KJ-52 Breaks Down ‘Jonah’ Track-by-Track
It’s been a few weeks since KJ-52’s newest album Jonah dropped, and the emcee went track by track to break down the album that in a lot of ways has rejuvenated his career.
Read our interview that explains KJ-52 and Derek Minor’s relationship in working on this album here.
Hold On featuring Curt Anderson
“It was the most important song to me. I actually wrote two songs to that track. One became ‘Hold On’ and the other was a follow up to ‘Dear Slim’. It wasn’t a part three but more like a follow up to what happened.
The music that [producer] Pete Stewart gave me inspired me so much that I had two different ideas. I felt that ‘Hold On’ had way more mass appeal. We never had a chorus, it was kind of co-written by all of us. I had a quote in my head which was ‘make more memories than regrets’. I thought that was a great way to live your life and also look back on your life. If you’ve lived your life to the fullest you’ve made more memories than regretful decisions.
It was me looking back at three significants points and taking it from there.”
Get Down Get Down
“This was one of the first initial beats that Pete gave me. It was a little different than what it is now. It was unique. It was just him whistling over this 808. I’ve never heard anything like that. I tend to gravitate toward stuff that’s different because I want it to stand out.
I wrote the three verses really quickly but I struggled on a chorus for probably the whole length of the album. It wasn’t until I watched the show ‘The Get Down’ that I was like, that’s exactly what I’m trying to communicate. It’s kind of a pealing back of my life and almost like I’m taking you through three different scenarios. I mean the song is about as ADD as it gets which is probably why it is one of my favorites to perform live. There are so many musical switch ups. It’s how I start my set. It’s so much fun to perform. I was trying to make sure I wasn’t going goofy. I was trying to go fun and light-hearted and not silly.”
Best Day Ever featuring Chris August and TalkBox
“That was a track where I wrote everything. Chris and Talkbox just resang everything that I did. It really came from something I said out loud at like 4:30 in the morning. I woke up, spilled coffee all over the front of my clothes and said sarcastically to nobody, ‘This is the best day ever’. I kinda checked myself and said, ‘You know wait, even the worst day can be the best day’. It’s just your perspective. How do you want to put God first? Just trying to get motivation and there’s a degree of my fan base that needs it to make them feel better.”
More of You, Less of Me featuring Whosoever South
“I was always a big fan of the movie ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ I love the delta blues kinda vibe and I love that there’s a lot of shared experience between that type of music and hip-hop. They both come from people of lesser means and they make music out of nothing. I was trying to put those two together. The chorus is kind of what I pray everyday, ‘God give me more of You and less of me’. That’s a way to live. What I’m saying in the verses is understanding perspective and all the things that I’m blessed to see, wife, kids, and family. There’s such pleasure to be found in the simplest things God gives you.”
Nah Bruh featuring Canon and B. Cooper
“That year and change that went by that I was working with Derek Minor was me trying to shed the skin of the old me…I was always sending demo ideas or verse ideas to Derek and it got to a point where he’d stop answering and just send me this picture of Chief Keef saying ‘Nah Bruh’.
So I said we should do a song called ‘Nah Bruh’ and he was like ‘No, that’s a dumb idea’. I said to myself, ‘If you think that’s bad, I’m gonna get someone else to do it’. I went to K-Drama and he made the track on the spot in the hotel room while I fell asleep. I kinda demoed the whole thing and sent it back to Derek and he said, ‘Oh, this is dope’. It was my revenge moment. You shot this thing down and now you’re telling me you like it. Derek didn’t have anything to do with it except recording my vocals in a very unique way that forced me to challenge myself in the delivery because I’m doing a triplet style. I wasn’t really happy with the chorus so Derek said I should get Canon to write something over it.”
Day Job featuring Sean Johnson
“That was one of the first tracks I recorded with Derek. It was just a loop. I probably was sitting on that concept for a long time. Derek wrote the chorus and sang the chorus and then we went back and got Sean to sing it.
The final version that it is now versus what I recorded to is totally different. I had sat on that song for a year and a half and got what they call demoitis. So when Derek went back and revamped it and did that half-time thing, I freaked out and was like ‘Nooooo!’ and we actually got into a big argument about it. I was just so connected to the old version. He was right, so I had to put my pride aside and finally admit that his instincts were better than mine.
The song is based on real things that happened.” For more on that TobyMac story, read here.
Lock Down featuring B. Reith
“It’s a track that Derek did. I’ve known B. Reith since 2001. It was one of those tracks where I wrote the verses and sort of had an idea but I could not come up with the chorus. So I sent him the track and he wrote that chorus on the piano and sent it back to me. I almost broke down in tears because it was exactly what I wanted to say to my wife.
There are so many songs where they talk about young love but not many where they talk about committed love, like the beauty of being in a committed relationship for a longtime and the beauty of being with someone to grow old gracefully with. Just the idea that you feel you don’t deserve that person, that you married up and out of your league. My wife an I are coming up on 19 years of marriage. You don’t hear that in the music industry.
The final version that you hear now is completely different. Derek just really killed it as an engineer.”
Know About It featuring Derek Minor
Those verses that I wrote where written to other stuff and there’s a part of me that just wanted to rap for the sake of rapping. It was a part of me that wanted to rhyme just as a throwback to the way I started – very punchliney, very lyrical, miracle, spiritual…I had actually recorded a version of this to a very throwback beat, a late 90s early 2000s track. I played it for Derek and he was like, ‘The part of me that loves old school Jay Z loves this, but it’s not current’. What he basically said to me was, ‘You can be lyrical, but you just have to put the right structure underneath it’. He pointed me to some of the stuff Drake does where it’s a mid-tempo beat, but he’s being lyrical or painting pictures with his words while the production is current. That’s really what Derek pushed me to do. He wrote the chorus. What he’s saying in that chorus is really our first initial connection from two or three years prior. ‘What you need to be is everything that’s yourself, but an updated version that needs to share your wisdom. You need to be looked at for who you are which is someone who has weathered the storm and made it out of the darkness. You should know about it’.
He originally gave me the concept where I talk about all these things in Christian rap and how I made it through that. I didn’t do that for the album but that’s what that song wound up being. I didn’t think I’d put it in my set but it’s so good, rhyming for the sake of rhyming, the heartbeat of every emcee. It’s a very declarative two verses. It’s like that last verse Eminem does in ‘8 Mile. I’m already telling you about everything you think I am, and I’m going to tell it to you first. I’m an emcee with a pop side, so you think for all these years I did it for your top 5? I chose my path, I’m not going to be in your top 5 and I don’t care.
The same thing that you might condemn me for is the whole reason I’m here. I’m proud of it. You want to be in my position, you want the longevity and the success I’ve had, but you want to condemn me for the means that I took to get there. Well I’m telling you that I make no apologies for doing it. I’m also schooling the younger heads that ‘You guys do not get it. That’s ok, you’re either gonna get it, or you’re gonna be gone. I’ve seen it all come and go.
I came out on the lyrical tip and got nowhere. I had to take the silly roll to get any traction, the difference is now people want that sort of lyricism. When people paid attention, I realized the market changed.”
Get the album on iTunes here.
Listen to KJ-52 on the Rapzilla Podcast with Chris Chicago below.