LABEL: LAMP MODE RECORDINGS
RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 21, 2012
s a fan of music, the artists I feel most connected with are those that I have seen grow with every album. Like a proud spectator rooting for the underdog, I love to watch an artist go from being just another face in the sea of musical peers, to making beautiful art, to somewhere along the way finding their voice. Json is that underdog.
I remember buying Json’s first release, The Seasoning. It had some good songs, but I would not have characterized it as anything exceptionally special. At that time, he was somewhat in the shadow of fellow St. Louis native, Flame. But then, he released Life On Life, and it was clear that this guy had something to say. He was not just throwing out cliché Christian terms and making hype songs just for the heck of it, but his lyrics had some weight to them. Shortly after the release of Life On Life, the public received the shocking news that Json signed with a label, Lamp Mode. I never saw this coming. I mean, this is a crunk, Midwest, artist who just signed to a label known for their underground, backpacker style. Yet, with the release of City Lights, Json’s third album, it was clear that he still had the creative freedom to be himself. This freedom paid off, and Json made an album that was as weighty as it was sonically pleasing.
This brings us to Json’s fourth effort, Growing Pains. This album is the culmination of years of perfecting the art of rhyming, wordplay, and the ability to make a good song. The hard work is evident. Json’s flow on Growing Pains is flawless. No line is wasted. This album is deeply personal, and it gives the listener a peek into the life of Json. To add to the personal and intimate feel of the album, it even seemed that he pulled back on using so many adlibs as he has done on previous projects.
The production on Growing Pains is top-notch and has something for everyone. These songs range from an array of sounds including Pop, Midwest style production, Crunk, Ballad, and even some with a CCM vibe to them. Yet, the album still meshes together nicely; never really feeling like any one song is out of place.
The content on this album is refreshingly honest. On “2 Human” feat Lecrae, Json exhorts his listeners to remember that even though he is in the public eye he is still a person who has feelings and struggles such as coping with the busyness of everyday life.
“Held It Down” feat. Butta P & Ron Kenoly jr. talks about the trust between a husband and wife and their trust in God. The husband is frustrated that his wife shows some doubts with the way he is leading her. And the wife is struggling with letting her husband lead and feeling like her role is less important. It is obvious that this song comes from a personal place and that these are not just characters in a story. To me, this type of transparency adds to the beauty of the dialogue between the husband and wife.
“My Joy” feat Jai, which might be my personal favorite on the album, speaks on the wonderful truth that the struggles believers face now are only “momentary afflictions, preparing (us) for eternal glory;”: a weighty truth that is executed nicely.
Another gut-wrenching track is “Secrets” feat. J.R. This song tells the story of sexual abuse and the way that the abuse shapes the victim’s view of their self-worth. However, the climax of the song is not the destructiveness of the abuse but the redeeming power and love of Christ.
Growing Pains is full of so many great songs that the format of a review does not allow expounding on each one. There were a few songs that I had trouble getting into musically, but even these songs were executed exceptionally well and had good content. This is an album I will be going back to for awhile, and one that I can highly recommend.