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Collaborations - Click to view!Can an emcee be dope and still talk about Jesus Christ? Questions surrounding this topic have been a cause for division within the Christian hip-hop industry. It seems that the best groups out there are able to find a mainstream audience with their skill while never hiding the message they preach. Add KJ-52 to the list. His last album, 7th Avenue, demonstrated his skill. Now on Uprok Records, KJ shows that not only has he gotten better, he has also gotten bolder.

KJ's second album, Collaborations, uses humour and humility in a surprising combination with the simple goal of ministering Jesus to the listener. From track to track KJ gives you no time to breathe. He shifts from deep topics to light-hearted situations and back - all while keeping Jesus in the forefront. Todd Collins gets things started behind the boards with the first three tracks. "Do That", the album's first single is a definite club hit. It is evident early into this song that KJ is furthering his commercial sound with no apologies. Fortunately for him, he rhymes well enough to pull it off. His depth does not scare off the audience but he is clearly not going to battle groups like the Tunnel Rats anytime soon. "The Choice is Yours" (featuring John Reuben) kicks off with an addictive bass line and a beat that is even better. This track dares you not to dance to it. Collins brings in Rob Beckley from Pillar and Trevor from Thousand Foot Krutch to add to the rap-rock song "Rise Up." This is an entertaining tune that suffers from a lack of live drums. Overall, Collins' work is admirable. But the collaborations continue.

Longtime friend Billy Puddles (a.k.a. Supplanta) steps in to produce the beat for a very important track. "Dear Slim" is KJ-52's view of Eminem. In this song, KJ writes three letters to the rap superstar asking him questions about his image, sharing his frustrations on always being compared to Em and finally witnessing to Slim Shady. Never have I heard such a touching response to a controversial artist. This truly is an expression of God's love to someone who needs it. "Dear Slim" is a landmark song, not only for KJ, but also for Christians in general. Playdough enters the scene to produce and rap on "Nursery Rhymes." An extremely funny and clever song, the two emcees call out many famous children's stories relating it all back to Mary who had a lamb that took away the sins of the world.

Blake Knight continues with a standout track "Sonshine" featuring Gotee's Nirva Dorsaint. Nirva is back again on "Wait For You" produced by Ohmega Watts. Both of these songs touch on love. "Sonshine" is straight hip-hop praise and worship, a track that could easily find its way into a church sometime soon. "Wait For You" is honest advice to teenagers thinking about having pre-marital sex. All his words are intelligent and powerful, serving as excellent advice to all those with big questions. Next, KJ focuses on the school nerd. "Revenge of the Nerds" features Pigeon John and production from Flynn Adams Atkins from LA Symphony. Pigeon John by himself is dangerously funny, but combined with KJ these two are a lethal combination. This song recounts their humourous yet humiliating experiences with girls in school. KJ brings it all back to God, saying that in the end the Lord blessed him with a wife.

But he is not done yet. DJ Deftone mixes four beats and finally a smooth introspective track as KJ personifies all the elements of hip-hop, including Jesus Christ. Then KJ turns to the spoken word to remind all artists that he is into ministry first on the interlude "Industry." "Why" features the super dope crew Mars Ill. Manchild and KJ take turns questioning the deep and the stupid things of life while DJ Dust works the turntables. An evangelistic message is put together in "47 Emcees," an interlude where many popular rap artists are called out in an effort to preach the gospel. This is a very inventive and enjoyable track. Verbal skills are exercised in the Billy Puddles produced "ABC's and 1,2,3's." Here, alliteration is used running from A to Z while Puddles brings a verse counting up from one to ten. Check the lyrics for this one. Finally, Golden Child produces and guests on "Where Were You," a sobering track that speaks to the injustice of child abuse and absentee parents.

Each track has been mentioned by this reviewer because this is one of the most solid albums I have ever listened to. It is incredibly diverse with many great guests and producers, but KJ makes sure that every song is his own, bringing continuity to the album. The ministry focus is challenging and sometimes shocking because very few artists have been this bold before. This is an album for all hip-hop fans. It has the potential to be very big and it should be. Enjoy the growth of KJ-52 and DO NOT miss out on Collaborations.
- Jon Corbin
August 2002
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