The Y2J (Moss) Factor
As we prepare to embrace the new millennium, Gospel music continues to become increasingly progressive in both sound and content. One of the leaders in what could be coined “Y2K Gospel” is the superproducer James Moss (frequently referred to as J. Moss). With sounds comparable to that of hip-hop favorites Timbaland and Missy Elliott, Moss’ trademark sound has permeated the ears of many in the Gospel industry. Citing such diverse musical influences as Prince, Nat King Cole, and Michael Franks, Moss has made a lasting impression on artists and fans alike, making him one of Gospel’s most sought after.
The road to Moss’ current status was not easy, however. As he explained to GospelFlava.com, “Being a part of the Moss family has definitely been a blessing. I was one of the lucky ones to have so many resources at my disposal such as my aunt (Dr. Mattie Moss Clark) and my father (Bill Moss). However, I didn’t have a free ride in. People may listen because of my last name but J. Moss has to step it up as his own entity.”
Moss began recording in the early 90’s with the tiny Detroit-based label, Aviday. However, after his last solo release in the early 90s (see album cover photo, right), he went through somewhat of a hiatus. “I enjoyed my time with Aviday but it was time for a change. I had moved to a different level,” Moss states. During the hiatus, Moss united with friend and co-hort Paul D. Allen (aka “PDA”) to form a production company known as P.A.J.A.M.
Fast forward to the fall of 1997 when Moss reappears to the music world as co-producer and background vocalist on the Stellar Award-winning solo release from his cousin, Karen Clark-Sheard, titled Finally Karen. His producing effort on that project opened many doors. “From that, Island Black Music took an interest in me and made me an offer,” says Moss. “My choice to sign with Island Black was that it seemed as though it was a place where a freshman album would do well. I had a tough time shopping the project but I felt that Island Black would support the effort.”
This opened the doors for P.A.J.A.M. as over the next 18 months, they appeared on releases from artists such as Nancey Jackson, Dawkins and Dawkins, Men of Standard, Greg O’Quin ‘N Joyful Noyze, Winans Phase 2, and Angelo and Veronica. In this short period of time, Moss made a tremendous impact within the industry and gave urban gospel a whole new flavor.
And he is very aware of the challenges that lie ahead of him as he seeks to take urban gospel to the masses. “People have to realize that Jesus didn’t do everything in the church. Young people need to hear this message. I’ll perform wherever I have to in order to win the lost. I’ll go to the clubs, high school, football games, it doesn’t matter. Somebody’s got to reach them,” proclaims Moss. “The church has to realize that ministry has to extend past Sunday morning. We are missing a lot of people by staying confined to the four walls of the church.”
Moss maintains a passion for winning souls as well as for the integrity of the industry. While generating unique Gospel arrangements of popular secular tunes such as "For the Love of You" and "Just the Two of Us", Moss is a bit disheartened by the recent movement of secular artists performing gospel music. “I’m tired of seeing artists who have warning labels on the cover of their albums but then the last song of their project is a gospel song. How can God mix and mingle in that? Furthermore, why does radio have to then take a top spot from an up and coming gospel artist to give that secular artist play on their format?” asks Moss. “I think everyone needs to just stay in their own game. You don’t see Gospel artists doing part-time secular gigs. We don’t need part-time Gospel artists. We have got to be careful.”
As an urban producer, Moss no doubt takes time to notice those that surround him. Here are some of his candid opinions about a few rising names in gospel:
Dawkins and Dawkins: “They are fresh, young, and CRAZY!!! Seriously, they were the easiest recording sessions that I’ve ever had. I mean our sessions were 30 to 45 minutes at the most. They are amazing.”
Kirk Franklin: “Revolution…..There is so much pressure on him because he dared to do what God said. He said “Yes” to God. More artists need to do what God says. P.A.J.A.M. would love to work with Kirk.”
Greg O’Quin: “He’s a very talented artist that has a lot of great ideas. With the right backing and support, he could go far.”
Dr. Bobby Jones: “He is an ambassador that has been give tools that have helped advance gospel music. I wish that there was more support put behind him. We’re the ones that are responsible for that.”
Tonéx: “He’s very different and talented. His production is hot, very hot.”
As J. Moss looks to the future, there is much in store for the person that 'makes us P.A.J.A.M.' For starters, Moss has ensuing production work with Marvin Sapp, The Mighty Clouds of Joy and Hezekiah Walker, all on their upcoming projects (Fall, 1999). And then there’s his own solo project, which is now overdue, and is much anticipated. In fact, it looks to be one of the big highlights of the upcoming release schedule for 2000. In describing his own work, Moss describes it as “different”, and he doesn’t seem overly concerned about the delay. “God is waiting for a different era for [me]” he says.
Undoubtedly, this is one Y2J issue with which Gospel can make an enjoyable adjustment.
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