Lamp Mode Recordings (February 21, 2012)
Review by LaRosa
Json has become a staple in the Christian hip-hop scene. With a couple of independent releases under his belt and garnering attention as a member of Reach Records’ 116 Clique, Json has grown into an emcee to be respected. His consistency on the mic and knack for dropping spiritual truth in his rhymes brought with it some label support in Lamp Mode Recordings as he released his third solo effort. Now, after a move from the Lou to Iowa City, Json is back with his fourth album aptly titled Growing Pains.
We all have our ups & downs in life. Christian artists are no different. Taking that sentiment to heart, Json has decided to take his listeners on a musical journey as he relays some of the struggles he’s experienced that have given him an opportunity to grow and see the Lord in a new light. The object of this album is to look at the things in life that cause us pain, but looking at them through the lens of faith, seeing how it gives us an opportunity to grow closer to Christ. With short interludes throughout the course of the album, you get personal stories from Json as he shares his own Growing Pains.
If you’ve ever heard a Json album before, then you basically know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get Json’s fierce delivery over Midwest hip-hop beats. Growing Pains is no different in that regard, which many will find to be a good thing because Json isn’t messing up what works for him and what his fans have come to expect. This is quite evident from the very beginning of the album with tracks like “Making Me Over” and “2 Human,” both of which fall right in line with the style that Json is comfortable with. One thing you will quickly find in listening to Growing Pains is that it is significantly more musical than previous albums. Even the beats that he rides with typical Json flow are more layered and complex than beats he used in the past. Combine that with slower tracks that are more CCM friendly (“It’s Alright” and “Behind the Clouds”), you see that Json has some versatility and has a natural ability to reach a broader audience than he might have originally thought possible. One thing that Json also does with this album is not only talk about his own growing pains, but he shows that he’s not afraid to tackle taboo subjects & the growing pains of others. He does this on the song “Secrets” where he deals with the touchy subject of child molestation and sexual abuse.
As far as downsides to Growing Pains, there aren’t many to talk about. If there’s one thing to point out, it’d probably have to be the over abundance of guest artists. While this doesn’t deter from the album, there are a few tracks where the guests are more memorable than Json, such as “We Not Folding” or “It’s Alright.” Some may appreciate this as it keeps an album from being monotonous; but, at the same time, you don’t want to get outshined by your guests. Nevertheless, Json still holds his own for the majority of the album. Other than that, this album just isn’t anything that blows you away. It’s typical Json with enough of a twist to keep it fresh & not sounding like previous albums; but, not really anything to write home about.
All in all, Growing Pains is a very solid project from Json. Even though this album is only average and on par with previous works, growth is still evident. You can hear Json’s maturity in his lyrics and see his growth as an emcee. It’s nice to see a transparent album where an artist can share his heart. Musically, he has a style that works, and to his credit, he makes sure to not stray too far away from it, for good or bad. Any fan of Json or the 116 Clique will eat this up for sure.