too similar to everything else and they will knock it for its lack of creativity. They may also dislike that many of the tracks sound similar to each other. This camp may be looking for something a little deeper in the music and more Jesus references.
Regardless of how you feel about the Cali sound, the production on this project was solid and the beats hit nicely. This may not be the album to gain all of the CHH listeners, but it should definitely catch the attention of many new listeners.
Jor’Dan Armstrong’s 52 Weeks of Summer can be purchased on iTunes