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


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KJ-52 PhotosSo, yeah, we left you hanging. Our bad. Below is Part Two of the KJ-52 feature. Hit us with what you think on the message boards.

KJ-52, an honest, patient and reasonable man, is faced with a rather pedestrian question. He is kind.

"You'll be annoyed by this," I say, "but I have to ask. I get the 'five-two' part of the name but where does 'KJ' come from?" (Note: "five-two" is a reference to the five loaves of bread and two fish used by Jesus to feed the five thousand)

"The KJ part is an abbreviated version of an old rap name, which was really dumb so I just use the initials now." I nod, smile, and finally realize why I haven't seen the information published elsewhere.

"It stood for King J," he says. "I'm so embarrassed."

And I'm embarrassed for him. (Joking, KJ. I used to call myself "Sparkplug")

We move on, and eventually come to talk about the record. Collaborations, released on July 16, has sold more than 12,000 copies to date, and features guest appearances from virtually all of holy hip-hop's mentionable names.

"[A collaborations album] was something I've always wanted to do," he says, "along with other things like a jazz record, a rap core album, a producer-artist album, etcetera. This just happened to be the best opportunity to do it." The results are impressive.

John Reuben, Pigeon John, Mars Ill, Playdough, and members of Thousand Foot Krutch, Pillar and L.A. Symphony all make contributions to the album. Still, one might expect that KJ didn't get to work with everyone he wanted to. So what would happen if Collaborations II had no limits? He'd do a song with Third Day.

"Just off he top of my head I'd have to say Lauryn Hill, KRS ONE [and] RUN D.M.C. [would be on my dream list]," he says. "Just different artists that I grew up with. But on the Christian market side I'd love to [collaborate] with artists that you'd never hear on a hip-hop record [like Third] Day or Plus One. You know, artists [collaborations] that would really push the limit. I'm kind of weird like that."

Maybe. But how many would've expected that Aerosmith would hook up with Run-DMC before 1986? It could happen, folks.

Finally, the questions you've been wondering about. From day one, KJ has been labelled an Eminem knockoff. The fact that Collaborations was released two months after The Eminem Show, and new songs like "Dear Slim" and "5th Element" don't help things much. But nobody likes to be seen as such, and some of the criticism may be a little unjust. As KJ himself says, in the aforementioned "Dear Slim," "The only thing we've got in common is our melanin…or lack of it."

"I might get compared [to Eminem if I was Hispanic or Japanese] but I wouldn't get dubbed 'the Christian Slim Shady.' My skin tone definitely makes people jump on that quicker."

And chances are Shady didn't make it through Bible college, pastor a group of 100 inner-city kids, get some of his own sermon tapes into rotation at radio stations, and probably doesn't author his own magazine column or have a devotional on the way out.

We end on a light note. Asked to divulge stories from his current Scream tour with Grits and Justifide, he opens up. "The dude from Justifide broke his ankle the second show," he says emphatically. "He's been sitting on a stool for the last couple of gigs, which is funny cause their show he usually jumps around like a maniac and now it looks like an unplugged show. We all like to tease him a lot about it."

The funniest story, though?

Stay Tuned.

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- Ben Forrest
October 2002
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