Their motto is "Before shipping any project, make sure you have PAJAM insurance," and the Gospel world has followed that advice. When discussing the explosion of Crossover Gospel over the last decade, it is nearly impossible to avoid pausing for a few minutes to talk about PAJAM. Consisting of Detroiter's Paul Allen, J. Moss and Walter Kearney, PAJAM has become perhaps the the most respected and prolific writing and production team in Gospel and is quickly developing into one of the more sought-after hitmakers in popular music.
The trio met in Detroit in the mid-90s, and made their writing debut on Karen Clark-Sheard's solo debut, Finally Karen. When that album rose to #2 on the Gospel charts, new doors cracked open for the team, and they busted those doors down. PAJAM's ability to merge elements of hip hop, Soul, funk, jazz and traditional Gospel into and attractive amalgamation came just at the right time for Gospel, which was poised to move out of simpler call-and-response, organ based arrangements and into a more contemporary R&B sound only hinted at in the 80s and early 90s albums by acts such as the Winans and Commissioned. If the 50s and 60s were all about adding Gospel sounds to the secular messages of popular music, the last decade has increasingly been about bringing the Gospel message to popular sounds -- and PAJAM has been at the forefront.
Since 1998, PAJAM has created the sound behind more than 50 artists and two dozen Stellar nominations. Artists such as Marvin Sapp, Winans Phase II, Trin-i-tee 5:7 and Hezekiah Walker have been introduced (or have updated their sound) with the help of the writing and production talents of the PAJAM team, and over 15 PAJAM songs have been chosen as leadoff singles for albums. More recently, PAJAM's reputation has extended its reach to the Soul Music world, with secular artists such as Boyz II Men, Dru Hill and Patti LaBelle working with the trio, and also into management of a handful of young Gospel artists. And the trio shows no signs of slowing down, being partly responsible for two of this year's great Gospel albums, Kierra "Kiki" Sheard's I Owe You and J Moss's GospoCentric debut, The J Moss Project.
As we stand in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, modern Gospel continues to make its claim as the true heir to classic Soul music, and PAJAM stands among the leaders in shaping this genre's seemingly bright future.
By Chris Rizik
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