Though many of his fans have been around since his Essential Records days, there are those that have only recently picked up on Christian rap's hottest act. And for the latter, Essential is re-releasing KJ's first album 7th Avenue, re-mastered and with five previously unreleased tracks.
The original 2000 edition sported 16 tracks. The new '04 Edition, with five tracks added, only has 14. Confused? All of the pointless (And sometimes corny beyond all reason) skits and interludes have been cut. Two full-length tracks have been cut as well. "Cipha All Stars," a sort of freestyle session featuring KJ, Golden Child, Imagine, Supplanta, and Urban Disciple doesn't make an appearance on the re-issue. But most unfortunate is the exclusion of "They Know Not," a collaboration with L.P. and Passion which talks of the sin we commit daily and the Son that took it away.
Despite the sad exclusion of "The Know Not," this re-release holds up amazingly well. Those unfamiliar with 7th Avenue will hear a much more straight-up style of hip-hop than the KJ-52 they are used to. The catchy hooks and beats are still there, but this is hip-hop. There's no layered pop here to keep it accessible to the masses.
For those that have already owned this disc for years, the last five tracks are the real seller. The first two of the unreleased tracks are new recordings, the first being "Lift Me Up," KJ's take on Jars of Clay's incredible "Flood." The lyrics are mixed, new ones are added, and, honestly, I did not even realize what it was until I read it as such in a press release. Probably the highlight of the new material on 7th Avenue is "All Around the World" with John Reuben and L.A. Symphony's Pigeon John. Fans of any of the three rappers here will find this as a real treat. All three get their fair share of rap time, making for a genuinely fun and head-bopping four and a half minutes. "Need Someone," KJ's 2000 guest appearance with Parkway comes next, a signature Parkway (formerly Silage) pop tune with KJ offering his rap talents. The song offers encouragement to anyone looking for a friend, and offers a reminder that God will never let them down. Next comes an unneeded, yet still interesting remix of "It's the S.O.I." and finally, the one true flaw of the entire disc, "12th Round Knockout" - the track KJ did for the movie Carman: The Champion. The song has been "re-mastered" to the point where it has lost its rock edge almost entirely. The heavy guitar that played throughout the song in the original is now only faintly heard, with the beats and rhythms getting all the air-time. What is presented here sounds like a held back version of a great rock/rap song. To those who have never heard the original, this may or may not sound good. But for someone so accustomed to the original (As well as someone who has waited many years to get the track on CD), it is a real disappointment.
KJ-52's come a long way in four years. This re-release is a testimony as to how far he has come. He has always written and performed great tracks, but you can definitely tell that this is not the KJ of today. Still, this is as incredible a release today as it was back in 2000. Here's to the next four years of KJ-52's ministry.- Review date: 02/22/04, written by Josh Taylor
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