Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
Identity. It’s a hard thing to wrestle with. Understanding who we are, but most importantly whose we are. And in a media driven society, where the world’s standard of beauty is being put in your face as the ideal image 24/7, you wonder if you even make the cut. From the way our body should be shaped to how we should act or be, society has been trying to determine it for us.
I’m five feet and two inches. I have natural hair. And like many, I have wished that I was a little taller, or my hair was a little longer. Just to live up to what society says I should look like. Identity is a constant wrestle for everyone. Who are we? What is our true identity?
When an artist decides to tackle issues that we all struggle with, it’s a refreshing thing to hear and see. Not only is the artist shedding light on something we all face, but he or she is opening up their world for others to hear their transparency and vulnerability.
Json is a veteran of CHH, and no stranger to tackling hard issues on his albums. From The Seasoning to Braille, Json has constantly addressed relevant topics with grit and honesty. In his long career he’s been a part of historical movements and records. He has also delivered quality music throughout this time. All of this adds up to a pretty stellar resume by anyone’s standards.
Now, on Tuesday, March 10th, Lamp Mode president Json will release his sixth studio album entitled No Filter. With a title like No Filter you’re sure to get a deep and transparent project from the veteran emcee. We take a look at what fans can look forward to with this project.
Json has always had an act for using a concept and developing it further. From The Seasoning to City Lights, to Life on Life to Growing Pains, Json has excelled with a concept. Thus, No Filter is a playing ground for several directions of this concept. The concept of “no filter,” meaning nothing has been added to enhance an image or person, is steadily woven throughout the project. Though there are sections in the album where it shifts a little.
Json approaches an idea or track with the ability to break it down and dissect the material. No Filter provides heavy content, like wrestling with confidence, rejection, sexual abuse, self-esteem, depression, approval and much more. It is real, emotional, transparent and it is not a project that provides for an easy and fun listen. Tracks like “Winter’s Bone”, “Preacha Man”, “Secrets”, and “True Identity” look at the weight of the realities we all face and the sin we all exist in.
The project starts off heavily with the concept, but after “Remember” featuring J.R. it seems to shift a little with its direction and feel. Though the song does help shape the worldview Json has come from, and how his identity had been shaped, it does not help support the “no filter concept.”
The concept comes back full circle on songs like “Winter’s Bone” featuring J.R., “Filter Effect” featuring Charde Jones and “Stronger” featuring HillaryJane. Ultimatley, the concept and album points us back to Jesus. Json doesn’t just address an issue and leave it there, but he presents where our hope should lie, and that is in Jesus. Though we are flawed people, with insecurities and weaknesses, we look to Christ and the strength He provides. He is our true identity.
“Blessed. While all she feels is rejection/
looks in the mirror and hates to see her reflection/
Yeah, so she eats to deal with the pain while sinking inside her shame/
can’t see it behind her frames/
funny how the designers that hide her is just disguisers/
if you look in her eyes, she’s crying for her designer.”
–“Filter Effect” feat. Charde Jones
In an interview with DJ Wade-O, Json spoke about constantly having artists on his project who people may not be familiar with. This is very evident on No Filter. Of the 18 tracks on the album, 11 of them include a featured artist. And this is not a disadvantage for Json. The fact that an artist of his caliber, can use his platform, to help highlight other dope artists, shows maturity and the willingness to help them shine and showcase their talent. And shine they did.
Json teams up with label mates S.O. and Tony of Hazakim, as well as St. Louis natives J.R. and Jai to give fans familiar voices of the genre. He then provides a platform for newcomers like California-based group Keno Camp, St. Louis artist T-Word, and Infiltrate Music’s Hillary Jane. Alongside other features like Serge, Monty G, Charde Jones, and Black Knight, the album never felt saturated with voices, but felt like it flowed smoothly as they contributed well to the overall outcome of the project.
Struggling with our identity is an honest reality we all face. I commend Json for trying to tackle such a weighty subject. Though it cannot be done in 18 tracks, Json does provide great material for us to use. His gritty sound and theological framework helps make him a constant and solid voice within the genre.
No Filter is another solid album from the St. Louis native, who used a concept to not only highlight the struggles we constantly face, but he presents a solution to it all. Along with the lyrics, the production on this album is solid and flows well. Json provides an album that no matter where you are in your life, you can relate to what he’s talking about. If you’re looking for good quality music with honest and personal lyrics, then this project will be something you will enjoy.
Json’s No Filter drops Tuesday, March 10th. It is now available for pre-order.