Review

LABEL: REACH RECORDS
RELEASE DATE: MAY 10, 2012

What a day May 10th, 2012 has been in Hip-Hop? I don’t even think it necessary (or even possible on my part) to capture a distinguishable snapshot of the hype that has been injected into the day, or even the flurry of emotions that permeated the air. Nonetheless, in hopes to remain brief, I’d go ahead and point you to this article by my colleague J.F. Arnold which, I believe did an awesome job in reiterating, and even clarifying the myriad of thoughts that probably swirled around prior to that date. Therefore, that leaves us with the opportunity to talk about the fact that the clamor, which peaked around 1:16 pm was actually no form of disorder or unrest, for that matter. Instead, it was the rattling of a movement so effervescently that the whole world couldn’t help but being caught up in this frenzy. Brace yourself. It wasn’t about the Hova himself, and this time around, Young money kept their funds in their pockets, actually.

You see, what actually took place was that rapper Lecrae, who has been unanimously known for his biblical-worldview type songs, and markedly as the face of CHH, after having a stellar 2011 (and, finding himself at the peak of his career), released a much to be gobbled up mixtape entitled Church Clothes. It had die-hard fans and supporters at its beckon and call and, it was worth the hype, to say the least as, this was nothing anyone could have expected but actually what we really hoped for. At least I did. The raw/straight-forward/ riddled-with truth mixtape was hosted by the well-known (and, far-left in terms of influences and the like) radio personality, Deejay Don Cannon whom, it seems, apparently boasts the stamp of approval that rappers crave to be bestowed upon their projects. In other word, if you had a PSA and you went to the post office, he’s the post-master general whom you probably would want to speak to.

This time around, it looks like he invited Lecrae over to do more than just flaunt his stamp. I don’t blame him, given the impressive work of art Church Clothes turned out to be. The album is a concept piece aimed at divulging the series of thoughts that unbelievers (and even Christians) purport as being standard when it comes on to the matter of church. It plays directly on the cultural expectation that people have to directly ‘dress up’ to attend church, or more implicitly, engaging in the “putting on of airs”, as he described in this interview with XXL Magazine. His aim therefore, in this particular mixtape was then to really dissolve such arguments and to really engage member of the hip-hop culture to consider the aims of their religious affections. With that said, Lecrae rocked the world with this 5-starred offering of his.

Dissecting the mixtape

He opens up his case with the track ‘Co-Sign’, spectacularly produced by Heat Academy, and does his best to quickly dismiss the ideas about himself that people have as he goes forward with the hour long session. It’s a fierce track and, immediately you can sense that this will be like nothing he has ever offered before. It also sets the stage going forward (as with every other track) and, is the ideal introduction, I believe, for anyone outside peering it. Deejay Don Cannon takes it a step further with his overlaying vocals to introduce the session, which is just the right blend of pure hip-hop.

The 18 tracks LP follows up with one that I am most excited about, primary because it features This’l who, is just one of the most hard-working rappers I’ve come to know. ‘APB’ is the title of the track, and Lecrae brings the heat himself as they creatively play on the law-enforcement term to highlight that they themselves were sinful people in a dark world. In light of their miraculous transformation though, their old selves aren’t to be found anywhere, hence, an APB has been put out on their heads. That said, as I listened through, I was blown away that this was only the second track of the mixtape. Could I expect the same standard through? You bet!

He follows up with title track and lead single, ‘Church Clothes’ which, did well to stir the waters when it was released earlier. Produced by Wit, Lecrae weaves a story together through the eyes of a non-Christian that is utterly dismissive about church. Still, he purports a twisted view of church and points out why he isn’t associated with it. Finally, in the last verse, Lecrae satirically uses the same voice to point out the true reason of the unbeliever’s disassociation with the church. It is characteristic of what you hear when you speak to people who say they are done with the church and, it also seems to call churches into questioning about a few things.

Then there are tracks like ‘Cold World’ ft. Tasha Catour and, the tributary ‘Welcome to H-Town’ ft. label mate, Tedashii, Dre Murray and VonWon on the hook. The latter is actually a remix of an earlier song of the same name by Dre Murray, Lecrae and VonWon themselves. Still, it fits well on the project, as it has been necessary in hip-hop to own up to a city, and this they do well by paying tribute to their beloved Houston. ‘Cold World’ however is a song full of anguish on which Lecrae paints stories of the frigid atmosphere people live in daily and therefore how much they need hope, and the gospel.

The mixtape progresses with tracks that I can only mention, but which are equally awesome and which buttress the standard of the mixtape. One such was the heavily anticipated ‘Darkest Hour’ ft. No Malice (formerly Malice of the Clipse). Lecrae’s guest opens up the song with a sort of testimony, highlighting his dark past in drugs and the like, and how the gospel changed his life. Lecrae follows suit and holds his own on this one.

‘Black Rose’ is the surprise reggae infused joint that will (and have had) Jamaicans like myself going crazy about the sampling of the popular beat and song. The heavy snare, heavy-hitting base track has Lecrae mimicking a Jamaican accent as well, and he talks about his own life struggles growing up, dealing with drugs, the gangster lifestyle and the like. I am tempted to call producer Tyshane the star here, but Lecrae said ‘Jah Know’ convincingly and that’s a five in my book! All in all, that is just the first half of the mixtape and a slew of impressive songs follow behind, so much that I begin to wonder whether or not this is real.

There’s ‘The Price of Life’ ft. Andy Mineo and Co Campbell-a stellar offering that talks about the fallen nature of relationships nowadays and the devaluation of women and so forth. It is followed up with ‘Special’ ft. Lester Shaw, which might just be my favorite track. In all this hype, Lecrae takes time out to honor his wife and his marriage, and the track couldn’t come at a better time when there seems to be a complete mis-handling of marriage far and wide.

I’d hit repeat, but I would miss out on the “Hey, Drake! Listen up!” song, ‘No Regrets’ ft. the spectacular, Suzy Rock. Sonically, it sounds like a response to the YOLO trend from the face value alone. Lecrae sings like Drake at the start and, the beat is even one that is categorically of that nature. Still, it is no copy, and it quickly dispels a whole lot. So does ‘Gimme A second’ which has Lecrae being more than a wordsmith asking for time on the proverbial mic to talk his mind, especially as a Christian.

Finally, in the last quarter of the album, trailblazing emcee Swoope stops in on ‘Long Time Coming’ and completely obliterates his feature. Still, Lecrae is all over the track too, as he points out the precedence family takes over his music and in his life as a man.

Now, please stay calm as I talk about the crowd favorite, ‘Misconception’, which features Propaganda, Braille and Odd Thomas of Humble Beast. It’s already been touted the best song and, I see why. They effectively point out and respond to the wrong ideologies people profess in their defense for not dealing with the church. Apart from the spectacular work Courtland did on the beat, each emcee writes as if this was their last verse and they had to clear the air. It’s an impressive track that I hope will ruffle some feather and cause people to really search their hearts when it comes to the matter of church. All doubt is convincingly dispelled and so, it leaves no room for the fact that people will be held accountable.

Then there’s ‘Spazz’-the head rocking, toe-tapping, crowd moving 116 track that the album wouldn’t be complete without. My question though is, where in the world does Lecrae get so much energy?

‘Sacrifice’ is the one song that will put a lot in perspective for every listener and, which I know many will agree with concerning Lecrae’s own life. He writes about the comforts he has given up to share the gospel and uses this same tale to buttress his beliefs. He asks a lot of questions of rappers and even ordinary listeners who would constantly label him without thoroughly assessing all that he has done. Doesn’t it remind you of something Pauline in nature? Look it up!

The mixtape closes out with the heroic-sounding ‘Rejects’ ft. Christon Gray- another in your face track that is characteristically Lecrae. It’s like, in all this people will still not accept the message, and this is his way of saying he will preach it until they do, or he dies, at the cost of his good fortune and fame. What is more, there is a hint of a second like mixtape by Don Cannon, and I get the feeling that I am not the only who is completely pleased with this whole offering. I believe Don Cannon himself walked away impressed.

High moments of the Mixtape

Production is spectacular. Lecrae has pulled together the right set of producers for each track and they all could stand singly and, be equally convincing. I believe production was overseen by Street Symphony and, I must tip my hat to him for maintain the impressive standard throughout. Production includes 9th Wonder, Boi-1da, Wit, Big Juice, Tha Kracken, S1, and so many more.

Lecrae himself delivers time and time again with every single verse and hook that he writes. In fact, I would love to see him maintain this openness going forward as this is easily his best work ever. His convictions are clear and his sound is attractive.
The features brought their A-games and, truly represented the CHH community with their respective verses and hooks. At this rate, who knows what will happen in the future.

Deejay Don Cannon, though not always as present as I would expect, adds the right blend to give the whole feel that this was a mixtape.

Low moments of the mixtape

Actually, once you have identified a single second where the mixtape has come up short, I’d invited you to email me and point it out to me because I am still searching for a low point! It was that good! Actually, the only thing I can come up with is that it is actually free! This tops all that Lecrae has done, and you got it for nada!

Final thoughts

Well, with all that I have discussed, I remind you that the work is not done. I would invite you to share it with your friends far and wide and to be constantly in prayer for Lecrae and him team. 78, 000 downloads later, I do hope this mixtape ruffles a lot of feathers. What is more, I am truly in high spirits about Gravity, which will be Lecrae’s next project set to release in the fall. Am I alone? I think not!