Jahmen Music (2011)
Review by LaRosa
From time to time, we at Sphere of Hip Hop step out and review an album that isn’t exactly hip-hop; this is one of those times. What do you get when you combine a muscular white guy with dreadlocks and a smile that could win over a crowd? Now take this same guy and give him musical talent that creates a fusion of reggae, R&B, and hip-hop. Enter BenJah, an artist that has quickly garnered attention because of his association with Lecrae and the Reach Records camp. Today, we’re taking a look at his sophomore release titled The Break Up.
As stated in the opening paragraph, BenJah is primarily a reggae artist, who infuses the rhythms of R&B and hip-hop. With The Break Up, he attempts to take that blend of sounds to create a pictorial journey for the listener of the struggles of being in love with the world and breaking up with it because your true love lies with Jesus Christ. This story is painted throughout the course of the album, but it doesn’t stick exclusively to the concept, as it also employs quite a few songs that are more like Christian anthems.
One of the strongest points about BenJah and this album is that he has a really strong feel for music and what sounds good. The production on this album is exceptional from start to finish, and each song is geared to show off BenJah’s talents and versatility as an artist. If there is one song that really drives home the concept for this album, it would have to be “Jezebel.” This song is really solid from start to finish. It’s a great track that shows off where BenJah is strongest musically and it just brings the listener in for the remainder of the album. But, from there he is able to easily jump into more hip-hop style tracks like “Keep Ridin'” or straight reggae and island style with “3rd World Fam.” His flow is distinct and his ability to switch things up helps to keep a pace that works to keep the album from feeling like it is too long.
While this album has a lot of positives going for it, it’s not without its flaws. First, going back to the concept for the album, there are times in listening to the album where you sometimes forget what the point of the album is. Yes, the message is clear, but there are so many songs that don’t fit the overall subject that it has a tendency to get lost. With BenJah’s ability to blend several different styles, this album may not be for everyone, and it sometimes feels like he’s reaching a bit too far in crossing genre boundaries. This makes the listener struggle to get a feel for the album and to figure out whether or not they like it. Personally, it took a few listens before I could begin to get with the vibe of this album. That can be okay in some instances, but you should be able to immediately decide if you like an album with a single listen.
For what it is, The Break Up is a very solid album and stands as a success. BenJah shows that he has great crossover appeal and is able to reach all of the markets that he is attempting to. Even though the concept gets lost at times, it is still carried through with a positive message for how we as believers should be in love with Christ and not the world. If you’ve never heard BenJah, this album serves as a well rounded introduction to all that he has to offer.