Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Json is one of those artists that can tweet something as simple as “working on a new album,” and fans would go wild. In the arena of Christian hip hop, he has been putting out quality music for quite some time. His fifth studio album, Braille, is set to release June 18, 2013 and we have the privilege of letting you know what to expect before it comes out.
When Json first signed with Lamp Mode, they released his third studio album, City Lights. After that, he released Growing Pains. Both albums were extremely different, yet, wonderful. City Lights had a lot of music that you’d want to blast in your car or play at a party. Whereas Growing Pains allowed fans to hear where Json was at in his life, while moving from his hometown St. Louis, MO. There are some people that prefer one album over the other, but I think that both showcased a lot about him as an artist.
Why is that important? I’m so glad you asked. If you know of both albums that I mentioned, you will appreciate Braille. On this album, Json did a wonderful job of blending different aspects from each album, to create a great piece of work.
An artist has a job to create an album that can keep the listener engaged. Many times, that involves creating music that varies in sound. It can sometimes be hard for a listener to listen to an entire album where each track sounds like it’s using the same beat.
On this album, Json did a great job blending some of the intimate sounds that was on Growing Pains, with some of the upbeat sounds that you may remember from City Lights. I was not expecting it at all. The intro track, “Braille,” starts off intimate, then the beat switches up a bit, and I found myself getting excited. Songs like, “Passing,” “Work” and “Play My Song” get the album started with high energy. While songs like “Can’t Let Go,” “Stars,” “Hold Nothing Back” and “Trust You” have a much more serious tone to them.
Musically, there was one song that caught me off guard. “Intoxicated” had such a great message, however, the bass kick and certain chords reminded me of “Flashing Lights” by Kanye West. I won’t say that I couldn’t hear the message because of that, but it did catch me off guard. I like originality, but I could not help but relate the idea of “Flashing Lights,” and being “Intoxicated” by different pleasures of the world. The sound and ideas related too closely for me.
I did like the choice of music for each song. The balance was wonderful. There was time for fun and then there were times where you were just blown away by the content.
Json is a great example of an artist who takes their craft seriously. He doesn’t just say it, you can hear the growth throughout the music he has released.
On Braille, it was not punch lines or metaphors that caught my attention. It was his heart. Like Growing Pains, Json lets us in on his life in a very special way. On “Stars,” he literally pours his heart out to a friend that seems to not be following Christ. I respected what he did, because as an artist, he does not have to do that. It was a vulnerable moment that he chose to share with the public and I’m sure we all have friends that we’ve been praying for to accept Christ.
Also, on “Hold Nothing Back,” Json shares his heart with his fans again. This time, he addresses commonly asked questions like, “Why aren’t you signed with Reach Records?” “Because you signed with Lamp Mode, are you a Calvinist?” “Are you a Christian rapper, or rapper that’s Christian?” I will not discuss his answers, but this song was rich and full of honesty. I was so encouraged that he decided to ‘hold nothing back’ and clear the air on so many questions he’s been asked.
Lastly, what he did on “Secrets (Part 2)” was phenomenal. I’m so appreciative of the greater transparency that I’ve been hearing from Christian hip hop lately. I do not want to go into detail about this song, but I will say that he shares another perspective that would take a lot of courage to discuss. This song is a bit more mature in its content, but Json gets nothing but respect from me for tackling this song the way that he did.
In the Christian hip hop community, it’s not hard to see that certain rappers only rap with certain rappers. Whether that is intentional or not, fans see it easily. Every now and then, you may see questions on social media like, “Is there a beef between God Over Money and Reach Records?” Artists will usually say no if they even address it (Bumps INF addressed the question in his interview with DJ Wade-O). However, it can be hard to believe when you never see artists do collaborations.
Json decided to break the ice on this issue. He has a song called “Son Hit Me” featuring Derek Minor and Bizzle. Yes, that is what I just wrote. A Lamp Mode and Reach Records/Reflection Music Group artist collabed with a God Over Money artist. Some people may breeze over this, but I think that this is huge. So many people in the Christian hip hop scene assume and infer negative things that creates divides in the listener’s mind. And even division within the sub-genre. Tracks like this help shatter that kind of perspective. A lot of times fans are only speaking from what they are not seeing. When a collab like this happens, it not only shows them that it is possible, but can help them hope for more.
An example of this was when Da’ T.R.U.T.H and The Ambassador had songs with Canton Jones on their albums. Historically, they had never worked with each other and when they did, it not only reconciled the artists, it reconciled the fans.
Aside from that, this track bangs and all of the artists delivered great verses.
At first, I was surprised that more artists from his label were not featured on the album, but the features he chose did a wonderful job.
As Json continues to get his fans excited by tweeting, “You Can’t See It But You Can Feel It,” I believe that he accomplished that goal. If you really listen to each track, you can feel his passion and heart behind the message. He takes the listener deeper than he has before. He invites you to feel where he’s coming from and I appreciated that. Overall, the production was great and the sequencing of the tracks worked out well. If you are a fan of Json, you will love this album. And if you appreciate honesty about real issues, you will also enjoy this project.
You can pre-order the album here.