J'son - Growing Pains
Posted by Kellus Hill on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 9:43am EST
The Seasoning. Life On Life. City Lights. When considering titles of J’son’s first three studio albums the first word that comes to mind is progression. Although the first time I heard J was on the 116 Compilation, the true start to my artistic understanding of him was with that debut album. Life on Life was the strong follow up, still my favorite to date, and then he continued his musical maturing with City Lights. Now, J’son brings us into how the Lord’s been pruning him on the new project, Growing Pains.
One thing that I have always respected about J’son is his focus on making music that’s as transparent as possible, especially among CHH’s “most visible”. The Black Knight produced “Growing Pains Intro” leaves no doubt that the trademark openness of the St. Louis native/ Iowa City resident will remain on this project. One element of the intro that I felt added to its effectiveness is the guitar, definitely helps prepare the listener for the rawness that J’son aims to display. Next up is the first single, “Making Me Over”, that features a pristine performance from AD3 and a decent verse from Tedashii. I say decent partially because towards the end of Tedashii’s verse it felt like he rushed the last bar as if he wrote 17 where only 16 fit. Other than that, the track is good and is in line thematically with the project.
On to possibly the most talked about song of the project, “2 Human”, featuring another 116’er named Lecrae. Over a beat that would resonate well at a concert, the two artists make sure that fans/ supporters/ critics understand the reality of their humanity. I definitely understand the angle of this song because J’son and Lecrae not only address misconceptions about them, but indirectly ask those involved with all sides of this music to prioritize. Lecrae’s verse was definitely honest and revealing in that it makes obvious (as a lot of his recent features do) the various grumblings about his recent direction do affect him enough to address.
The issue of trust within marriage isn't always related to extramarital affairs and J’son goes straight at other aspects of the subject, with stellar co-laborers Butta P and Ron Kenoly, Jr.. Before I get into the song, when the interlude that preceded came on, J mentioned how marriage can “be painful”; my wife looked at me and asked if I thought our marriage was. We quickly talked through it in a biblical sense as the interlude finished, on the same page, with an assist once the song came on and the topic of financial/ circumstantial struggle was broached by all three artists. The beautiful thing about this song is that by the completion of the third verse, after husband and wife share their sides of the story, the One who needs to be trusted most puts all issues to rest. The trust that is lacking doesn’t begin and end with the two that become one but God who seals the marriage. Powerful song that will impact many, both married and single.
After “It’s Alright” (a “crossover hit” to many), comes “I The Beast” which I like for the song structure (not the normal 4-16-8-16-8-16) and production but dislike for the hook and telegraphed cadence/ style change. “Brand New” is a decent song but feels like an official remix of the remix to the remix of a standard CHH topic. On “My Joy”, a Wit produced track, J’son gets a STL connection going with Jai and presents an encouraging song that many will reference in times where they need to be reminded of joy in Jesus, even where happiness seems absent. And just as that song finishes, the exhortation continues with “Behind The Clouds”. Both J’son and Chris Lee put pen to pad and created something that will standout for a good while. When listening to the pianos and drums that J.R. laced for this track, along with J’son’s gritty flow, this sounds like a song that a salvation- gripped Pac would’ve dropped a verse or two on.
Things drop off a little with “We Not Folding”, even though the Geeda produced beat is not that bad. That being said, the recovery is quick with “Secrets” a piercing track that peers into the life of a victim of molestation. The imagery in the lyrics is gut-wrenching as J’son literally brings the listeners to the place of despair the young girl was in. And just as the hopelessness she felt seemed to literally hit home, J’son speaks on how The Gospel restored and healed her. Very well written song. After “Credits Roll”, which was good musically and lyrically but not necessarily a replay inducer, comes another of the top songs on the album. If all the songs previous discussed the effect of Growing Pains, “Goodbye” discusses the cause. It’s no secret that J’son had to make a life- altering move away from the city he wrote a plea/ love letter (City Lights) to Iowa. This track is a look inside just how difficult that move was and how it tested his willingness to follow God’s will. The honesty of the words seemed to be driven even deeper by the Gregorian chant-infused instrumental from GP.
I chose to hold back on this review a few extra days, not just to soak the music in more, but to also see how the album was impacting listeners. Thanks to the great opinion machine that Twitter is, more specifically “retweeting”, I saw various messages of people who were encouraged, challenged, and convicted by this album. That’s an element of this music that can easily be lost in the scheme of things, especially when listening to what seems like hundreds of songs per month. The production roster of Black Knight, GP, Wit, J.R.,Chike, JLuv, Benjah, Steve-T and Street Symphony presented a good variation of sound but the slower tempo introspective tracks shined the most. Overall, the word progression is still at the forefront after giving this album a few quality listens but from a different view. Rather than just him as an artist, J'son is asking those who listen to the project to progress in their reliance on Christ in the midst of chiseling. There is much to respect about that aim and the ministry value of this project is nothing to take for granted. Though the replay value is found only in a handful of songs for me at this point, it will be interesting to see how this one 'grows' as time passes.
Categorical Ratings Background:
Beat Selection/Production: 3.5/5
Purchase on SOHH | iTunes | Amazon
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