“The Book of Jon” is a seven-track album from Harrisburg rapper Chames. Throughout its modest run-time of 28 minutes, I was pleasantly mesmerized by the soulful production, introspective lyrics, and the down-to-earth persona that Chames displays in this album. They certainly don’t make music like this anymore, and by the end, I was longing to hear more.
There’s a lot of stuff that this album does right for me. In a world of flashy production, over-the-top personalities, materialistic desires, The Book of Jon feels refreshing and welcome. It pulls at the heartstrings and provides an unparalleled spiritual experience.
The first track, Only the Beginning, starts with Chames talking about being brought up in the church but straying from his faith shortly after. He raps about his rocky past and imperfections. This track relies heavily on masterful story-telling and a captivating beat. Underneath it all, I could listen to the hunger in Chames’s voice. A rapper with hunger is a rapper with determination.
The Kaep in Me was composed on a melodic, yet distant, saxophone laid on top of an organic soulful instrumental. Chames opens with religious imagery and then interweaves this with the ‘Kaep’ in him. This was an obvious reference to Colin Kaepernick, who has been an icon facing the various injustices in the U.S.
Chames uses this reference to illustrate how he faces oppression, odds, and evils in his life. Conceptually, this track felt fully realized.
The next track, That’s Life, starts with deeply melodic singing. The delivery, tone, and subject reminded me of early Kanye so much. Chames showcases another side of his personality and talks about his vulnerabilities at length. He alludes to poetry, being his passion and proves his poetic prowess throughout the rest of the track. By My Side was similar in an aesthetical level. It was reminiscent of early 2000’s hip-hop. Chames opens up about his love interests over the years. Typically rappers brag about their love life and flings. Yet, Chames took the track into a direction that I ended up enjoying even more. He raps about bouncing from one fling to another in his search for validation. He talks about how loyalty, commitment and the bond marriage seem to make him more content than his past experiences. Marriage, faith, and commitment is rapped about enough in hip-hop nowadays; but, Chames isn’t reluctant to show this side of himself. He very much makes his own lane here.
The last three tracks of this album served to showcase Chames’s spiritual self. Although spirituality and religiousness is sprinkled throughout The Book of Jon, they take center stage in the last three tracks. Holy Help was essentially a prayer to God laid over a jazz-infused beat. The core message of the track was about putting faith and trust in God. Forgiveness felt like everything I wanted Jesus Is King to be. Chames recounted the struggles of Jesus and retold the biblical account with vivid imagery and story-telling. He then proceeded to relate this to his inner conflicts and changes over recent years. Chames describes his process of letting go of spite and forgiving those that wronged him. This level of maturity and growth is rarely seen, and I highly appreciated it through and through. The curtains close in at Legend. Ending on track seven, which is also a special number, Chames delivers a final monologue, showing gratitude to God once again.
All in all, I found this album to be a gem this year. The subject matter, themes, tones and instrumentals were finely realized, and Chames’s introspective personality shone throughout. I highly recommend giving The Book of Jon a listen!