Continuing to demonstrate the widespread effect hip hop has gained globally, CJ. is another international hip hop artist coming up from down under. At first seemingly understated and unpretentious in his approach, you will notice a much more impressive pedigree once you peel back a layer or two. CJ. arrives on the scene with little or no hype while dropping his official debut single “Be There”. Clearly the artist put a lot of effort into this piece. You feel his heart and soul are wallowing somewhere deep inside the music. Which leads one to believe that these are very personal lyrics and not just an abstract imaginary narrative. CJ.’s lyricism and passion give the song a unique life of its own. You’ll be mesmerized by how he shares his thoughts, and you too will be able to sense that he put his all into this work.
“Let me take you back to a time when I was growing up. I know you weren’t there because I lived it. And you never showed up. Moved on so fast, if you tell me how you did that, cause I’m stuck right now and I need that. Please tell me how to get past my past, cause I just can’t seem to look past, all those things that you put me through. Just a little kid, hell no, I didn’t have a clue. How do I rely on someone that I’m meant to trust? I never really see you, when you do, it’s like you’re always drunk.” The introspection and wordplay makes for an engaging, and wholly stirring experience.
But moving ahead, CJ. tightens the emotional and psychological screws, laying his demons out to see while questioning the root of his troubles: “Voice in my head said hang from a rope man. It will be dope man. Can’t trust no man. How are you a real man? Leaving kids alone man. Are you a grown man? Check your wealth man.”
By this time it’s clear that the narrative is taking stock of abandonment by a father from the son’s point of view. But CJ.’s ingenious mind takes one step further, and even allows the father’s point of view to be expressed in a verse: “She took you away that day. I just didn’t know what to say. I thought that I lost my brain, but the bottle it kept me sane.”
Regardless of who makes more sense here, CJ. brings a powerful message that goes well beyond the already powerful literal meaning of these lyrics. Abandonment experiences are in no way indictments of a child’s innate goodness and value. Instead, they reveal the flawed thinking, false beliefs, and impaired behaviors of those who hurt them.
The wounds are struck deep in their hearts and minds, and the very real pain can still be felt in adult life. The causes of emotional injury need to be understood and accepted so abandoned kids can heal. Until that occurs, the pain will stay with them, becoming a driving force in their adult lives.
If “Be There” is in anyway autobiographical, then CJ. could seriously be channeling that driving force into his music, based on what we’re hearing here. CJ.’s honesty and technical bravado even calls into question the genre’s growth.
What does it even mean to be a great rapper today? While there is a revival of a decadent, decaying genre, poisoned by posturing, the drug culture and hyped-up street cred, CJ. shows us that rappers can still make a powerful impact with relatable, profound themes and a judicious attitude. Wrapped up inside an austere piano and percussion driven beat, “Be There” certainly makes its point.