In a musical climate that’s basically overcrowded with artists that range from pure genius to those who have no business in a recording booth in the first place, setting yourself apart from every “Tom, Dick & Harry” calling themselves an ’emcee’ is becoming increasingly necessary. Chad Jones is currently staring right into the eye of that ‘hurricane’ called “surviving hip hop over-saturation” with his debut EP ‘KEEP UP’ courtesy of Reflection Music Group, a label led by Derek Minor, a highly successful indie Christian hip hop artist in his own right. Jones’ title for his EP is a telling one, since it becomes a mantra that this four song collection poses as a challenge & struggles with almost simultaneously. Chad has all the makings of an artist strong enough to move mainstream hip hop audiences of faith, starting with a distinctive vocal tone. The tragedy here is that he is sometimes overshadowed on his own debut due to lack of conviction or urgency in his delivery & writing style. Chad’s problem with standing out from the crowd is fully apparent on the opener that, ironically enough, is called ‘PROBLEM’, a track that’s basically a ‘club banger waiting to happen’ because of it’s featured guests, the high energy BAY AREA styled production & not necessarily because of Chad himself. Lyrical vanguards Propaganda & Canon completely steal the show away from Jones’ underwhelming verse on ‘PROBLEM’, making one wish that Chad went a tad harder considering who he was sharing the mic with. Thankfully ‘I Know’ is a completely different story, and on this melodic mid tempo joint, Jones flexes his artistic muscles with a moving and detailed account about how he won his battle with drug dependency after witnessing & being influenced by his mother’s ordeal with it. For a song that covers such an intense topic, ‘I Know’ has an uplifting vibe to it that totally works for Jones. He continues that streak of convincing lyricism with “Long Way Home”, a great song where the verses tug at your very core. Lastly, Chad Jones joins his label boss Derek Minor to close out the EP with “Hold Up” but for some reason Chad reverts to understated wordplay & emotion-less execution, even for a more mellow track. No one’s asking for “Eshon Burgundy” levels of lyrical genius from Mr. Jones or Minor but referencing Drake’s “All Me” in the laziest use of metaphor I’ve heard in a while is something you wanna leave for Lil Wayne’s greatest rhyme mishaps & not for someone’s first solo audio impression. With that said, “KEEP UP” is a pretty good release that will succeed in getting Chad’s name out there to achieve visibility for his artistic platform. However it’s up to Jones to pull off more memorable & commanding performances to communicate his message in order to leave an even more lasting impression by the time he drops his debut album. More than ‘keeping up’, I’m looking forward to seeing Chad Jones fully seizing his moment.