- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jul
Tampa, Florida native KJ-52 (a.k.a. Jonah Sorrentino) has been writing rap since the age of 12. But when he gave his life to Jesus as a teenager, he thought hip-hop was too negative to continue with it. Later he came to realize he could use hip-hop to share Christ's love with others. He formed the hip-hop duo Sons of Intellect with his friend Golden Child, but the two parted ways in 1998. KJ continued to hone his craft while serving as an inner-city youth pastor. Eventually, he caught the attention of Todd Collins, the co-founder of Gotee Records, which led KJ to sign with Essential Records and release his solo debut,
KJ-52 generously applies his sense of humor throughout the album. You can tell this from the very first track, which perfectly parodies the Moviephone telephone service to credit all of the album's guest artists. Listen for hidden track 9.5 to hear KJ sing an acoustic ditty called "Mullet Pride" - it's one of the funniest things I've heard all year. In "Revenge of the Nerds," Pigeon John (L.A. Symphony) joins KJ in a song that hilariously pokes fun at the duo's own nerdiness in high school, using it as a platform to tell of Christ's love for us. Playdough of Ill Harmonics joins KJ on "Nursery Rhymes," which makes witty use of classic children's stories as illustrations of faith. He's joined by Mars Ill for "Why?," which points out an endless list of everyday foibles and frustrations ("Why do they put Braille on drive up ATM's?"), including some serious topics such as racism, hatred, and God's grace.
Of course, not all of the songs are played for laughs. KJ's old partner, Golden Child, re-teams with him for "Where Were You?," a tough song about child abuse and forgiveness. With all of the funny voice characterizations throughout the album, you may start chuckling at the beginning of the track as I did, only to be stunned silent within 30 seconds. It's very serious, chilling, and a little hard to listen to. On a slightly lighter note, pay attention to the wit displayed in "5th Element." For all you who don't know (I didn't either), there are four key elements to hip-hop: shoes, microphone, turntable, and spray can. KJ dedicates a single verse to each of these elements, writing from each of their perspectives in the format of a riddle. The fifth element and verse is then Jesus Christ, and KJ delivers a remarkably poetic and powerful oration on behalf of the Son of God.
Earlier, I mentioned there are 17 tracks on this album. To be honest, I'm not sure how many there really are, with all of the silly introductions, hidden tracks, and interludes sprinkled throughout. There could be as few as 12 songs or as many as 40 tracks depending on how you look at it. What surprises me is that, unlike so many other hip-hop artists, Christian and not, KJ-52 manages to avoid the usual hip-hop whining over the course of 66 minutes. You won't hear about any "struggle to get to the top," or obsession with materialism, or self-proclaimed breadth of talent. Ironically, if any hip-hop artist could boast about his own talent, it's this guy. GRITS' latest album,