I have always found J Moss to be one of the most compelling and interesting artists working today. Moss hails from a legendary gospel music family and resides in one of America’s great musical cities. That background partially explains why he has been able to craft a well-deserved reputation as an artist and producer who can craft songs that are overtly religious while also being steeped in modern R&B and hip-hop production techniques.
However, what I find so compelling about Moss is they way he uses his music to express the struggles, frustrations, doubts and temptations that he faces as a Christian. Moss can belt out a song extolling the power of God’s grace, and he can endow a high-energy praise and worship song with swag with the best of them. Both of those qualities can be heard on Moss’s latest project, V4...The Other Side.But as his first three records proved, Moss is at his best when he is expressing vulnerabilities, such as on “Livin’ 4” from the J Moss Project to “Let it Go” and “Afraid” on V2. “Afraid” found Moss addressing the insecurities, financial and otherwise, that often make even the most faithful succumb to fear and doubt, and Moss sang of the epic battle waged with sexual temptations on “Livin’ 4” and “Let It Go.” In short, much of Moss’s output serves as musical reminder that the Apostle Paul was right when he wrote that evil is present even when a person tries to do the right thing.
Moss explores a crisis of faith on several tracks on V4. On “Take Me,” Moss’s soft tenor is the perfect vehicle to explore the track’s theme about a person struggling with doubts of whether he is too small or too distant to be noticed by God. The contemporary R&B number “Strong Enough” stands as a rhetorical answer to “Take Me.” Thematically, Moss sings “Strong Enough” from the standpoint of a man trying to encourage himself to step out on faith and not be bound by fear and the expectations of others. “I’m tired of living like my faith’s not strong enough/I’m tired of living like I’m scared of what’s coming around the corner/Tired of living weak/When I know that I’m stronger/Tired of living like my faith’s not strong enough.”
Other tracks on V 4 take a cue from “Strong Enough” and are assertive and inspirational proclamations of victory. “God’s Got It” is a swag filled reminder that God is bigger than all of your worries, while the hip-hop influenced “Imma Do It” finds Moss lyrically using his enemies and other haters as his footstool: “Won’t be down anymore/Won’t be bound anymore/Won’t be sad anymore won’t/Won’t be had anymore/Won’t be told anymore/That I’m down, gotta stay on the floor/Cuz the floor ain’t a place for a winner/Staying down ain’t the thang for believers.”
Meanwhile, “Holy Is Your Word” is a traditional gospel track about the power of God’s word. The song is filled with biblical imagery and includes backing vocals by a choir. The track shows what Moss learned from gospel masters such as his legendary father Bill Moss.
V4 reveals Moss as an artist who is open to the full palate of musical influences who have crossed his path over the years. And while some gospel fans would prefer that Moss focus on joy rather than the struggle, and others might be put off by Moss’s own personal failings, his life and career remind us that faith is rarely a straight upward arc. There are peaks and valleys, victories and defeats. And while the world will continue to present James Moss with challenges and temptation, V4 proves that the studio is the one place where he will find peace and victory. Recommended.
By Howard Dukes