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In 1971, the Funkadelics released Maggot Brain, an album as unity-preaching as it was genre-bending. The record begins with legendary guitarist Eddie Hazel’s empathetic guitar solo over a minimal acoustic scale, setting the remainder of the album into a tailspin of confused life stories.
Almost four decades later, Json releases Growing Pains. Akin to the title track of Maggot Brain, Growing Pains is an extremely personal album that hits at the soul of the human condition. Both projects boast similar covers – an artist struggling to emerge from the soil like the first bulb of spring. And, of course, there is the coincidence of alliteration – Maggot Brain / Growing Pains.
But that is where the similarities end. Growing Pains is an album about submission to the Lord’s will. The theme runs consistently in songs like “Held It Down” (featuring Butta-P & Ron Kenoly Jr.), where Json expounds on the concept of trust in a relationship. Speaking from the perspective of the Almighty, he spits “I am love, so loving you ain’t an issue for me. Look at my son and point out a better picture to me.” Over sweeping, dream-like keys produced by Benjah and Sky, Json raps about marriage being a tool that God uses for our sanctification.
Continuing with the theme of submission is “I The Beast.” In this song, Json takes the position of the Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine Inc. in the unmasking of what lies behind the facade of many – pride. “Prides at the heart of all depravity, and the Lord saw the tragedy, so he sent his son the lift us up, Cuz if you notice now were all subject to gravity.” The track, a movie soundtrack produced by Wit, is sure to get your adrenaline rushing with it’s urgent-sounding drums.
Few songs speak truths that resonate in your soul like a penny on the head of a bass drum. With “My Joy” (featuring Jai and produced by Wit), Json manages to deliver such a track, explaining the reason for submission to the perfect will of the Father – eternal glory. Json raps, “When pains rush hits you, like the wind do, think – we have something angels look into.” This is surely what the apostle Paul meant in Romans 8:23 when he said “we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons.”
Apparently an important topic for Json, “Secrets” (produced and featuring J.R.) gives a chilling description of a child having their sexual innocence ripped away. Json raps: “Someone’s next to me, their weight is on my bed, my cover’s pulling back, a hand is on my leg.” J.R. sings: “Who do you think you are to take what wasn’t yours? The innocence I once adorned was striped away behind closed doors. The Enemy’s inside my home, but who would ever listen to me?” It is a song so wrought with imagery that it is difficult not to shed a tear.
The one thing Growing Pains seemed to lack was cohesiveness. Intermingled through Growing Pains, the more rock-centered tracks “2 Human” (featuring Lecrae), “It’s Alright” (featuring Mikes Chair), “Behind the Clouds” (featuring Christ Lee) and “Credits Roll” (featuring Benjah) stick out like sore thumbs. While the new direction has made for a much more well-rounded, Christian mainstream sound than Json’s previous efforts, it all seems too contrived and unsettling.
Maybe Growing Pains would have had a greater impact had the aesthetically darker tracks preluded the more mainstream “feel good” tracks. Regardless, Growing Pains is still an album that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Record Label: Lamp Mode Recordings
1. Growing Pains Intro (produced By Black Knight)
2. Making Me Over feat. AD3 & Tedashii (produced By Street Symphony)
3. 2 Human feat. Lecrae (produced By J-Luv)
4. GP (Interlude1) (produced By Chike)
5. Held It Down feat. Butta-P & Ron Kenoly Jr. (produced By Benjah & Sky)
6. It’s Alright feat. Mikes Chair (produced By Benjah)
7. I The Beast (produced By Wit)
8. Brand New feat. God’s Servant & Steve-T (produced By Steve-T)
9. GP (Interlude2) (produced By Chike)
10. My Joy feat. Jai (produced By Wit)
11. Behind The Clouds feat. Christ Lee (produced By J.R.)
12. We Not Folding feat. Trubble & Blacknight (produced By Geeda)
13. Statistics (Interlude)
14. Secrets feat. J.R. (produced By J.R.)
15. Credits Roll feat. Benjah (produced By J.R.)
16. GP (Interlude3)
17. Goodbye (produced By GP)