Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
All music lovers would agree that the reason why they are music lovers is because it’s not just music to them. There is a connection that makes it more than just merely entertainment. For some it’s an escape, they can put on their favorite song or artist and leave their terrible environment or situation (even if only for minutes). For others it’s the only time they feel accepted or understood. Some find it as an outlet (maybe their only outlet), for their emotions. Others just connect with the art form and admire the art that is being created. Whichever type of fan you are (or maybe you fall into a category that I didn’t list) all music lovers connect with the in a different way.
As an album reviewer my job is to “take myself out of the review,” be impartial, and review the music as just that, music. Normally that is not a problem for me every once in awhile, but very rarely, there is an album that doesn’t allow me to do that. This is what happened with MC Jin‘s new record XIV:LIX (14:59).
I was constantly reminded of my love of hip-hop and what my relationship with it has been like. Then there is also the fact that I have been a fan of MC Jin for the entirety of his career. This record was also an answered prayer for me. When I first became a Christian, I remember throwing away 250 or so mainstream rap CD’s and spending time praying that the artists that had done so much for me would become Christians. As time went on and I continued to separate myself from the mainstream side, I slowly started to wonder if any mainstream artist with a platform would wholeheartedly commit to Christ. So when Jin did, I was filled with excitement and joy. His new record XIV:LIX is like the one thing I never anticipated seeing and the culmination of a 10-year journey. So for this review I’m going to talk about what it was like to experience this record and go on this journey with MC Jin.
For his listeners XIV: LIX is a personal experience. For MC Jin, this record seemed to be a liberating, heart-on-sleeve, picture of his life and journey to this point, kind of record. It is a very personal and intimate record because of Jin’s candor, which is very self-reflective for the listener. That’s what my experience was from track one. I felt as if Jin was in my living room and personally taking me on this journey himself. “Complicated” featuring Hollis is a good portrait of exactly what I’m talking about. This track is a step-by-step depiction of MC Jin’s relationship with hip-hop. He explains how he encountered it, and how and why he fell in love with it. He dives into the complications and pitfalls that come with loving hip-hop. As a lifelong lover of hip-hop this song touched me down to my core. I connected with it on every level because I share a similar story. His passion for Christ and his openness about his experiences drew me in and I rode this roller coaster of emotions with him.
MC Jin brought out some of the best parts of hip-hop on XIV:LIX. He showed that vulnerability and transparency are good qualities to have, and that they have a place in hip-hop. On “Chinese New Year” and “Like A Rock” MC Jin opened all the way up. He shared some personal struggles and tough times like him releasing his first single on Ruff Ryders “Learn Chinese,” and feeling like he sold out to a rough relationship with his father.
“Chinese New Year” is a great example of his vulnerability and growth because I remember what the fall out of “Learn Chinese” was for him, and it wasn’t so good. He struggled to bounce back from that and never really gained any credibility back in mainstream hip hop. For Jin to fully open up about that was a heartwarming experience for me, (being an old fan of his). “Like A Rock” was the most emotional song for me on the whole record. It was a touching, honest and beautiful song about relationships between fathers and sons. Having my own struggles with my father and our relationship, I instantly connected with Jin. If that isn’t your story the second verse reaches to every man. Jin raps to his own son and I became emotional because I can’t wait to say those things to my son and share that love with him. It ends with a beautiful call to redemption and mending of relationships. MC Jin balanced these emotional tracks with candor and delicacy, and really allowed me, as the listener, to reflect and learn. This record embraces that and almost forced the listener to drop their guard down, and that is what makes this album a one-of-a-kind experience.
Those weren’t the only times in which I felt Jin was reaching out to speak and encourage me. Another song that was emotional for me was “Fan Mail.” As a fan, I love hard. I ride for certain artists because of the connection I have with them through their music. I never once felt like an artist really cared and understood that. That is no knock on them; it’s nearly impossible for them to do that for all of their fans. This song, however, seemed to hit on everything I have wanted my favorite artist(s) to say, and I didn’t even know I wanted it. “Fan Mail” is a perfect example of what makes MC Jin (and this record) so different. He displayed genuine appreciation and real love for his fans. What made it even better was that he chose to do all of this over a soft melodic track, that it helps the listener connect better to what he is saying, and eases them into the song. Another track that was done beautifully was “Welcome Home.” This track was just the perfect song for this record. After you go through this roller coaster of emotions with Jin, you can be welcomed into Christ’s family by someone who has such a genuine love for our savior. I felt myself relaxing, smiling and feeling at peace about letting my worries and struggles go, and letting Christ love me. MC Jin delivered this perfectly and it is a great song for anyone in the body of Christ to just vibe to.
With a record like XIV:LIX it’s easy to forget about the musical side. At times I find myself being so drawn into his story and emotions that the music was an afterthought. That wasn’t because the music was bad; it was more because the music accompanied him so beautifully that it all flowed together perfectly. Musically, this record holds up well against some of the best records of this year. Jin used the production creatively and strategically. It was meant to lay the foundation for his story, and that’s exactly what was accomplished. But it also provided a great backdrop for listening. Any message is easier to consume with great music, and that’s what Jin was able to accomplish. This record is so easy to listen to from start to finish, and that is because the music varies in a way that keeps the listener intrigued but is consistent enough to sound like a complete work of art.
Overall it was a great record. MC Jin did all of the musical things that fans will love (great production, lyricism, storytelling and memorable moments), but this record is about so much more than entertaining music. Jin aims to reach his listeners on a personal level and connect with them, and he definitely achieves that. This, in my opinion, is MC Jin’s masterpiece. This is him at his best creating the type of hip-hop music he was meant to create, and that he creates better than anyone else.
MC Jin’s XIV:LIX (14:59) is now available on iTunes and other music outlets.