In the world of hip-hop, an artist is defined by his beats and rhythematic flow. If you excel well with these two elements, then you'll have opportunities of getting recognized and eventually get signed to a major record label. However, nothing in modern music is for certain until an artist gets that one life changing phone call which will set his musical career in motion. But an MC does not necessarily need a contract to bring forth quality music to blend together with his lyrical talent. This important piece of info factors in perfectly with Bronx, New York native J.Juice.
Having only been raised by his Dominican mother throughout his childhood, Johnny "Juice" Pichardo enjoyed the finer things in life, but was always searching for his purpose, yet without depending on God's calling for him. After graduating from college in South Carolina and having a short stint with the secular underground rap group Dem Boiz, J.Juice finally surrendered his life to Christ in 1999 and began pursuing interest in Gospel hip-hop. With a solo project already under his belt, this New York MC has returned with his sophomore effort Johnny B. Good.
The album in question is best defined as "Kirk Franklin meets Nelly" in style and beat patterns. The first single, "I'm Shifting Gears," paints a beautiful portrait of Juice's willingness to break his old habits of not giving of his full service to God and striving to live a better life because of Him. In another instance, the bass and drum feel of "Me and My Big Mouth" comes full throttle on the dangers that lie within an individual who experiences difficulties controlling his tongue, which is an example of James 3:6 - "And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell."
J.Juice also invites friends to collaborate with him on Johnny B. Good as well, which include vocal appearances by Devert on the songs "Run and Tell" and the title track, while a soulful voice from a young lady named Tasha provides the chorus melodies for "If God is 4 Me." The album's biggest highlight is the fresh arena-esque "Fire" and just begs to be heard in major clubs. Unfortunately, the album is not without flaws as the live version of "I'm Shifting Gears" is not a song but rather the artist himself taking nearly 5 minutes to pump up the crowd for his hit single. Fortunately, the bonus tracks by rap group The Compound, as well as a music video for "I'm Shifting Gears," found on the CD's enhanced portion make up for the non-music track featured.
With uplifting lyrics and radio friendly beats, J.Juice has a passion for God and for hip-hop. Even though he has a couple of areas that could use improvement, Mr. Pichardo has a unique vibe and style that is impossible to go unrecognized amongst his underground emcee adversaries. Johnny B. Good is undoubtedly a family-oriented album that kids, teens, and adults of all ages can enjoy.- Review date: 10/9/05, written by Paul Portell
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