Json “Braille” (album review)

Lamp Mode Recordings (July 18, 2013)
Review by LaRosa Johnson
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Known for his gritty St. Louis flow, Json is back with his fifth album. Picking up where he left off with his last album, “Growing Pains”, Json continues to share his passion for making disciples, while also bearing his heart and putting his life on display for all to see. To title this new project, Json chose to use the name of a fellow co-laborer in the faith, “Braille”.

The title “Braille” is quite fitting for the message that Json is trying to convey on this project, using the catch phrase “you can’t see it, but you can feel it.” If you’re not familiar with what braille is, it is a form of raised dots (lettering) that allows the blind to read. The concept of braille is a perfect metaphor for trying to describe how the Holy Spirit works in the life of the Christian. He’s there and you can feel him working, but you cannot see him. With this album, Json seeks to bring this truth to life for the listener.

When it comes to the music on “Braille”, we continue to see the evolution of Json as an artist, blending multiple styles of music together for a cohesive project that is pleasing to both the hardcore hip-hop fan as well as the CCM market. For those who have been with Json from the beginning, they will no doubt always see him as that unashamed & crunk artist from the Lou with a hard flow. Never straying too far from those roots, there are plenty of tracks that will never let you forget where he’s from, such as “Passing,” “Work,” or “Play My Song.” Yet, in more recent projects, Json has evolved his style to encompass a wider audience, tapping into the CCM market, showing a more contemplative & softer side to his music. Songs like “Can’t Let Go” or “Stars” fit here. There are also songs like “Intoxicated” that straddle the line and really show Json’s growth as an artist.

While the music is more than pleasing to the ears, it’s really the content that shines on “Braille”. Json does a masterful job of taking some heavy subject matter and making it palatable for the listener. For example, on the track “Hold Nothing Back,” he is transparent in answering common questions that he gets from his fans, ranging from his thoughts on Ambassador & Da’ T.R.U.T.H. to why he never got signed to Reach Records. And, if that wasn’t enough, “Secrets (Part 2)” dives even deeper as he talks about his own struggles in dealing with his wife’s past abuse. I don’t think you’ll ever see an artist wear his heart on his sleeve like Json has done on this album. Even with all of that, there is still a lot of practical application and challenges for the listeners to grow in their walk. “Benjamin Button” is one of those tracks as he looks at the hood mentality and challenges listeners to grow up and put away childish things and thinking.

If you were to listen to “Growing Pains” and then listen to “Braille”, you would find that “Braille” is more like a part two for “Growing Pains”. I’ll admit that this album took a couple of listens to grow on me, but it’s solid from start to finish. Because the Midwest style of music can be overbearing at times, it’s nice that Json is able to change things up while still sounding authentic, which can prove to be difficult for many artists. After listening to this album, you may have never met Json in person, but you’ll walk away feeling his heart for the Lord, which should help you feel the Lord working in your own life.