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7TH AVENUE (2000)
7th Avenue - Click to view! He came out of virtually nowhere releasing his debut album on Essential Records, a label better known for its alt-rock artists Jars of Clay and Third Day. To the cynic, it seemed as if Essential was merely playing off the fame of rap superstar Eminem. Little did anyone know that while there might have been some similarities, KJ-52 was a bonafide emcee. A talented, underground cat who is just now surfacing, after years of struggle, to try his hand at the hip-hop game. 7th Avenue was enough to prove to the Christian market that things aren't always what they seem.

The album opens with a skit, a three-part discussion dispersed throughout the record presenting the gospel of Jesus in a way hip-hoppers will understand. Despite his voice sounding occasionally like Em, KJ comes off as nothing but original. His main producer Todd Collins maximizes his diversity, bringing every trick in his bag to the table. "Keep It Moving" is a slow tempo gem featuring Knowdaverbs and DJ Form. The album changes pace with a crowd-pleasing remake of dc Talk's "The Hardway." The mood gets slightly heavier as KJ taps into the broken heart with "Keep Ya Head Up". Finally, the world is given the opportunity to hear KJ's mission statement on "Do What I Do." Like a veteran pitcher, Collins gives us many different looks while maintaining the continuity of the album. The listener is never thrown off guard.

Any remaining doubts about the skill of this young man are quickly erased with the appearance of other producers. Cross Movement member Tru Life brings The Ambassador and The Phanatik to perform on the "Sons of Intellect Anthem." This track bears eerie resemblance to many CM hits. In fact, KJ blends in so well with these gifted emcees, you might think that he was a part of the East Coast crew. Other notable songs are "Integrity," (featuring Bonafide from Grits) the old school flavoured "We Rock The Mic" (produced by KJ himself) and the hardcore reggae tune "1,2,3" (featuring Yankee Man).

With all of this enjoyment, it is unfortunate that the album tapers off at the end. The final two songs are fairly weak. "This Is Love" (produced by Blake Knight of Ill Harmonics) is a decent attempt at a love song but becomes tedious very quickly. Also, "They Know Not" has a very poor hook and the energy of KJ is not matched by guest emcees Passion and L.P.

What is especially impressive about 7th Avenue is the high caliber guest appearances for such a relative unknown. However, it is soon evident that this guy can roll with the best of them as he gives us a fun, thoughtful and diverse album. Give this one a listen and don't sleep on his next full-length project.
- Jon Corbin
July 2002
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