Posted June 11, 2013
By MarkRyan_NRT, Staff Reviewer
In his fifth studio project, Lamp Mode Recording artist Json gives something we can't see but something we can definitely feel with Braille. Last year I gave Growing Pains 5 stars and in Twitter exchanges during the production and post-production of Braille, Json warned me that this will not be the same. He was absolutely correct in warning me.
Where Growing Pains was an emotional album written from a place of spiritual growth and a big move for the family from St. Louis to Iowa City, Braille brings a new, harder flavor. It is a combination of City Lights and Braille. Json is a veteran in the industry and is finding his voice.
The album kicks off with "Braille." We are eased into the album with a gentle piano riff, the song builds and then hits super hard with the second verse. The song features the vocals of Lori of C.B.F. and features the production skills of Spec. The song speaks to having faith and feeling God even when we don't see Him, it ties that back to how music is something we don't see but it definitely evokes an emotion within us.
"Passing" is the second release off the album. It features verses by newcomer Serge and Reach Records artist KB. The song is about how as Christians that we are only passing through this life on earth and that we only have one shot to get it right. It is the antithesis to YOLO. Musically the track hits hard and the production is on point.
The first release from this album was "Work." It features Spec on the chorus and this song bangs crazy hard. This song is about being about God's work. It is Json telling the world that there is no point to his music if it's not about God's work. This is one of the hypest songs of the year and it will get you jumping. The song is produced by Derek Minor, and Minor's hard style shines through this song. If you don't feel this song, check your pulse because you may be dead.
Flame features on "Play My Song," another banger that is just calling out to mainstream DJs to play some conscious rap music that glorifies God and doesn't glorify the thug, sex and drugs that is so commonly heard. Produced by JR, this song is clean, crisp, and the beat hits hard.
The level of features on this album continues to increase on "Can't Let Go." The song feature former Gotee artist B. Reith on the chorus and a verse by fellow Lamp Mode artist S.O. This track has a familiar feel to Growing Pains. It speaks to whatever the trouble is in our lives, we can trust and depend and hold onto God. The verses are solid and B.Reith's vocals are impeccable. G-Roc did an incredible job putting this song together.
"Benjamin Button" is one of the most creative plays on a pop culture reference I have heard. When I received the tracklist my interest was peaked immediately. The song talks about how people don't grow up, they just grow older and hence they are Benjamin Button. The piano melody that plays throughout is reflective of the score of the film it is something special how the feeling of the movie is brought into the song. Although not about age reversing, the theme of a boy in a man's body holds true.
Lori from C.B.F. (Confess and Be Free) has her second feature of the album on "Intoxicated." Another song with the feeling of Growing Pains, it talks about how good yet awful sin feels. The quick high with the huge letdown afterward. "Stars" carries a quieter, smoother feels and carries the feeling of "Intoxicated", it is as far from "Work" as a song can get on this album. The juxtaposition shows Json's ability to go hard or to rap with intense emotion.
Derek Minor and Bizzle feature on "Son Hit Me." This song returns to the harder, street vibe of earlier but we aren't jarred into it. The song speaks to how we are changed when the Son hits us. Rather than getting tanned when the sun hits us, we get pasty, that is, white as snow, when we come into right relationship with the Son of God. Q&A songs have been rather common this year and "Hold Nothing Back" is Json answering some of the FAQs that he has been facing over the years. He touches on items such as why he sounds so different from his Lamp Mode brethren, why he left St. Louis, the Christian rapper versus rapper that's Christian debate and brothers that have fallen into sin.
The most emotional song on Growing Pains was "Secrets," on Braille, Json delivers "Secrets (Part 2)." Earlier I mentioned that "Benjamin Button" peaked my interest, but the song that I listened to first was "Secrets 2." This is Json's story of being the second victim in his wife's sexual abuse due to the pain that she has dealt with and the impact it has had throughout their marriage. Once again, JR delivers flawless vocals and production as he did on Secrets 1 and brings out the real emotion. This song is full of raw emotion, but ends with the hope that in Christ they are dealing with it together.
The album closes with "Trust You", which features the vocal talents of Julianna Zobrist (wife of Tampa Bay Rays player Ben Zobrist). It is a perfect piece of closure to the pain of Secrets 2. Trusting God to get through our darker times is a key part of our Christian walk and this song declares that trust implicitly.
I have been looking forward to this album since Json first tweeted about being in the studio. He was right in telling me that it wasn't thematic like Growing Pains, rather it displays the maturation of an artist who on album number five has found his voice. Json delivers his music that you can't see but you can feel, and this album you will feel in you mind, heart and your body. With the numerous featured artists and the numerous producers, one may think an album may become disjointed, however, Json, along with Spec have created a near perfect album.
Song You Must Download:
"Secrets (Part 2)"
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