Json used to want to be a dope dealer. Now he’s drawing inspiration from social media networks for 18-track albums.
“No Filter was pulled from the hashtag on Instagram. That’s where the concept came from,“ said “Json” Watson of his newest musical foray, which drops on Tuesday. “These are snapshots of my life.”
No Filter is Json’s sixth album, having first come out with The Seasoning in 2005, followed by Life on Life in 2008, City Lights in 2010, Growing Pains in 2012, and Braille in 2013. No Filter was listed by Rapzilla as one of the 25 most anticipated albums of 2015.
“As an album, I feel like it’s my best work, in all aspects,” Json said. “There’s a musical difference between this and the other albums. There’s a heavy baseline and a real hip-hop feeling. It’s a big record — a fun record.”
Although there are plenty of important messages on the album, Json believes that one of the most crucial is the issue of identity, which happens to be the title of one of his songs.
“I talk about identity. That’s at a height in our culture,” he said. “When we start talking about identity — you gotta see [God] properly. If we don’t see him properly, we can’t see us properly. I wrestled with identity when I was growing up. You don’t hear men talk about it, so I wanted to give men a voice.”
Json, who grew up in St. Louis and experienced first-hand the plague of drugs and poverty, has dedicated himself, his life and his music to glorifying God. And the purpose of his most recent endeavor is to continue that mission.
Json lists three things — character, personality and identity — that he feels are at the center of the album and that he strived to focus on.
“God uses experiences to shape and remold us,” he said. “Our sovereign God uses that.”
The hip-hop artist mentioned the songs “My G” and “Stunna” as a couple of his favorite tracks on the new project and the ones he believes express his message clearly. The song “My G” is a statement on the church, says Json, and “Stunna” focuses on God’s character.
“I’m doing it by making statement pieces,“ he said. “I want to always point to the Lord. I try to make music based on who I am — to revisit my experiences.”
Json points to influences like Tupac, Scarface and Nas in shaping his musical style and said storytelling is an important aspect to his music.
“They were content-driven,” he said about the artists. “The current climate is melody-driven — not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Json adds, however, that other artists like Flame, Thi’sl and Swift were just as influential.
“They took me under their wing,” he said.
And Json is proud of the Christian hip-hop influence he’s had and the direction he’s going.
“This is who I am,” Json said. “I’m okay being a Christian rapper. It’s OK to say I’m a Christian rapper.”
As far as his future, Json says he’s excited about the opportunities coming his way, not to mention the opportunities he’s had as president of Lamp Mode Recordings.
Json took over Lamp Mode in early 2014. The label sports such talent as Shai Linne, Stephen the Levite, Timothy Brindle and S.O.
“Three years from now, I’ll definitely still be involved in music,” Json said, but he adds excitedly that in June he moved back to St. Louis to serve in a church-plant called, The Gate.
“My goal is to plant churches in St. Louis,” he said. ”It’s always been a balance between experience and gospel.”
Whether serving God in his hometown or writing and performing new music, Json plans to keep putting himself out there for his fans and his family, and it’s been made obvious throughout his new album, No Filter.