Seven years ago, if you had told KJ-52 that he would have gone as far as he has, he would have likely laughed at you. Starting out as a struggling hip-hop artist, KJ picked up steam with his debut 7th Avenue in 2000, and hasn't stopped since. Now, in 2007, he releases his sixth solo hip-hop album, The Yearbook, which boasts 19 full tracks of solid music, with no interludes or skits, something he had become known for.
The album contains some of the same elements of his past albums, including topics like how Christ has changed his life, light hearted party songs, or Christ's crucifixion (evidenced in the album opener, "Will You Ever Know"). But the biggest difference this album has in comparison is the personal depth and attitude that KJ brings to the table this time around. The lyrical content is more straight-forward and God-driven as a whole. Not that his past albums haven't been, but it just takes a whole new feel this time around, on songs like the rock-infused "You'll Never Take Me Down," the quirky, yet serious "Say What You Want," and the spiritually poignant "Can I Be Honest."
As said, the album does include KJ's party side, on beat-driven songs like "Do Yo Thang," the fierce "I Won't Ever Stop," and "Do Ya Got That?" The rapper also takes some subjects straight from his fans, like the immediate hit "Fan Mail" which has some teens that actually wrote letters to him talking on the choruses. Another song that is an encouragement is "You Can Still Come Back" which proves to be a great beat-driven song, and gives the message that no matter where you are or what you did, God is still there for you. One final standout track is "Always Here For You," a song written to his unborn son (who is due in May). It really brings KJ-52's love for his family out into the open, and shows that he's just another person, like his fans.
Another big addition to this new album is how KJ upped the ante with his rock/rap songs. Usually he did one per album, and it was a huge hit. This time around, he's included three full rock tracks, and has collaborated with some new artists. "You'll Never Take Me Down" features Kevin Young of Disciple, and adds a real personal touch to the song. "In The Garden," which is a song about the last five minutes before Jesus was arrested, and "Wake Up," which showcases Emery's Toby Morrel on the chorus and makes for KJ's hardest rock track ever, are fantastic additions to the already lengthy record.
The only problem I could see on this album is the song "It Ain't Easy," which is one of those silly songs that the rapper always does. This time, the beats are ruined by a hard-to-understand chorus sung by a digital voice. But what makes up for this is the entire rest of the record. On his remix album last year, KJ introduced us to his production skills, and proved he could carry himself among the others in the industry, and he does it again here. This is definitely one album for all hip-hop fans to check out, and a diehard fan's must-have. Simply put, it is KJ-52's best lyrical and musical work to date.- Review date: 4/6/07, written by Justin Mabee
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