It's Pronounced "Five Two"

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"Now y'all be messin' up my name/It's not '52'/It don't stand for 'King James'." On his third full-length, Godorific rapper KJ-52 wants everyone to know where he comes from, and who it's all for. The 'K' stands for 'knowledge', and the 'J' 'justification' (like Romans 10:9, yo!), while '5' is the loaves and '2' is the fishes. Looks like there are even some haters in the Christian rap game. But KJ can't stay mad at anyone -- Christian, secular, or otherwise. "Whoop Whoop" rocks a stuttering PG-rated Dirty South rhythm under raps about bustin' mad prayers all night, while "Rock On" (featuring Pillar's Rob Beckley) turns up the amps and demands to see heads-a-noddin' on the dancefloor. There's even a Rob Base sample buried in there. As he did with 2002's Collaborations, producer Todd Collins quite effectively redirects the infectious energy of mainstream hip-hop to help his man, KJ, incite some faith-based booty shaking. And 52 himself finds new ways to blend positivity with pop culture -- "47 Pop Stars" shouts out to a heavenly host of rockers and rappers while trying to explain why the big J.C. is the master. Over the course of the record, he makes references to SpongeBob SquarePants and A Tribe Called Quest, but at the same time, "I Feel So Good" and "Pick Yourself Up" are straight-up devotions. KJ-52 disciples will likely love this, since it's a repeat performance of Collaborations. It's Pronounced Five Two will also be a solid introduction for anyone wondering about the MC's Christian spin on the rap game style. But KJ-52 still seems dogged by that very distinction. In "Dear Stan," his open letter toEminem, KJ makes no bones about his being mistaken for Marshall. (Indeed, their flow is often startlingly similar.) But with It's Pronounced's "Dear Slim, Pt. 2," his pleas for Em to turn toward God -- mixed with KJ's own desire for success -- start to sound hackneyed. It's been two years, and he's still wondering whether Slim even heard his song. KJ-52's concern for Eminem's soul, and the questionable influence of mainstream hip-hop is admirable. But he seems much more comfortable when he uses its framework to further his own aims and fire up his own fans, instead of trying to change the larger rap game's wicked ways one or two songs at a time. Obviously, preaching is part of Christianity's mission statement. But so is leading -- and rapping -- by example.

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