For nearly two decades beginning his roots with Sons Of Intellect in 1997, KJ-52 has been a pioneer of Christian Hip-hop with the likes of Soldiers For Christ, dc Talk, The Cross Movement, Reach Records, and a handful of others. From the battle cry of youth groups to the theme music of heavyweights like Monday Night Football, KJ-52’s music has inspired the young to the old. Personally, his music was a transitioning tool from the secular world to that of inspiration with his Collaborations project of 2002. Like most, an Eminem fan looking for something which wasn’t filling the void within. Both Dear Slim offerings were life changing to say the least. Fast forward six Dove Awards and eight albums later, Mental emerges to test the limits of 808’s worldwide.
Mental embraces a dying society’s burning question head on, as nine tracks echo between ears with memorable hooks and crisp lyrical content. Even closing in on the age of 40, KJ-52 bursts forward in an already exemplary 17-year urban music career. KJ-52, born Jonah Sorrentino, offers a summary of his own as follows:
It’s twofold: people who want to adhere to a biblical worldview are looked at as crazy, out of touch, intolerant. But what we’re trying to say is that there’s hope to hold onto when the world feels like it is going nuts. You can look around and see that every day—school shootings, bullying, adults self medicating, and trying so many things in search of an answer.
One of the strongest tracks of this project, “Island Of The Misfit Toys,” collides KJ-52’s concept for Mental with his roots as a youth pastor. The recipe of the lyrics within are recurring themes for him throughout every previous album but created with extra freshness. The dynamic duo of Social Club join SPZRKT as additions to this brilliant creation spreading hope to the outcasts and misfits of our younger generations. The recurring message? You are loved. Just as Jesus communicated with the sinners of his day, Christians are called to love all – from the downcast to the privileged. Crazy right?
Crazy would be earning a spot recently within the Guinness Books Of World Records for his freestyle skills, and KJ-52 has accomplished such a feat. Most fans eagerly tune in religiously Friday nights to various social media venues to watch his Friday Night Freestyle videos. KJ has continuously perfected his craft over the years, which is even more prevalent in Mental, which hit stores and digital outlets on October 21, 2014, and 2012’s Dangerous. KJ’s skills seem to only improve as the years add up instead of sputtering away in the distance.
Speaking of 2012’s Dangerous, the track “They Like Me” bore a transformation into the reincarnated “Fight Music.” Representing a battle cry not only for an entire generation, but also for a genre, this track begs listeners to be united regardless of a difference in color, background, or opinion. An enforcer of similar concepts in his own right, Propaganda drops in as a bold declaration to become blind to society and see the world as Christ sees it; beautiful.
The title track exhibits such talent driven by guest appearances from Tedashii and the project’s producer, Soul Glo Activatur, on the forth track. Like most, fans were anxious to see artists from the Reach Records family co-exist with KJ musically. The result was a sense of chaotic beauty merged with shoutouts even to worldly artists like 50 Cent and Jay-Z. The addictive beat may even have fans busting out the “Tweezy Dance.”
We all experience seasons of life where a certain perspective is required prior to a call for action. When necessary, we have our own versions of our “Gameface.” KJ’s added two parts to his own game face with one being the second single from Mental released nearly a month ago. KJ’s roster for the track includes KB and Soul Glo Activatur as a certified anthem, infused with adrenaline calling for faith placed into immediate action. Round two hits just as hard even with the addition of FLAME as “the beast” is exposed. “The freak” within is released to conquer sin and claim victory in Christ regardless of the task.
“It feels like this world has gone mental, like up is down and right is wrong,” says KJ.
My hope is that through Mental, people will understand that there is calm in the midst of the chaos. More than anything, we need to renew our minds; set them on that Higher Power.
The words from KJ himself are quite clear in the first single released this past spring entitled “Tonight.”
Fans are treated to the pop singer within KJ on “Tonight.” Verses speak loudly from the heart in the form of “Right now, tonight, I’m giving everything to You. I’m going on a whole new path, running on a whole new track.” As always, Christ is glorified in KJ-52’s lyrics repeatedly as his style has transformed drastically over eight albums, but with one recurring message; Christ is King.
KJ has blended faith-based concepts with popular ideas seamlessly over the years and is quite prevalent in “Fresh Kicks On.” More rappers always boast of the freshest of kicks from video to video. KJ remixes this concept broadly based on the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17, explaining how we’re new creatures in Christ when we decide on a life in Him. Showing off a new pair of kicks, free of sin, we’re clean of our past when we proclaim our new body reborn.
KJ-52 reminds us, “Our world is broken. It’s gone mental. But there’s still hope for us all. We can get our minds healthy, help each other out as friends, and seek God for the next steps in life.”
Mental brings forth five new tracks complete with a mixture of classic KJ coupled with a more “Dangerous”-driven alternative. Also included are recycled remixes flowing with a renewed spark. Tag-teamed with the production excellence of Soul Glo Activatur, this project showcases KJ-52 as one of the hip-hop greats destined to have his number retired someday.