“All I want is my true identity”. So the hook of the song aptly titled “Identity” from Christian hip-hop artist Json’s newest album No Filter begins. Produced under his record company Lamp Mode, the sixth studio album covers almost everything that Json has experienced in his life, from dealing with sexual temptation to living in Section 8 housing. In his own words, this project “is really about revealing my true identity—the best and worst parts of myself—and pointing listeners to the cross, where there is grace for each of us”.
Born Jason Christopher Watson, he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and had to deal with the death of his father at age 3. Shortly thereafter, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles, California, whereupon she subsequently become addicted to crack cocaine and was arrested. Json soon moved back to St. Louis, but soon became victim to the same addiction, becoming a drug dealer and soon after getting incarcerated. However, after marrying his high-school sweetheart, they soon realized that they needed to change, and became followers of Christ. Json launched his career as a Christian hip-hop artist in 2005, where three of his latest albums have hit the Billboard charts.
His latest album No Filter, named after the popular hashtag on Twitter, doesn’t just dwell on the influence of popular culture and social media alone, but rather addresses some of life’s toughest issues from a personal, no-holds-barred standpoint, Json tackles these issues head-on, but is able to address these issues with the aid of hindsight from a Christian perspective. The combination of deep hip-hop beats and stimulating lyrics culminate in one of my favorite songs on the album, titled, ‘Filter Effect’, featuring Charde Jones, where the chorus focuses on a first-person response from God’s perspective: “I do see the scars that have broke your heart. These broken pieces aren’t who you are. My love is deep, and I’ll show you now. Just look at my Son, believe me.” This song and other lyrical hip-hop melodies on No Filter work well combining personal experience and Biblical narratives in a way that naturally express the real struggles that Json processes and explains to his listeners, who can also relate.
Although some of the lyrics may be hard-hitting and borderline controversial for some listening ears, it does address the identity crisis that we as a church and as a people often fail to address, whether due to personal insecurities or much larger struggles. Nevertheless, our search for true identity, as Json says, is found as we look towards the cross of Christ.
JOSEPH KOLAPUDI. Joseph F. Kolapudi was born in Brisbane, Australia, and came to Fuller Theological Seminary in the Fall of 2013. About to graduate this June 2015, he plans to begin his summer internship with the US Center for World Mission. A love of music, he is also a drummer at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena, where he is also on the Missions Committee. Born to South-Indian parents, he plans to become a missionary to South India, Hyderabad in the near future. He has two siblings, and enjoys travelling, reading, writing, fishing, and basketball.