J Johnson “The Struggle”
Published on July 21, 2009
I’ve never heard a complete project from J Johnson’s before, so I came to this project virtually blind, in regards, to what I should expect. One thing I like about him is his passion. His passion comes through on every track. There’s not one song where I felt like he wasn’t giving it his all. On top of that, the brother is real. He’s very honest. He doesn’t try to hide who he is on this album. Even on the intro he says that this “This here is more than an album, it’s my life. Feel me?” J Johnson is no amateur. This guy has collaborated with The Cross Movement (Holy Culture Gift Wrap), Da Truth (Moment of Truth), Flame, R Swift, and the list goes on for real. But I have to keep it real. If you’ve never heard him rhyme before, this album isn’t like any of the aforementioned artists. The scriptural content on the album is actually pretty weak. Don’t get it twisted, J Johnson’s gift for rhyme is evident, but if you’re looking for someone to hit hard with scripture, this album is not what you’re looking for. Ironically, on the 2nd song “I’m Back” he says, “I’m in the booth again, and I’m laying something. Christian platinum and underground artists are saying nothing. I spit that Word out, they spitting words out. Nothing for nothing leaves nothing, take that word of mouth.” But content as a whole is “OK”. Instead of scripture being quoted, he addresses real life situations from a Christian vantage point.
I do have to admit that I’ve procrastinated on writing this review, which is not my norm. To be totally honest, I didn’t like this project as a whole the first time I heard it. Don’t get me wrong, he has some head-bangers on here, but at the end of the album I wasn’t really satisfied (more on that later). With that being said, I also have to admit that the album grew on me and I was able to come back to this project and see, or should I say ‘hear,’ some things from a different vantage point. My only issue with that is I don’t want an album to “grow” on me. I want it to surprise me with the production and make me smile and rewind in response to the wordplay and content. Unfortunately, I can’t compare this project to his past albums for those of you who are already fans, but with all things calculated, the album is OK. To save time, space, and sanity I won’t go through each song. I’m too long-winded for that, just take my word for it. Let me give you a few highlights from the album, to let you know why it’s “OK” and what to look out for.
This album starts out with a pretty tight intro. Rhyming is on point. The beat has that East Coast flavor with a style that’ll make you sit back and chill while nodding your head. This is the kinda joint you play when you just wanna be laid back and hear someone spit. Cool start. I like the concept of the track (music) for “I’m Back,” but the bass needs to be turned up on this one. The verses are solid, but the hook got annoying. I couldn’t blast this one like I wanted to because of how the song was mixed. In the hook he screams out “OOOOH” and “NOOO” (that’s just part of the hook mind you) and it just had too much treble or something. As a whole it’s a solid option, I wouldn’t skip it. Warning, he is mostly bragging on this song, but what do you expect from a track called “I’m Back?”
J Johnson has his best moment on song #4,“Ovacomaz.” This is the classic on this album. This is where a tight track meets tight rhymes and it flows from start to finish. The hook is catchy. The track is bananas (yeah, I said bananas)! What is it like? The tempo is something you would march to, like you’re getting ready for war. This is the type of track you listen to as you’re loading the clip with scriptures ready to blast anyone that moves with the truth of God. Ahhh…fight music!! If you ain’t ready for a spiritual battle after this track…you ain’t saved! But we can fix that…put the song on repeat and give me a call.
The next few songs are different shades of mediocre depending on your taste and mood. The next good song pops up at #9 “Amazing Grace.” The beat is solid. Corey Red is on this track and he brings it as well. The song actually focuses on what they’re life would be like without the grace of God, which translates into a lack of salvation/conviction. The track almost turns sour because they talk about worldly exploits so much, I started to wonder if they were subconsciously bragging about what they could’ve been (aka thugging, rapping, killing, etc.). Whatever…you be the judge. I like the song.
The next few songs (10-12) upgrade to “good” status. I appreciate the message on song #13 (“Where We At”) but the music messed it up. There was an attempt to be raw/edgy with the guitars and all, but the melody was bad and hurt more than it helped.
The last four songs on the album range within mediocre to good. But the album doesn’t end strong. The last song is cool, but it’s not the type of song that makes you want to start back at one (or repeat the song, for that matter). This song is not an exclamation point. It’s not even a period, really. I like the length of the album as a whole. I just wish it had a definitive end. A conclusion…a finale…closure…something! Oh well, I guess I’ll have to wait until the next rhyme. Either way, the album as a whole is “OK.” It wasn’t easy to come to this conclusion, but I can’t say I wasn’t warned. After all, J Johnson did call this album “The Struggle.”
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Review by: E Pluribus Unum
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