Mark J :: Soulutions :: Mark J. Music, LLC
as reviewed by Matt Tomer

Mark J juggles "Soulutions" adeptly. He's squeaky clean but keeps it real, can flip serious topics without losing legitimacy, and certainly handles his 13 track Christian LP. Throwing up another prayer in what seems to be a recent surge of gospel-hop at RapReviews (is it me?), "Soulutions" got my head nodding more than Jesus Christ Superstar (save for Carl Anderson on "Heaven On Their Minds," OBVIOUSLY). Being aimed at a very particular audience makes it a difficult album to review, although it tries (and nearly succeeds) in appealing to a wider audience.

Looking at the cover, you can hardly tell it's a religious affair. I didn't realize myself, but I had to mention to my boys just how clean it came off as (like Will Smith visiting a daycare innocent). Other than the fact there's a separate special thanks for the man upstairs, you have to appreciate how nothing's emphasized too much. But that's before you pop the damn, er, dang thing in, of course. Past a rousing opening title track, the rest plays out as a religious ode, carefully approached with humble flows and decent beats.

Credit has to be given to Mark J for keeping the listen from spiraling into cacophony. As easily dismissible as "we takin' over worldwide for the Most High" could potentially be, he doesn't let things get sloppy. As tiresome as Casio keys on car-seat-safe beats sound, he preaches the good word without putting to sleep.

Obviously, giving major props to Yahweh for an hour straight is a tall order for any of his servants to keep lively, even for someone as rock solid as Mark J. In other words, "Soulutions" ain't an overly exciting affair. Being a well thought-out emcee with a mild flow and virtually no holes sounds like the perfect resume for anyone to rock a full-length, but it works against Mark in ways he can't make amends for, specifically citing the lack in variety (does swearing make hip-hop more fun to listen to? Discuss).

It's an extremely classy album, but what might be the most glorious about "Soulutions" is its crossover potential. I can see it now, Yo! Church Raps with Mark J the host. Think of the appeal! Think of the guests! Mase would show up in a platinum white tux and Kanye could do the theme song. Sunday morning hip-hop sessions? No? C'mon, you know you'd love to hear Father John kicking spit at baptisms. Sermons to the "Illmatic" instrumentals? I'd pay for that shit. Oops! Stuff, I meant stuff.

Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10

Originally posted: November 14, 2006