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City of Pain - Click to view!Just because you may not have heard of him doesn't give you a reason to sleep on Mark J. The holy hip-hop vet has been around for more than a minute, and he brings his game to budding label Much Luvv Records with City of Pain.

Mark uses his seasoned experience to bring diversity to his hip-hop presentation. Canton Jones brings the gospel flavour on the album opener "My Passion." Reggae lyricists 2nd Nature join the party on "Rock," while John Penn brings a hard rock edge to the unique "Lift Up The Banner." Mark uses spoken word to relate Godly perspective with "It's A Shame." "Passing Moments" is a charming look into the minds of Christians looking for lasting relationships. However, this balanced effort is overshadowed by some weak song elements.

Several of the songs contain poorly crafted hooks that ruin the entire track. "In It, Not Of It," "Rock" and "National Anthem," fall prey to chant heavy choruses that distract from the solid messages Mark brings. The production, performed by DeLano and Rob Russ, ranges from below average to decent. Even a submission from Todd Bangz falls short of his past success. Another detractor from this effort is the whopping 25 tracks this album contains. City of Pain is in desperate need of a trim, especially its eight interludes. Also, a spurious song by Truth ("Right Revolution") is present without a drop of effort from Mark J himself. And unfortunately, this winds up being one of the more enjoyable cuts on the album.

Mark J touches on some fascinating topics on this disc. "City of Pain" and "Talitha Cumi" discuss the real world experiences of people with creative and passionate lyricism. Yet, these bright spots do not standout amongst the weak hooks, poor production and mammoth number of tracks. City of Pain is simply Mark J trying to do too much. Finding the jewels on this disc is not like finding a needle in a haystack, but it's not worth the effort.
- Jon Corbin
November 2003
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