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KJ-52: straight out of the ghetto
[ kj-52: straight out of the ghetto ]


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KJ-52 PhotosIf you've seen the cover for KJ-52's latest, Collaborations, and are as ignorant of Christian hip-hop as I am, the first words that come to mind aren't the ones you see in the title above. The Artist Otherwise Known As Jonah Sorrentino, decked out in decidedly suburban scrubs and sporting bleached blonde hair make looks like he just stepped out of a GAP ad. He is told this.

"Hey you know what," he begins. I cower, waiting for the verbal blows to come. They don't. "Don't hate me cause I'm beautiful," he says with a smile. I relax. He gets serious.

"Yes I did grow up poor. My dad was an ex hippie [and] full time artist and we lived two miles from the projects. Mafia people sold drugs over the counter down the street, we had our house robbed 3 times and our front window shot out 2 times. It was the kind of neighborhood where they wouldn't deliver pizzas at night time."

It didn't help that he lived in a broken home—his parents divorced when he was nine—and was one of few white children in his neighbourhood. "Growing up, I had a lot of anger, bitterness and hurt," he says via kj-52.com. "Lacking stability led me to making a lot of negative life choices-partying, drinking, chasing after girls…the negative side of hip-hop."

J eventually left the neighbourhood, moving to the suburbs to live with his mom at age 10. Two years later he began writing rhymes and pursuing hip-hop religiously. That all began to change, however, at age 15. He put the pen down and didn't write another song until his senior year in high school.

In 1996, he formed the now defunct Sons of Intellect with fellow emcee Golden Child, and soon found himself opening up for mainstream groups like The Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul. When GC left the group, KJ began pursuing a solo career, and eventually found himself with Essential Records. He was later dropped by Essential, due to decisions made by the Jive Records, which owns Essential. He caught on with Uprok Records (home to the Tunnel Rats, Ill Harmonics and New Breed), and says he feels like he's found a long-term home.

Fade to black, right? "Disenfranchised youth finds religion and rides off into the sunset." Perfect Hollywood ending. Wrong. To know KJ you need to understand the man behind the music. You need to know his innermost thoughts, fears, dreams and everything he's capable of.

Well, we can't help you there. But there is more to talk about. That Slim Shady thing, for instance. The new album. It's all coming in part two. Stay tuned.

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- Ben Forrest
October 2002
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