A Short Audio History of an Extended Career
Posted May 25, 2019
By JoshuaGalla_NRT, Staff Reviewer
What You Need To Know:
KJ-52 (born Jonah Sorrentino) defines Christian Hip-Hop (CHH). In his 20-plus years of exposure to the genre, KJ has created over 15 albums, a handful of mixtapes, and even a Christmas project last year. KJ-52 has spent his career being an ambassador for Christ, never ashamed of the title 'Christian rapper.' He’s displayed such a love on tracks with humor, lyricism, antics, and just a pure appreciation for the hip-hop culture. KJ-52 was a gateway into CHH for thousands of fans in the early 2000s, and remains an ambassador for our youth in 2019.
Most recently, he released What Happened Was… to be paired with his autobiography to be released under the same name. In 2018, KJ also released a movie serving as a visual autobiographical story of the previous two decades. He created this current EP with up and coming Nashville-based producer Poetics (Chandler Sherrill). Chandler has worked with CHH heavyweights such as Dre Murray, Pettidee, Derek Minor, Canon, and Dru Bex.
What it Sounds Like:
To gain perspective for the sounds of this EP, it helps to be familiar with Poetics and his aggressive beats. This producer uses the current concentration of trap music to his advantage by crafting anthems one after another. With this project, listeners get a taste with “Beastmode” featuring long-time friend Xay Hill, “Flex” featuring Dre Murray, and “Go for It” featuring independent artists Jodie Jermaine and Mitch Darrell.
Simultaneously, KJ-52 only seems to improve lyrically as he matures in lyricism and overall flow. Ever since Dangerous released in 2012, a steady attention to refined bars and remaining in the defined pocket of any given beat has been spotlighted. Even though he's been around for over two decades, KJ-52’s tracks never possess a “dated” feel like most CHH pioneers have been guilty of in recent years. He’s constantly plugged into the culture and trends.
KJ returns with two tribute tracks, one to the restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A and the other to main characters from NBC’s The Office which ended after a 9-season run in 2013. “Gimmie That Chicken” and "Jim and Pam” bring back the nostalgia of past humorous tracks like “Coke, Fry, Cheeseburger,” “Mullet Pride” and “Gimmie That (Mountain Dew).”
KJ-52 never abstains from including spiritual-driven content in each of his numerous releases, and this EP is no different. With lines like, “Cause God is there even when you can’t see Him / I pray you’ll know Him before you go and meet Him” on “Depression Nap” to bars such as “Your life plus no Christ / That is a crashing disaster” from “Big Enough,” KJ brings his faith to the forefront as if he has the word Christian tattooed across the back. He’s unashamed, vocal, and proud that Christ drives his lifelong race from start to finish.
Best Song on the Record:
Even as an EP composed of eight tracks, a skippable track doesn’t exist. Each has its own identity and relates to listeners from various angles. “Depression Nap” is the standout track from the project because of it's subject matter. Not only do too many of us deal with depression, but the answer of hope from Jesus is interjected flawlessly. That’s the beauty of Christian music overall, as artists speak about relevant topics but also provide a viable answer to our giants in Christ and in our personal faith.
The beat and production behind the track from Poetics is one of the most unique, yet mesmerizing sounds in the CHH space to date. Dru Bex on the hook cemented it overall as a favorite track of mine in 2019.
For Fans Of:
Derek Minor | Trip Lee | Braille
KJ-52 never disappoints. You’re guaranteed a few things with every release such as: relating to a track, dancing to a track, laughing at a track, and appreciating KJ as one of the pioneers of CHH. Since this project serves as an accompaniment to KJ’s history in the CHH space, he’s wrapped up a small, yet impactful collection of tracks that relates to themes of nearly every release dating back to 2000. I applaud KJ for enlisting one of the hottest independent producers and a few indie, upcoming artists to spotlight. What Happened Was… pleases the ears and the heart, and should be targeted as a must listen for your summer road trips.
Stream What Happened Was... on Spotify or purchase on iTunes.
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