KJ-52 must not sleep very much. It has not even been 18 months since It's Pronounced Five-Two was released, and, though having been busy also with yet another side project released in 2004, KJ is back with his fourth album Behind the Musik (A Boy Named Jonah).
You would think in such a short time span between projects, what you end up with would be a rushed and incomplete piece of work. Rather, Behind the Musiků is possibly his best work to date. Sharply produced by Aaron Sprinkle, Todd Collins, Tedd T., and KJ himself; this album is filled to the brim with catchy hooks, bass-thumping beats, and more wit than KJ has ever displayed.
The disc opens with the first of five spoken tracks which lay out KJ's life growing as told by those who would know best: his parents. It is a somewhat odd touch, but interesting nonetheless. The title track runs through KJ's life as well, and many tracks on the album make reference to it. True hip-hop/rap fans may not find it repetitious, but more casual fans just might.
However, any sort of repetition is countered by a plethora of very unique songs for anyone in the hip-hop/rap genre. Jon Micah of Kutless makes an appearance in the rock oriented "Are you Real." "Life After Death" is another rock infused hip-hop track in which KJ plays out a "Judgement House" scenario in which two separate people die, one saved and the other not, and both face the consequences of their decision in this life. "Cry No More" is an ambient, piano-and-beat driven hip-hop ballad. It deals with the pains of a troubled and abusive childhood and serves as somewhat of a follow-up to the beautiful "Where Were You?" from Collaborations.
KJ's sense of humor is not lost in the parade of unique tracks. "Fivetweezy" makes as many hilarious pop culture references as are possible in just over 3 minutes. Ashton Kutcher, Bruce Almighty, and, yes, even William Hung get ample airtime. "Video Games" continues the grand tradition of "47 Emcees" and "47 Pop Stars" and pays tribute to video games by naming off 80's fair, as well as more modern games.
Perhaps the only flaws on Behind the Musiků are the renditions of "God" by Rebecca St. James and "Right Here" by Jeremy Camp. The music from those songs plays in the background as KJ's beats and raps reverberate until the chorus when the original voice tracks take over. Some may enjoy these tracks, but they just seem unoriginal and bland. Perhaps if the James and Camp had actually been in the studio and re-recorded the vocals for their respective songs, it would be better. They are not necessarily bad, just as good as they should have been.
But minor complaints aside, KJ's latest is impressive in just about every sense of the word, and a big step from previous efforts. Those not taken by the "plain white rapper" should give this one a spin before writing him off. Behind the Musiků is simply the best rap album of this young year.- Review date: 1/30/05, written by Josh Taylor
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