Conversations with friends, connections made through common interests, and random circumstances have led to a notable uptick in the amount of rap that I listen to lately. It is a genre of music that my son is inclined toward, but, also that seems to suit my workout soundtrack like a glove. I need all of the motivation I can get there and artists like KJ-52, Derek Minor, and Young Saint answer the call every time. That said, there is gentler, more introspective side to each of these guys that resonates across demographics and genres.
I met KJ-52 while he was emceeing the first annual The Hands & Feet Project/K-Love Fan Awards RUN FOR LOVE 5K that is held in Nashville, TN each year. The Hands & Feet Project is an amazing organization that provides care for over one hundred orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti and that, also, provides jobs for Haitians in Grand Goave and Jacmel, Haiti so that they can better equip Haitian families to stay together. Any artist who supports the Hands & Feet project has my appreciation and KJ-52 has served as the emcee for the event twice and it is due to my subsequent purchase of his album MENTAL that I started paying more attention to rap. MENTAL caught my attention big time and became a gym staple during my workouts. But, his latest album JONAH, I believe, is even better. Compared to his prior work, JONAH is a more personal album that takes the time to consider the manner in which his perspective has evolved as he’s matured. His recent single, “More of You, Less of Me (ft. Whosoever South,” is a favorite of mine.
I first stumbled upon the work of Young Saint when I watched his video for the song “Blessings” on Rapzilla while looking for more information about another artist and the song hooked me immediately because it articulated my own experience as somebody who has seen God’s perfect plan come to fruition in a significant way through dark and challenging circumstances in my own life. It became an instant favorite of mine and led to my purchase of the whole album. Since then, Young Saint released a video for the song “You Hold Me Together (ft. Chandler Moore)” which originally appeared on his album TRANSITION in its original form featuring Julius Witherspoon. The album as a whole is solid with a consistent perspective of grace, gratitude, and focus, regardless of the circumstances, flowing clearly through the lyrics. “You Hold Me Together,” speaks directly to those of us who have reached the end of our rope – the same message the Christ gave to those who followed him uphill and gathered at his feet to hear the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5.
Derek Minor is another artist that I first learned about through his involvement with and support of The Hands & Feet Project and I’ve been really impressed by the raw, organic sound evident throughout every track on his latest release Reflection. The sound of his voice and the backing track arrangements he’s put together can’t help but to demand the notice of the listener, like a low rumbling thunderstorm approaching and each song delivers a memorable impact. The newest single he released, which features Toby Mac protegé Hollyn, is called Change The World. Check it out.