Lamp Mode Recordings (2012)
By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.
On the cover of Growing Pains, Json (Jason Watson) is seen emerging face first from the ground, his face contorted in an exasperated expression, a bud growing into new life.
The photo telegraphs the truth that pervades the Christian hip hop artist’s fourth CD.
Growing Pains is the work of a man who has put a tragic past behind him and is now staring down life’s adult hallway of marriage, children, financial pressures, and career responsibilities. It’s a sobering view, but Json understands that any “momentary afflictions” are really “God’s sovereign will at work.” He urges us to not second guess the Grand Master of Life Planning, because even if we don't understand what's happening, it is being done for our own good.
Examples abound. “2 Human” is a reflection on life as a thirty-year-old husband and father of three, followed by a short interlude in which Json talks about the very real ups and downs of married life. On the contagiously melodic “It’s Alright,” Json and Mikeschair rap that when confronted with struggles, don’t stress: “Go to your knees.” “Behind the Clouds” offers a similar argument using a storm metaphor.
Json shares the most cogent parable in an interlude. He describes how a missed flight gets him to a gig on time. I don’t want to be a spoiler so I’ll stop right there.
The rhymes on Growing Pains are supported by an array of engaging, melodic beats and backgrounds and with CHH’s characteristic battery of guest soloists, including Lecrae, Tedashii, Ron Kenoly, Jr. and Jai. For the most part, the flow is spot-on musically, but the message is always clear as glass.
Most chilling is “Secrets” (featuring J.R.) and the preceding interlude. Both tracks offer an unblinking view of the lasting impact of child sexual abuse, especially for young women. Like the stain of guilt, the selections cling to the listener long after the track is over.
Json reiterates that what we see as problems God sees as a necessary step toward a better life, but he also recognizes that for him, the “growing pains” are not over. This acknowledgement prepares listeners for more to come.
“Growing Pains is the most therapeutic album I have written," says Json. “God used the writing on the album to allow me to focus not on the current situation, but how God may be working for the outcome.”
Growing Pains is a mature, smart and approachable CD. It is proof that no matter what the sub-genre’s detractors say, Christian hip hop can prepare a feast for the spiritually hungry.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “2 Human,” “It’s Alright,” “Behind the Clouds.”