Things Get Personal in KJ-52’s Yearbook
- Andy Argyrakis CCM Magazine
- 2007 5 May
Title: The Yearbook
Hip-hop artist KJ-52 has recently made a point of sharing the styles from his high school days in anticipation of his new CD, The Yearbook. The 31-year-old offers frightening fashion observations, such as mullets on the guys, massive hair on the girls and horrible clothes all around. And he not only follows suit with several hysterical rhymes and more sobering stories relating to that time period, but bridges a modern hip-hop approach with that old-school era (recalling the diverse likes of Arrested Development, A Tribe Called Quest and The Fugees).
Sure, the Christian artist has often been considered an alternate to Eminem, but this time through he expands that intensity-filled palette with additional instrumental flourishes and lyrical depth. While he’s quick to poke fun at his past (and the fact that he’s Caucasian) with “It Ain’t Easy Being Tweezy,” songs such as “Fanmail” tackle much more meaty subject matter and elevated musical sensibility. Across a somber piano, subtle turntable scratches, a female background vocalist and an envelope-opening sound effect, KJ gives listeners a literal sampling from his mailbag, covering heart-heavy issues such as divorce, addiction and sexuality.
On that track, along with the self-esteem-focused, neo-soul shuffle “Daddy’s Girl,” the rapper suggests hopeful resolutions in Christ to even the most serious situations, simultaneously serving the church and his growing audience on the streets. Throughout “You’ll Never Take Me Down,” KJ mixes hip-hop with hard rock, dueting with Disciple singer Kevin Young through a message of unyielding perseverance.
Much of this ambitious musical and thematic progression can be credited to KJ taking up the self-production reigns on all but two tracks, while turning to the versatile Aaron Sprinkle (Jeremy Camp, Eisley) to put icing on the other pair. Ambitious studio wizardry can also be applied to the call-to-action anthem “Wake Up,” featuring guest vocalist Toby Morell from Emery, which again merges clubs beats with alternative rock undertones.
That said, listeners seeking pure enjoyment won’t have to worry about KJ abandoning his fun-filled persona. Several tracks are sure to rev up any party, such as the disco-tipped “Do Yo Thang,” while others are sure to draw out the inner high schooler in us all (“You Hang Up First” traces an over-dramatic adolescent break-up). As a result of these many facets, The Yearbook will likely be much more than a barely cracked spine on the shelf, but rather a breakthrough sure to see several spins long after this spring’s graduation.
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