Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Reach Records 2013 The reviewer is constantly neck deep in internal conflict especially when the project to be reviewed is from a favourite. On one hand is the reviewer’s professionalism and integrity and on the other is his/her bias because Artiste X or Y has a prime position most of the reviewer’s lists. The “modern Christian” faces such conflict in terms of honouring and worshipping God and at the same time remaining relevant in this fallen world. Again, the rapper’s struggles remain as he tries to “be real” as well as “play-worthy”, finding the proper balance being uncompromisingly true to his art as well as ensuring people can listen to him. This tragically gets harder as the genre keeps evolving and even within Christian Hip Hop we’ve seen the move from the Cross movement days to the days of chanting “unashamed” and “116” and we’re now nestled in an era where the lines seem to be blurred all because of the conflicts earlier referenced. It is now time to throw Andy Mineo under the spotlight as we explore this theme of conflicting choices. From the Sin is Wack mixtape to THAT hook on Lecrae’s “Background” then eventually securing a deal with Reach Records and down to singing on other hooks as well as putting out the excellent Formerly Known Andy has become a very tangible analogy to explain growth and proper balance. His latest project Heroes for Sale warns of the potential pitfalls attached to making anyone other than Jesus Christ a “hero”. Of course the lives of many are fully occupied with following so many “role models” but it’s no secret that this dysfunctional world is falling apart no thanks to the so called models and the almost zombie-like devotion they get from their followers. This is an album that boasts some solid production credits with Alex Medina, Tyshane, Dirty Rice and J.R amongst the stellar cast of superpower producers who crafted a lot of these keepers. Their work ensured that these tracks wouldn’t struggle to make it on to literally any radio playlist as well as enjoy heavy rotation. As for content Andy delivers some of his best bars and even injects the right amount of his trademark humour to make this project memorable enough. Another strong point for this album is the flow of the tracks from one to another seamlessly. It is an almost forgotten art; the ability to arrange album tracks in such a way that the tempo isn’t startling or the songs don’t get in the way of each other and in almost all genres seeing an album with proper track arrangement is quite rare. Reach Records has done a good job with majority of its projects in that regard. I should also mention that the album art was given the right amount of attention with the design passing across a relevant theme while doubling as a good looking wallpaper submission for the phone, PC desktop or even a poster. For a 16 track album Heroes for Sale had a fairly sizeable amount of quality tracks with perhaps “Ex-nihilo” being the stand out track. The song is an ode to God and His divine ability to make “something out of nothing” as witnessed in Creation. Several radio anthems abound on the album too, from the skateboard inspired “Ayo” to the dubstep infused “You Will” it’s more than possible that you would be encouraged, taught a thing or two while jumping all over the place in excitement as you listen. Some of the much more sober tracks like “Curious” and “Bitter” hit home as they get you reliving every single step you’ve taken over the years in all your relationships with people to check and see if you could have done much better. Then there’s “Tug of War” with Krizz Kaliko delivering a decent hook while Andy chronicles the everyday Jekyll/Hyde duel within the Believer. He states “anything that I lose to follow you (God) is not a loss” with so much gusto that you’d be forgiven for deciding to give all you have immediately. The album rounds off with “Death has Died”, an encouragement to those who have lost loved ones to look to the One who guarantees Resurrection, comfort and dominion over death. A fitting end to the project although I must comment on a few low points on the album. In some places it feels like Andy was laboriously going through the motions; there wasn’t much weight in some songs rendering them weak in the sense that they seem to have been done just to make up the number. “Cocky” and “Uno Uno Seis” featuring Lecrae fall into this category. Beyond just being lively songs they lack strength to carry one beyond a first listen or a set at a concert. The bottom line is that Heroes for Sale assists in getting your mind focused firmly in the right place (Jesus) right in the thick of things in this world of false heroes. This is good art, good music and of course one of the projects that will remain in our memories for a bit. With so many icons on display for sale Andy Mineo delivers the original Hero who not only saves the day but made it in the first place.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Label- Godchaserz Entertainment
Before September I didn’t know much about Brinson. I had heard him only a couple of times featuring on D-MAUB and Eric Cross projects. In the past two weeks I’ve learnt quite a bit and even gotten his latest album OMG (and no neither this review nor the album in question have anything to do with that annoying Usher song). He’s got this obvious southern approach yet it sounds fresh and different. Using interesting rhyme schemes, he’s got a lot of passion and he does straightforward and honest music, no strings attached, no bells and whistles; just the simple message of Christ exalted.
The production on this project is cool too, like I’ve said it’s mostly crunk that’s catchy and easy to chant along to. He’s got guys like Juice20/20 behind the boards and that’s pretty nice. The tempo ranges from very upbeat to pretty mellow tones. One interesting thing I noticed about Brinson is the fact that he seems to be a big movie fan; quite a lot of his metaphors are based on popular movie references. I guess that’s a good thing as a lot of people won’t find it hard to get what he’s saying. From the get go, Brinson gets in our faces with his blunt lead single “Don’t Rap No More”, a simple waning to any emcee alive to simply exalt Christ with his/her music or drop the mic. I like the hook on this one especially. “Green Grass” is another good song although it gives mixed feelings especially when you get to the hook as you don’t know whether to sing along or just hope the next verse starts soon. There’s “Breaking Down”, “Every Knee” and “Fully Persuaded”, tracks that what this album is about. Watch out for Knine’s verses on his guest spots, very refreshing to hear. There’s a skit that ordinarily would have turned me off but listening to it gets you amused at the humour in it (maybe I’m nuts) and even helps you appreciate good music, certainly one of a kind.
A demerit for the album was that some of the hooks and choruses put me off, they sounded a little too labored and I think Brinson should have tried putting a few more singers on the album to diversify the flavor. Still, by the time you get to the beautifully crafted Outro and eventually the Cypher you are satisfied the listening experience wasn’t a waste of time at all; more than anything else you feel encouraged. If you’re looking for good music that lifts our Lord Jesus then Brinson is the man for you. Much like David was a man after God’s heart is truly and aptly styled a God chaser. Don’t hesitate cop this album ASAP.
The world we live is a broken one, much like a bad watch and as Christians whether or not we recognize it we’re like Neo from The Matrix, caught between two parallel “realities” and since Adam fell humanity has been on a journey that resembles a downward spiral. At this point it just seems like a large section of humanity possess brains powered by hamsters on wheels! So what does the Christian do? Pine away for heaven, the perfect world or try to fix the broken world by offering the solution, Jesus? This dilemma, the “in, not of” disposition towards the world (like in Philippians 1) forms the bulk of Trip Lee’s 3rd album Between Two world presents itself as a 15 track banger.
First let’s focus on Trip’s growth. From being that young prodigy on the Reach label he’s grown into a man that pulls his own weight effortlessly. With his 3 album discography and various guest spots his gift has progressed like the path of the righteous and it’s exciting to think that even though he’s on such an impressive level he’s still growing!!!
So what makes Between Two Worlds an almost perfect album? Well we could start off by looking at the top notch production with some of the foremost producers on this project. From DJ Official to Alex Medina to Tony Stone, JR, Big Juice and of course G-styles this it’s practically an all-star cast. Secondly the featured guests; fantastic appearances from guys we know like Tedashii, Lecrae and Thi’sl to lesser known guys like J.Paul and Chris Lee. Each guest brings a beautiful flavor to each song that complements Trip’s abilities. The most excellent appearances were from Leah Smith and Jimmy Needham, lending their beautiful voices to the project. Another praiseworthy attribute is the theme that each song dealt with, right from the first line “They say hindsight is 20/20 well they right it’s behind me/back for the third time you know where to find me…” on the intro “Real Life Music” you know you’re in for a treat. Then there’s a song that deals with temptation, “Covenant Eyes” featuring PRo, who has the answers to life’s questions on “Life 101” and the excellent acknowledgement of our limitations and God’s sovereignty on “Limitations”. It doesn’t stop there, there’s a prayer of dedication on “Yours To Own” with Jimmy Needham, a “kill the flesh” anthem called “Snitch” and down to “The Invasion (Hero)” with Jai practically everything that concerns life as we know it in this broken world is touched on and in a fresh and real manner too.
Before I round up this review, I must draw attention to the beautiful work Reach Records is doing with regards to marketing. From occasional giveaways to maintaining a strong online presence they’ve kept the public well informed and hungry for good music. It’s not hard to understand why they have such a wide reach (no pun intended). A video from this album (The Invasion) is already a hit on different channels and has even featured on BET’s 106 and Park. If you’ve noticed they also pay much attention to detail as the album art on Reach albums nowadays is just bananas. I think a lot of other labels should be taking notes.
In the midst of my enchantment with B2W, I have a little reservation which comes in the form of Sho’s verse on “I Love Music”. Something about the verse (and maybe the song) comes across as cheesy even though the song is enjoyable. This album is easily 2010’s number one album (with Lampmode’s The Church and Rhema Soul’s Fingerprints it’s only worthy challengers). An album we’ll remember in years to come. I give it a 4.5…it’s that good!
Monday, October 11, 2010
Label- Lampmode Recordings
The Church; some define it as an institution, some define it as a building and some call it The Body of Christ. Some even look at The Church as a living, breathing being and call her The Bride of Crist. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Well listening to Lampmode’s compilation should offer a lot of helpful answers.
One of my favourite TV shows is Lost and I’ve often imagined what I’d do if I was stranded on an island with a bunch of strangers. Well aside trying to get all of them saved assuming they aren’t I’d love to have my Bible and this album so I’ll organize them (even better than Jack Shepherd or Ben Linus) and of course hear the kind of music I classify as “dope”. Trust me when I say this one of the few albums that’s got it all; five star production, tight emcees spitting truth and a theme that is both relevant and properly dealt with. Based on a book by Mark Dever called 9 Marks Of The Church, The Church is basically an album that lets you know what the church is and why what a lot of Christians claim to be part of might just be a cult or social gathering, oops!!!
Who better to feed us on the subject than the cats who are versed in the art/gift of ‘Lyrical Theology”? I mean, they’ve got a credible MO as far as such things are concerned and I wasn’t surprised they delivered a well packaged project.
Starting things off for us is the beautiful combo of God’s Servant (who I think is a monster) and Azriel on the song “Take ‘em To Church” a nice anthem making a case for belonging to The Church is necessary. From there on out it’s fireworks as shai linne’s two songs “Biblical Theology” and “Expositional Preaching” both get your head nodding but actually emphasize on sound doctrine as opposed to your pastor’s philosophy or his captivating style of preaching. On the latter song shai proclaims “Y’all should be mindful of this devout thesis/all of the Bible’s about Jesus, The Old Testament? Jesus Christ concealed, the New Testament? Jesus Christ revealed!” hmmm… also along for the ride is Trip Lee with “Conversion” a wonderful expose on the subject with relevant excerpts from Mark Dever sermons for the hooks. Flame weighs in with “Leadership” a flawless analysis on church administration/leadership structure from Christ down to us. Then of course there’s Hazakim with their signature messianic “uncut and raw” approach serving us “Evangelism” and “The Good News” two absolutely necessary gems. With all this quality you would think that’s about as far as it gets but you’d be wrong as the high points of this album are Stephen the Levite and “Church Discipline” a track exploring how to deal (in love) with erring members of the flock and it’s done over a sick DJ Essence beat and a beautifully sampled hook, his other contribution “Membership” is as good and is a very nice discussion starter as he examines the state of modern day church membership accompanied by the legendary sound s of Tony Stone. By the time we’re through and have gotten to the end of the album we’re bursting at the seams with so much to process but Evangel doesn’t seem to care as he rounds it all up with “Beautiful Church” an ode cum history lesson on the journey the institution we call The Church has made from the tower of Babel to our present day. The beat for this was crafted by Big Juice and was just celestial and Evangel duly killed it!
The production on this project borders on illegal, yes we’ve come to expect quality production on Lampmode projects (from the Tim Brindle days to Jas Knight) but Alex Medina, Big Juice, Tony Stone, DJ Essence (my favourite producer) all contribute the kind of beats that are masterpieces on their own and yet do not take anything away from the featured emcees, they are just skillful anointed fellows who deserve much props.
There’s one little issue though, Tedashii’s song was a little to mediocre, not bad but we’ve heard him at a much higher level. That aside this album is one I’ll like to play to my grandkids (alongside a few Cross Movement albums) and say to them “this is what classic music sounds like”.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Label- Tryumfant Records
As a Nigerian I find it rather amusing that my country is a former British colony yet we turn to America for most of our music! Before I got into Christian music, I could barely list 5 British acts (outside The Beatles) that I knew and I think it’s a bit worse now! Nevertheless, I know that UK rap acts are gaining a solid reputation within the circles that matter and they’ve got ears prickling up in attention on both sides of the pond nowadays. In Christian rap we’ve seen Jahaziel and Dwayne Tryumf achieve huge crossover success and there are others following in their footsteps (S.O., Guvna B, E-Tizz, Gems, etc…) but all of them Dwayne Tryumf seems to be the poster boy for the UK’s Christian rap scene. He’s been on Katalyst’s album Death By Design, Lecrae’s Rebel, a couple of mixtapes here and there and his song “I Don’t Pack a Matic” off the Mark of Peace EP has solid credentials so dropping 777 was long overdue I guess.
From start to finish the album has your attention. The captivating “777 intro” which was released last year (and is on Uprise’s Video Lounge on OH TV) fittingly kicks off a hot collection of awe inspiring tracks. Possessing this Jamaican flavor (staying true to his roots) Dwayne manages to give us hip hop, reggae, dancehall all in one package with a little touch of gospel too. Some of the songs on the album aren’t exactly new but they are nice additions to the mix, “I Don’t Pack a Matic” and “Proverbs 31” fall into this class. “Never Be the Same” has Dwayne spitting in his signature rapid-fire staccato like way over an awesome beat and a wonderfully sung hook. “He’s The King” an anthem of Christ’s sovereignty is another beautiful banger. “African Drum” and “Sons of God” are two beautifully crafted songs with the aforementioned dancehall flavor and Mr Tryumf holding it down with his verses. As u go along its almost as if the album slows down yet it doesn’t lose its quality as songs like the melodic “Help Me Find My Way” and “Trust Me” round things up for us.
A noteworthy trait on the album is the rich cast of guest artists (nothing less than 14 of them) which basically consists of the “who’s who” in UK Christian music from Muyiwa Olanrewaju to Ryan Carty to Jahaziel. Even with this many guests Dwayne Tryumf still holds it down!!! Not an easy task. One drawback is the Comedian Chris skits; they seem somewhat subpar for a project of this caliber. Other than that 777 is a hefty album that is sure to launch Dwayne Tryumf to much bigger things in the future, it gets my 4 stars unapologetically.