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JFH Music Review


MC Jin, 'Roller Coaster'
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MC Jin
Roller Coaster



Genre(s): Cantopop / HK-Pop / Hip Hop
Album length: 10 tracks: 34 minutes, 9 seconds
Street Date: May 17, 2024


READER RATING:   


MC Jin (also known as "Jin") has long been a trailblazer in the hip-hop world. As the first Asian-American solo rapper to be signed to a major record label (Ruff Ryders) in the United States, Jin's sharp freestyle skills (and willingness to demonstrate them on television) led to a surprisingly high degree of exposure. His journey from the early days of freestyle battles on BET's "106 & Park," to becoming a significant figure in the Asian hip-hop scene, is well-worth review for the uninitiated. With his latest album, Roller Coaster, Jin not only revisits the highs and lows of his career, but also meditates on his personal growth and faith.

Followers of Jin's career will be well aware that there was a marked shift in his music in 2012 when he released Crazy Love, Ridiculous Faith. While most of his previous music was far from family-friendly, that record coincided with a deep transformation in his life; one which embraced the faith he had only partly known as a child. This was a significant turning point, influencing his lyrics and the messages he chose to convey through his music. This shift remains evident on Roller Coaster, where Jin balances his hip-hop roots alongside reflective, faith-based themes. His 2024 LP stands out not only for its thematic depth, but also for its overall linguistic diversity: Jin raps in English, Cantonese, and even Mandarin. This "trilingual approach" is more than a stylistic choice; it is a testament to Jin's varied cultural heritage and his desire to join different worlds together.

The album opens and closes with the same title track, "Roller Coaster," albeit with the opening version in Chinese and the closing version in English. Full disclosure: I do not speak or read Cantonese or Mandarin and needed to consult translation services and friends for the purposes of this review. The title track aligns with the thematic structure of the album and is also an effective analogy of Jin's career. The track's lyrics both impactful and far from discreet: "It's been twenty years in the game through the tears and the pain / Had to switch gears, but I never veered from my lane / When the cheers disappeared, and I would hear 'it's a shame' / 'What happened to his career?' Man, I been here just the same / See when you flying high, you be feeling so blessed / But how you deal with turbulence, that's the true test."

In the third track, "Slow It Down," Jin's Mandarin and English verses flow together seamlessly, crafting an original tapestry of sound. The novelty of such linguistic fusion adds an extra layer to Jin's music, although, due to the language barrier, one which most of us listeners will fail to fully appreciate. Another highlight is seen on the fifth track, which translates to something like "My Lover Loves Hip Hop," and is a unique love song portraying the different stylistic tastes between a couple: "Your spouse doesn't like hip-hop, I have some sympathy / You like Biggie, but he likes 2Pac / so there's no way you're going to fall in love with him" and "Even if we have different tastes, we can share them with each other / Just pick a good song / Don't be nervous, let's enjoy it slowly together." The album also boasts more melodic offerings, such as "Crazy Times" and "HipHopMan," the latter of which features guest vocals from Nana Ou-Yang.

One of the best aspects of Roller Coaster is seen in how Jin interweaves his Christian faith throughout the album, a theme even depicted on the album cover. This spiritual backdrop shapes Jin's music and his message, especially in the album's closing tracks. In particular, "Finish Line" highlights his spiritual goals and his understanding of faith as the key anchor in life: "Can't keep running from the truth / Feels like I'm running out of time / Every day a million questions that be running through my mind / So, I look up to the sky / Ask the Lord, 'Give me a sign / Give me strength, give me faith to make it to the finish line' / ... I got faith I'll make it to the finish line."

In the English version of "Roller Coaster," the lyrics reflect a deep sense of humility and gratitude, with Jin acknowledging that, despite the roller coaster of life, his faith remains a steadfast guide as he closes out with the lines (in the English version of "Roller Coaster"): "What's life? Balance, I suppose / To fail and succeed, yeah, that's just how it goes / Pray on your knees, stay on your toes / Life's a roller coaster."

This album sees Jin invite listeners to join him on his own personal roller coaster through life's highs and lows. The album is a fresh addition to MC Jin's already extensive discography, and it captures his evolution and growth as both an artist and an individual, blending his hip-hop roots with Christian themes. Musically, Roller Coaster is a diverse and experimental album. Jin explores various styles, from hard-hitting boom bap to more melodic or introspective tracks. The overall production is tight and delivers a number of unique auditory sounds and effects, delivering a distinct instrumental experience, often rooted in East-Asia motifs. The album's experimental linguistic content, quality lyrics, and general depth make it a standout project. It simultaneously honors his past while also looking forward, showcasing a mature artist who continues to grow and seek new inspiration.

- Review date: 6/14/24, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com



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. Record Label: None
. Album length: 10 tracks: 34 minutes, 9 seconds
. Street Date: May 17, 2024
. Buy It: Apple Music
. Buy It: Amazon Music (MP3)

  1. Roller Coaster (Chinese Version) (3:33)
  2. Beat Kune Do (2:38)
  3. Slow It Down (2:47)
  4. HipHopMan2023 (4:00)
  5. My Lover Loves HipHop (3:30)
  6. Nobody (3:14)
  7. Crazy Times (4:00)
  8. Who I Am (3:09)
  9. Finish Line (3:40)
  10. Roller Coaster (3:33)

 

 



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