How Do You Like Your Hip Hop?
GRITS - Sunny Days
GRITS - The Art of Translation (Gotee, 2002) Produced by Ric Robbins, Otto Price, GRITS and Kene Bell. Guest spots: Knowdaverbs/ Jennifer Knapp/ Nirva Dorsaint
Probably one of the most successful Christian Rap groups since DC TALK, having had songs placed on several tv shows and movies; selling tons more albums each time out. However, this project surpasses all of the others in variety, displaying different sounds and styles.
Check out Be Mine, a breezy open letter to the women of the world spent on the negative "love songs" from Mainstream rappers. Video Girl speaks on the exploitation of women in music videos. And Sunny Days features the CULT JAM type vocals of NIRVA DORSAINT. Simply splendid.
Sounds: Dirty South (ala MASTER P), Neo-Soul, classic GRITS
For fans of: LISA LISA & THE CULT JAM, TONEX, BRAINWASH PROJECTS
Pick hits: Runnin'/ Tennessee Boys/ Be Mine/ Video Girl/ Believe/ Sunny Days/ Love Child
Acts 29: Under Exposed (Syntax, 2001) Production Ohmega Watts, Soul Plasma and Braille
Unique and mellow blends of sound envelope relatable lyrical concepts. Check out Missionary Dater, a song that explores the dangers of dating an unsaved person. Of special note is background singer, TIFFANY SIMPSON, who makes the project extra special with her terrific vocals.
For fans of: Q TIP/ SAVED YOUNG MINISTAS
Pict hits: Sweet Tooth/ Overnight/ Missionary Dater/ Family Life/ Confessions
Gibraan - Mockingbyrd Slang (Syntax, 2001) Production by Gibraan, Tonéx
Gibraan comes hot and heavy with that patented Nureau vibe (courtesy of Vertity recording artist, TONEX). A true poet at heart, it comes through loud and clear, intertwined with mid-eastern melodies and hardcore beats ... Too tight for words.
Pick hits: Firewater/ Strictly For My N.I.N.J.A.Z. (featuring a unbelievable sample of the Dynasty tv theme song)
Lojique - Language Arts (Syntax, 2001) Production by Nickels
One of the things I enjoy with faith based rappers is the freedom to experiment with sounds that hit based rappers may be too nervous about exploring.
Eastern/ Indonesian type flava is the environment that Lojique chooses to play around in. It takes getting used to but once you get into it, you realize that these cats are mad talented.
For fans of AHMAD/ Q TIP
Night Owls One: Nocturnal Doctrine - Various Artists (Syntax, 2001) Featuring Sup The Chemist, Peace 586, Luke Geraty, Pigeon John, Elle Roc
Smooth. Playful. Creative. Everything that made you fall in love with Rap music in the first place.
Lots of different artists on this compilation, yet the mood is Jazzy and mellow though out.
Pick hits: Natural Method/ Passion and Honey/ Inhale 2 Exhale/ You And Yours
Sup The Chemist - Dust (Beesyde Records/UpRok, 2000)
With influences that range from THE DOORS and MICHAEL JACKSON to SADE and JOHN COLTRANE, Chris "Super C" Cooper reappears with another collection of mind bending jams. Like a "Saved" CHUCK D or KRS 1, this elder statesman of the genre is not satisfied with just giving his people ordinary tunes on his discs. Dazzling melodies, rare samples and lyrics that "suplex the mind".
For fans of: PEACE 586/ LPG/ AHMAD
Mr. Del - Enter The Light (Re'liant Gospel, 2000) Production by Mr. Del/ Chris Morris/ Billy Brown
THREE SIX MAFIA's loss is our gain as Mr. Del debuts with some slammin' cuts and smooth slow jams that are tight lyrically as well as musically.
Picks: Another Place/ Holy Bounce/ Who Got It
For fans of: BRENT JONES & TP MOBB/ DA BRAT
MG! The Visionary - TransparEmcee (Bec/UpRok, 2000) Produced by MG! The Visionary
A frantic/ whirlwind trip through the mind of the former 3NP member (remember the Sanctifunktifyd compilation?). And I do mean whirlwind, because just listening to some of these songs will make your head spin. Witness the debut of the Gospel BUSTA RHYMES. Though a bit more Jazzy in groove theory, still, he's just as unpredictable.
Picks: Rock Your World (reminiscent of Sweetest Thing from the Love Jones soundtrack)
CROW - Operation KAP (Grapetree, 1999)
BRUTHAZ GRIMM member, CROW, embarks on his debut solo project with a mission to shine the light on the world of pimps and prostitution. A former pimp himself, CROW, deals with a character named "Sylvia" though out the project, showing her downward spiral and eventual attempt towards redemption. This is hardcore, but a different kind of hardcore ... Parents listen first, that you may be able to discuss it with your teen. But this is a little too hard for kids under the age of 13. Parental discretion is definitely advised.
E-Roc * Avalanche (Grapetree, 1999)
The idea is that Christ's return will be like an avalanche -- unstoppable and very powerful. So we should be prepared or be buried ... That sounds good to me, but then I have the press release explaining it to me. For the average listener, this message may seem too be buried, deep under phat beats and enticing music.
RedCloud * Traveling Circus (Syntax, 2003) Featured artists: Sackcloth Fashion/ Sam Hart/ Christafari
To be perfectly honest ... I ended up donating my copy of RedCloud's debut CD to the Hammond, Indiana library. Not because it was particularly bad ... It's just that it was so all over the place that only two or three songs really spoke to me. It just wasn't something I felt a desire to pump out of my car speakers
Yet on this second offering, RC tells a different story with a clearer vision. He's still down with that Native American Funk that sets him apart from other less unique rappers. However, this time around, his sound seems more polished ... I think I'll keep it.
Pics: Traveling Circus/ Bonifide XTreme/ Don't Wear It Out/ Neva Letcha Go/ Broken Jaw.
For fans of: FAZE/ AMBASSADOR
Sackcloth Fashion - The Lone Flower (Syntax Records, 2003) Featuring Tonex and Marcos Curiel
On their previous project, this group had songs so deep that crew member, Kaitlyn Cassels, was crying as she laid some of her vocals down in the studio.
This time there is more of a quirky vibe that makes Sackcloth sound like an altogether different group. And while unexpected, it is great to see them stretch their wings. My only problem is wanting the rap vocal faded up a little bit more.
For fans of: KJ52/ Chicago House Music from the 1980s/ EVEN STEVEN/ PRINCE
Pick hits: Touch The Sky/ Infectious/ Take My Sin
LPG * the Gadfly (Uprok, 2003) Production: Dert/ Peace 586/ Jermz
This is supposed to be their final project. Then again, it's only their third project by my count (excluding all of the amazing cameos they've made on other artists' albums over the years).
LPG represents the beginnings of Holy Hip Hop; reppin' a time period where acts like SFC, FREEDOM OF SOUL, DYNAMIC TWINS and IDOL KING were running things.
This is before every other new act was an ex gangbanger and sneaking the "N" word on their songs. Though some of the above may have been guilty of the latter as well. But also back when the messages were so tight that you excused any weaknesses in production values.
JURNY and DAX represent true Hip-Hop like SANAA and TAYE debated about in the movie, Brown Sugar. You know, when it was all about the beats and the rhymes? Plus, this dynamic duo isn't afraid to shine a light on the sometimes shady minded intentions of some in the Christian industry.
While newer emcees are trying to come as hard as their Mainstream counterparts, LPG still care about giving you the strongest message over the tightest beats. Classic Hip Hop Baby.
Pick Hits: Place Called Hip Hop/ Old Emcees/ Record Keep Spinning
Peace 586 * Generations (Uprok, 2003) Production by Dert. Featured artists include Sup The Chemist/ LPG/ IDOL KING/ JON GIBSON/ NOEL of DYNAMIC TWINS
One of the pioneers of real Rap takes us down memory lane by collaborating with artists that he teamed up with back in the day. The coolest thing ever. Which is why I'll go on record, saying PEACE 586 is one of my favorite rappers ever. Definitely at the top of the list.
My only bone of contention is that just when you're really getting into this project, Peace slips in the "N" word. For what reason, I don't know. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't think that word belongs in music that is meant to encourage the listener's heart, as well as make them dance. Particularly when a brother like me spent years trying to convince parents to turn their kids on to Christian Hip Hop artists. With the argument always thrown back at me that if they're going to listen to Rap, they might as well listen to "regular" Rap.
When someone like Peace steps out of bounds like that, not only does it mess up the experience of an amazing project, but it makes it harder to defend the music that I love so much.
For Fans of: FREEDOM OF SOUL/ TUNNEL RATS
Pick Hits: Love's Still There/ Progress/ Everything
L.A. Symphony * The End Is Now (Gotee, 2003)
What's with all of these vets coming out with projects that "may or may not" be their last projects (i.e. SUP THE CHEMIST/ LPG/ PEACE 586)?
Whether or not this is your first or last chance to check out this talented aggregation of rappers, you'll certainly enjoy the ride. With tunes that cover the gamut of musical categories, this is one you'll play -- unashamed -- for your non-believing friends.
For Fans of: WU TANG CLAN/ EMINEM/ MISS JADE/ PIGEON JOHN/ BRAINWASH PROJECTS
Jurny Big * Biggest Of Them All (Uprok, 2003)
Uprok is at the top fo the Rap game, proving it with a new collection of fresh sounds. This time representing the labels is JURNY BIG of the group, LPG.
A pioneer in the industry, Jurny has an easy to follow lyrical flow that is captivating to the ear buds. Not only does he tackle the most fascinating of subjects, you also get the phat beats that'll satisfy any hardcore Rap fan that is willing to hear. Definitely worth a concentrated listen.
Verbs * Unlocked (Gotee, 2003)
You can call this one the project where DJ JAZZY JEFF & THE FRESH PRINCE transform into simply WILL SMITH. Meaning that VERBS' sound really matures on this batch of songs; digging deeper into his creative well and coming up with rare jewels.
DJ Maj * The Ringleader, Mixtape Vol. 3 (Gotee, 2003)
Maj disappoints a little on this third set of jams.
After two previous hardcore Dance discs (more or less), this time he takes a more mellow route. And is it just me, or do you kind of wish he'd work with more than just the same bunch of GOTEE artists and branch out to work with artists who could truly use the exposure?
For me, the surprise cameos on the interludes were far more exciting. And you find yourself hoping that they end up on the next project's full length songs. So if your prefer harder Dance mixes, check out projects on UPROK or vintage joints from N'SOUL RECORDS.
Mars Ill * Backbreakanomics (Gotee, 2003) Guest MCS include: PLAYDOUGH/ PIGEON JOHN
DUST and manCHILD are back with a more focused sound than what we heard on their UPROK RECORDS project.
The Atlanta duo come with the straight and unadulterated Underground flava on this joint; wowing us with crazy horn samples and sprinkles of Acid Jazz. Check it out.
Luke Geraty * It's Cold Out Here (Syntax, 2003) Featuring PIGEON JOHN AND REDCLOUD
Geraty extends the reach of his previously released EP, offering great Chill music with unique samples and relaxing flows.
Pick Hits: Last Episode of Funk/ Sunset Of Smiles/ Satan's Little Angel/ A Day In The Life/ Pandemonium/ Footprints
For Fans of : PIGEON JOHN/ KJ52
Solseekers * Half Way There (EP) (Syntax Records, 2002) Production by: DJDNA/ AJ STAR
Truth talk on record? Naw. It'll never work ... Anybody can speak nonsense and gangsta talk. But it takes a real M.C. to talk about rappers getting a music contract with no talent.
It takes strong cats to talk about the struggles of crafting a song so that it makes sense and grabs the attention of the people responsible for making a hit. Solseekers does that and more with funky flava that rivals any of their Mainstream counterparts.
Pick Hits: Weapon Of Choice/ Still Right Here
We Are Hip Hope * Various Artists (Gotee, 2002) Featured Artists: GRITS/ TOBY MAC/ JOHN REUBEN/ VERBS/ DJ MAJ
New joints from the artist formerly known as "Knowdaverbs", as well as TOBY MAC's jammy jam, Irene, highlight this Hip Hop compilation. A great sampler to introduce newbies to the joy of Positive Hip Hop.
Rapland Recordings Compilation * Various Artists (Rapland Recordings, 2002) Featuring RICARDO FLO and XPLICIT
Combine the talents of four solo artists, two groups and a cameo from CHRISTOPHER "PLAY" MARTIN (House Party 1,2,3/ Class Act/ Platinum recording artists, KID 'N' PLAY) and you get one of the best Rap projects ever.
Pick Hits: What You Don't Know/ Four
Raphi * Cali Quake (Uprok, 2002) Production: Raphi/ Dert/ Dax Reynosa
Chompin' at the bit for more of that TUNNEL RATS flava? Then be sure to pick up the debut CD from a brother who has appeared on every Tunnel Rats associated release -- like LPG's Earthworm, PEACE 586's Risen Sun and the upcoming project by SEV STATIC.
Pick Hits: Then and Now/ Let Go
Ill Harmonics * Take Two (Uprok Records, 2002) Produced by Ill Harmonics
Ill Harmonics is the kind of group that you can automatically like. Maybe its the rhyming ability. Maybe its the Jazzy Melodies. The only thing is, the way they craft their lyrics, its hard to get the message on some of the songs right away. Which is okay. Because the more you play them, the more you'll like them.
For fans of: DC TALK/ BK & ASSOCIATES/ E-ROC/ RHYMES MONUMENTAL/ EMINEM
Pick Hits: Bowtie Jerks/ Must Be Crazy
Str8 Young Gangstaz 4 Christ * Tha Movement (Grapetree, 1999) Production: Big Tone/ AKG/ Kenny Smith
I like Rap ...
I respect the art form ...
But I can't get with everybody. Not to say that this isn't a good project. It's just not in heavy rotation at my crib.
The Gangstaz have that same vibe that you get with dudes like SNOOP & DR. DRE. And this project will definitely appeal to that crowd. But if you're like me and more into the FREEDOM OF SOUL, GRITS, jazzy vibe ... This Chronic flavored joint will start to get on your nerves.
Made up of a youth director, an ex gang banger and a minister, this group comes hard -- like a DOGG POUND album -- which is just a little too hard for my personal tastes. But maybe that just means its not made for me.
Pick Hits: You're Always/ Move The Crowd
KIIS * Welcome To The New Era (Metro One, 1997) Produced by New Era Productions
Though KIIS have a funky sound, musically this project is kind of bland. Still, the lyrics are relevant and catchy. However, the most important reason to get this project is the unique anti-abortion tune entitled, Operation:Rescue ... I promise you, it'll tear at your heart strings.
Pick Hits: Cast Your Cares/ After The Rain/ Operation:Rescue
Even Steven * Unshackled (Voice Of Thunder, 1995)
Even Steven is the latest on the Christian Hip-Hop scene. In some ways he reminds me of the TIM MINER/Artisan/Knightlight era -- solid lyrics, but music and flow that can sometimes use a little extra something.
Just Like That has a steady flow and a sing song hook that makes you want to listen. On One For Me about E.S.'s wife, he sounds so laid back and at home with the groove.
These are explicit Christian lyrics. So blasting this CD out of your car could lead to lots of open stares and souls being ministered to. Check it out.
Pick Hits: Yolanda/ Rollin' Wit Flava
Barry G * Rugged Witness (Grapetree, 1995)
Ain't Nothin' hooked me right away with the smooth as silk ISLEY BROTHERS sample. Jesus Pleaser (remix) reminds you of the flow and style of the current Rap hits on Mainstream radio stations. And the hook, "I'm A Jesus pleaser, 'cause I love pleasin' Jesus ..." sticks in your head and makes you glad that this brother is back on the scene.
Pick Hits: I Got Em/ Step To Jehovah/ Ain't Nothin'
King Shon and Tha S.S.M.O.B * Papa Didn't Raize No Punkz (Metro One, 1995)
The TONE LOC like vocals of leader, King Shon, grab your attention at first. Then you're sucked into the funky, yet dark grooves of each cut.
This is hardcore Gangsta Funk here. So if you prefer not so heavy grooves, you man only be able to take this one in teeny tiny doses. And there's also the constant use of the "N" word.
Pick Hits: Ghettumup/ Punk Of The Year/ Kan-U-Se-Me/ Anotha Phunky Song
Microphone Theology * Various Artists (Metro One/ Indie Empire, 1994)
A collabo between Grapetree Records and Metro One Records to expose artists without a "major" record label deal. Artists featured include: SFC, SSMOB, FROS'T, E-ROC, GENO V and EVANGELIST MC.
For Fans of : TONE LOC/ ICE T/ SNOOP
Sanktifunctafyd * Various (NSoul Records/ 23:4 Magazine, 1994) Production: Chris "Super C" Cooper/ GodQuest/ 3NP
Compilation with highs and lows. Different influences here, but the best include the G-Funk/ DR. DRE vibe of the YOUNG MINISTAS, the jazzy flava of BRAINWASH PROJECTS and the smooth laid back flow of GODQUEST.
Pick Hits: True To The End/ Dead To Sin & Not The Same/ Testimony/Mucha Muchachas/ Set'n U Free
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2019 LaZeric Freeman