It's one of the most distinctive and fascinating Gospel projects to arrive in some time. In fact, J2K (Jesus 2000) is so complex and multi-faceted that it seems heresy to
confine its description to a mere review. Producers: Montrel Darrett, Marcus Cole, Mitchell Jones
album release date: March 28, 2000
Let's break it down anyway.
While Gospel's new-soul wonder Montrel Darrett only headlines two cuts ("Save
Me A Seat" and "Prophetic Millenium 2000"), toss aside any doubt
that this multi-artist compilation is not all his. It most certainly is, for not only does Darrett produce and write (or
co-write) nearly every cut, he also provides backing vocals and
guitar and bass work on the vast majority of the songs.
The result is a set that bears the unmistakeable Darrett sound the same edgy, throw-back soul vibe that
marked his solo debut on the still vastly-underappreciated Chronicles of the Soul
project from 1999. (See review.) It's a sound and a vibe that burns
itself onto all the songs performed on this disc. What's more, this is the case even with such a large variety of
distinctively-voiced artists represented on the project. It speaks
volumes to the overwhelming strength of Darrett's artistry. (See interview)
Also unifying the project is its lyrical content, which, again like Darrett's solo debut, focuses on currently
hot topics of relevance, and ones that are not standardly addressed in Gospel.
A quick run-down of those distinctive Gospel voices taking part in this showcase reads like a 'who's who' of
the industry's rising stars. Kim Burrell continues to delight, as she duets with Darrett on "Woman", a song
which speaks to the account of the prostitute whom Jesus refused to condemn. Anointed provides a
catchy soul-pop gem in "Help Him Stand", and Commissioned brings a melodic plea for individuals to come to
Jesus while they can, "Before It All Falls Down". While this song is the only one on the album not produced by Darrett (Mitchell Jones and Marcus Cole take that responsibility),
he does make his presence known via some
vocal arrangement and the occasional mix of his own voice with the Detroit four.
John P. Kee is the common thread that ties together the "Brother's Love" cut. Although he never
appears in the credits, credit must nevertheless be given to the Prince of Gospel
for being the source that originally brought together Darrett, Lowell Pye, Isaac Caree and Chris
Simpson (all being former members of New Life Community Choir). Collectively referred to as MILC for the purposes of this song, they combine for an appropriate and powerfully contemporary ode to Christian brotherly love. Pye and Caree also appear with their regular counterparts on "Love" as Men of Standard do justice to this musical poetry written by Darrett and
Some names on J2K will be unfamiliar to all except those who examine the fine print of album
credits. Tiffany Palmer and Duawne Starling combine in the startlingly beautiful duet, "Everythang", while
former Radical For Christ member Cynthia Pasley takes lead vocals (with Darwin Hobbs and Tiffany Palmer providing
backing vocals) on "Kind of Man That God Loves". It's a poignant and honest confession of
a difficult broken marriage. The other artist debut here comes on "Draw Me Closer" from Given, a contemporary female trio that includes Felicia Darrett, wife of Montrel.
Finishing the album is a progressive, fast-paced, hip-hop groove with vocals and rap from
and spoken word from newcomer Marquis Fox. Titled "Prophetic
Millenium 2000", it is true to title. Darrett's complex lyrics bring prophecy that touch
on everything from computer technology to Dru Hill. This one is underpinned by a simple, repeating
4-chord melody that easily latches itself to the memory.
A fascinating project side-bar revolves around the instrumentation. Heavily
reliant on guitar, there's some nice work from brothers Carlos and
Marcello Pennell on a couple of tracks. In particular, on "Brother's Love", Carlos handles the live 'backward guitar'. What's that? That's when during the recording process, the tape is played 'backwards' as the guitar track is being recorded. During the mixing process, the tape is then played normally, with the end result being a 'backwards guitar' sound, with each note beginning with a swelling sound and ending with a hard attack.
If this isn't enough to get you interested, consider that J2K also
includes new material from Dawkins & Dawkins and Nancey Jackson, plus the very urban vibe "Reign" from The Light's main Gospel radio personality, K.D. Bowe along with Lamar Campbell & Spirit of Praise.
With an abundance of compilations on the market now, it's good to see one that tackles the concept from a fresh angle. New music! With J2K, your thirst for new vibes, new soul and new grooves will certaily be quenched.
reviewed by Stan North —
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