Juzo has leveled up.

I first heard of the musician and visual artist when I reviewed his first EP, ANIMA 01, in early 2021. Since then, Juzo has clearly settled into a sound all his own with the release of his sophomore project, Dystopia 02, in September of this year.

Juzo continues to communicate with listeners in a deeply personal way in this next entry to his story. “This project stemmed from a very dark season of my life where I felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness,” the musician said on Instagram. “There were many hardships and circumstances that led me to doubt my long-held beliefs, and through that birthed a foreign sense of bitterness and resentment.”

Through the narrative of Dystopia, Juzo manages to do what many Christian artists have struggled with: tell a story that includes a hopeful, redemptive ending without pretending to have found all the answers. “Lead me to you through these voids I tread / ‘Cause I know my faith has been lost in dread,” Juzo sings on the last song from the project, “Deus Ex Machina.” “I feel like nothing; searching for something.”

Track Listing

  1. The fallen / N-01R 魂
  2. Monster (feat. Shxrda)
  3. 99 But a Reverie
  4. Zone.
  5. Idols:Re
  6. Deus Ex Machina

Standout tracks for me include “The fallen / N-01R 魂” and “Monster.”

“The fallen / N-01R 魂”

This track sets the tone for the project masterfully, painting a picture of the world we’re entering almost like an audio-only short film. According to the liner notes, this track features additional vocals from a host of other indie CHH artists, from Lazarus! to Emmanuel LKD. If someone asked me which Juzo song epitomizes his style, I’d probably recommend this one.

“Monster”

Easily the catchiest song on Dystopia. Driving drums and bright synths combine with dark chords to mirror the lyrical content. Juzo plays a lot with using different vocal textures to shape the narrative, and a feature from Shxrda helps to that end.

 

To quote my past self, “Juzo’s songs are refreshingly original, masterfully crafted, and very personal. The branding and soundscaping of the album are on point.” All these details are still true, but if ANIMA was an experimental venture, Dystopia is the fruition of those experiments.

Even though Juzo’s style doesn’t quite mesh with my usual day-to-day listening habits, I like this project more with each playthrough. I believe that any listener will benefit from giving Dystopia 02 a spin.

Check out Dystopia 02 below and let us know what you think of the project! Find tracks from Juzo and more on our [FReSH PiCKS] YouTube playlist!

 

Elohin 'El3vate'

Elohin has reached veteran status within the independent faith-based hip-hop scene.

The Detroit emcee’s newest album releases on September 12, 2023 via CF Entertainment.

El3vate offers a mix of hard-hitting beats, cinematic production, and lyrical sharpness. The theme of the album is centered around overcoming adversity and rising to a new level in life and faith. The 12-song project features the singles “Safe Space,” “Bloodline,” “Mood,” “Secrets,” and “Up.”

El3vate’s sound is a mixture of Hip Hop with elements of Trap, R&B, Pop, and Jazz. The soundscape was crafted by legendary producer DJ Pain 1 along with sadCG, Falak, Komo Beatz, Othellobeats, LT, Blasian, and Miraql3. Every lyric, melody, and musical element creates an interesting and dynamic sound. It is an ambitious and exciting listening experience.

Album Features

For many listeners, the guest artists on a project are just as important as the primary artist.

El3vate not only showcases Elohin’s lyrical abilities but features several of indie CHH’s heavy hitters. Kidd Lee, Xay Hill, Kevi Morse, Bella Raee, Sam Heavens, and Jess Aleakatino all bring their unique talents to the project.

Track Listing

  1. El3vate (Intro)
  2. Ready
  3. Mood [ft. Kidd Lee]
  4. Ghetto Blues
  5. Safe Space
  6. Fade [ft. Kevi Morse]
  7. Secrets [ft. Bella Raee]
  8. Dying For [ft. Sam Heavens]
  9. Bloodline [ft. Jess Aleakatino]
  10. God Is God
  11. I Feel It
  12. Up [ft. Xay Hill]

Reflections

It’s rare to find an artist who is brave enough to discuss life, faith, and social issues while at the same time appealing to commercial, boom-bap, and faith-based audiences. These rare combinations come together perfectly in the music of Elohin.

Consistency has long been a characteristic of Detroit’s Elohin.

With El3vate he delivers a complete project from start to finish. There are records to connect with a multitude of listeners. The soundscape transcends eras as Elohin blends progression and experience with the skillset of a master. From trunk-shaking low-end to body-moving melodies, it is inspiring to see the bar being raised when it comes to independent Christian rap.

Standout tracks include “Fade,” “Mood,” “Up,” Bloodline,” and “Ready.”

About Elohin

Born and raised on the Eastside of Detroit, Michigan, Elohin (pronounced El-oh-in) fell in love with music at an early age. Since then, he has independently released multiple full-length studio projects and EPs along with collaborating with other established artists and producers. His delivery, lyricism, and songwriting ability can capture the ears and hearts of many hip-hop fans and music lovers alike.

For more about Elohin, check out notyouraveragerapper.com

C.J. Luckey "Welcome to the Table"

C.J. Luckey is releasing his first new music since 2020 and the wait is well worth it!

With a new album set to release on September 1, 2023 (which you can pre-save here on Spotify or pre-order here on iTunes), Luckey has dropped the title track Welcome To The Table along with an official video for the record.

Still not fully removed from the height of the COVID pandemic, Welcome To The Table addresses the experiences of the last few years.

C.J. Luckey Taps Into an Overlooked Truth

With mask mandates in full force, it was difficult for many people to feel comfortable around others. It seemed like there was nowhere you could go in public that was normal. Judgment and fear always lurked. We were told that we couldn’t trust that we were safe which led to people becoming disconnected. But there was one place where relationships could grow.

Coming together at the table, even in a public setting, was the one place you could go and take off your mask.

You may have had to wear a mask to get there, but The Table unmasked all of us.

Vulnerability, Transparency, Relationship, and Community could all be found around this gathering place. With Welcome To The Table, C.J. Luckey reminds listeners of an open invitation to come and be seen.

Thoughts on C.J. Luckey’s Newest Record

As with any music that Luckey releases, there is an educational aspect along with high-level execution.

From the beginning of the record, the tone is set to usher back in one of the amazing artists of the CHH space. A solemn and simplistic guitar progression is met by Luckey’s deep and attention-demanding vocals. He quickly paints the setting of the story as we are brought into a dinner party hosted by none other than Christ himself. Despite our shortcomings, we are not only welcomed but expected. We are told that we need to get over criticism of ourselves and enjoy the gift in front of us.

Previous Luckey collaborators From A to Z hold down a melodic chorus that perfectly captures the record’s essence. Not only does the table offer an experience, but a fresh start is also present if we choose it.

In the second verse, C.J. no longer speaks from a place of doubt or shame. Instead, he embraces and boldly speaks God’s truth for listeners. Some truth may be difficult at times, but “Great are the plans I have for you” declares the Lord. At the end of the day, we all face adversity together. We are more similar and connected than we realize. Once we come to realize that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we can begin to come to terms with our flaws.

Jodi Jackson’s Feature is Special

The final guest artist on the record is Jodi Jackson.

With soft yet powerful melodies, Jackson brings a verse to Welcome To The Table that completes the record. I do not say it as an obvious statement. Rather, I truly believe that the song would be incomplete without her contribution.

From the instrumental breakdown that delivers her opening notes, her passion and heart are felt. She effortlessly resonates the message that Luckey has shared throughout the earlier portions of the song while putting her own touches on its presentation. It is a well-crafted segway back into the final chorus.

Wrapping It Up

Welcome To The Table is certainly a highlight of 2023 personally.

It is great to have new music from C. J. Luckey. The record definitely establishes expectations for the new album as a whole. I’m looking forward to the varying sonic experiences it holds as well as following the story’s arc from start to finish.

How do I know there are elements of story throughout the album? Check out the interview with Luckey below to find out more…

Distribution issues may cripple most releases. But when you’ve been in the game for 15 years, it’s simply a hurdle to get over.

It also helps when your project has plenty of “album of the year” buzz around it. People will seek it out wherever it may be.

That has been the case with GodChaserz Entertainments’ newest release, Rising Son by the duo known as Medallions. The group name may be new, but the members are two of the most established and skilled emcees in the Christian rap space. Brinson and ReadyWriter have been establishing themselves within the genre for a long time. The fact that we are just now getting a joint project is a little surprising. Even so, once announced, the expectations were understandably high.

So why now?

According to Brinson,

“We’re trying to continue our scene’s rich tradition of talented twosomes. From Ras and Nuwine, Corey Red and Precise to Lecrae and Andy Mineo. One of the few regrets I’ve had as the head of GodChaserz is that more people didn’t gravitate toward Ready’s skill as an emcee. I’d put his pen game up against any of the greats. Hopefully, this project will help others appreciate his musical gifts as much as I do.”

Rising Son hit Bandcamp as well as GodChaserz website in late July, 2021 with physical and digital versions available.

Let’s dive in!

Breeze

Setting the tone for any album is always priority numero uno. The opening track on Rising Son is drenched in aggression and barz. While the opening chords give a throwback to classic hip hop sounds made popular by Wu-Tang Clan, once the 808s hit “Breeze” screams loudly its place in today’s hip hop space. As Brinson mentioned, ReadyWriter is easily one of the hidden gems in Christian rap. His pen game is remarkable. Don’t let your guard down on Brinson though. One thing that is a given is that the GodChaserz CEO has the natural ability to go bar for bar with anyone he’s on a track with.

So I Gotta Say

The mood turns to a chiller vibe on the second track. There’s an early Nas nostalgic on “So I Gotta Say”. I really enjoy the simple horn sample that pushes the melody throughout the track. This is the type of record where wordplay gets the opportunity to sit front and center and Medallions do not disappoint, declaring themselves “A Tribe Called Blessed” with a tongue and cheek reference to the iconic hip hop group.

ARTery

“ARTery” is a memoir that tells the story of Brinson and Ready’s connection to the rap game.

“I feel at home when I write brother, my zone when I write brother, like I’m a Wright brother”

Again, “ARTery” hits with a calm, relaxed tempo and showcases the duo’s lyrical ability.

Let You Down

The jazzy production on “Let You Down” brings a fun vibe to contrast a topic typically associated with a serious nature. The bass line is perfect and really drives the record. Brinson and ReadyWriter tackle shortcomings head-on with a transparency that is easy to appreciate. Honestly, you could call this an anthem of sorts for the human race as we all have those moments of regret where all we need is a little forgiveness.

Osaze Interlude

Osaze Murray brings a message of chasing medallions (trophies) in life. We all tend to look for that recognition, that confirmation that what we’ve accomplished is remarkable. Murray gives a reminder of the ultimate medallion we can receive as believers in Christ.

No Time 2 Waste ft. Osaze Murray

“No Time 2 Waste” is the lead single off of Rising Son. The record is not a vibe, but make no mistake, the emcees are vibing. I love the production here. It is simplistic yet classic. From the “ooh” stabs to the sampling on the breaks, it all works together beautifully. Being the only feature on the entire project, Osaze Murray comes through with one of the top verses to this point. The record is a standout on the project and it is more than understandable as to its selection as the lead single. It is truly everything that is pure about hip hop as producer Newselph crafted a strong sonic foundation for the emcees to shine.

Take The Good

What the boom-bap!?!?

“My uncle’s in heaven, my friend is in heaven and they got they wings/ life cut short, COVID-19/ best think about it they was serving the King”

Life throws plenty of difficulties in our path. Even as believers, we are not promised to go through this world without trials. Even so, it is a matter of the heart how we are going to approach such times. Do we dwell on imperfections and miss out on the blessings? “Take The Good” is a reminder to keep focused on the good. C’mon!

Rising Son

The production on the title track has a grittiness yet to show up on the album. Fat bass, record cuts, and sharp hats all take it back to golden era cypher style tracks. This is the first record where Medallions spit more than one verse each as the duo drop a third verse, going back and forth with their barz. Ready, in particular, is truly flexing his lyrical muscle on this track. Overall, this is one of my top records on Rising Son.

ReadyWriter Speak

Combination interlude and alter call, ReadyWriter pens a mini-sermon before the end of the album.

Rising Son *16Bit Remix

The album concludes with a nod to retro-gaming as the title track gets a makeover. It is a creative re-imagining of an already strong record.

Overall, Rising Son is easily one of my favorite albums of 2021. 

The production by Newselph is on point and compliments the intent of the project. The pen game from both ReadyWriter and Brinson shines throughout. Of course, as with any GodChaserz release, high-quality artistry is found from beginning to end.

I hope this is not a one-off from the duo.

I would love to hear Medallions bring their gifts and pair them with other talents from the Christian rap space. I understand the choice of limited features for this debut, however, the single offering with Osaze Murray stoodout in a way that I can’t help but wonder how much greatness the group could pull out of other emcees. Medallions certainly has the chops to be a true force within the genre. While not perfect, I wouldn’t hesitate to give the album a solid 9/10…if I was one to rank projects in such a way.

Favorite Tracks

  • No Time 2 Waste
  • Rising Son
  • Breeze
  • ARTery

Hit the comments below and share your thoughts on Rising Son by Medallions. Does it live up to expectations? Do you think this will be the only project we get?

Many would argue that the current wave of CHH artists has lost their intentionality in pushing a Gospel-centered message. Perhaps in over-the-top attempts to be relevant, cool, and ingratiating to one’s audience.

Hugh Holla is not one you’ll find falling into that category.

His latest release, Glory Up, is further evidence of that.

Making his official splash onto the Christian hip hop scene with his 2020 Holla-Luja project, which garnered him well-deserved attention and recognition, Hugh continues to solidify himself as a consistent force in the genre.

The seven-song EP has a mixtape feel to it. That may have been the idea all along.

Holla is far from gimmicky. His flow is ice cold and his delivery deliberate, as if his faith has him unbothered on all fronts. His lyrics can’t help but convey that peace and staunch standing.

Tracks like Testaments, one of the project’s stronger records, make Hugh’s message and mission statement clear with bars like “I could ramble through some bars and tickle your thoughts/I’d rather help you water your heart and harvest the crops.”

Other stand-out records like Rooted and Untouchable offer more of the same gritty address and witty approach, that while are absent of any fluff, don’t waste any of the well-placed punchlines littered throughout.

Glory Up is refreshing for those who are looking for a pure Gospel message with a truly urban feel and relatable message. That doesn’t mean the project is without its flaws.

While the production is consistent and serviceable, it’s not spectacular. That goes back to the mixtape feel point made earlier.

The hooks and choruses are somewhat predictable, a bit time-stamped, but not detracting from the message of each song and the project as a whole. There is growth in this project and no apparent throwaway songwriting present.

Glory Up is a jewel, flaws and all.

Hugh Holla is so confident in his belief that the pointedness of this offering overcomes any technical or style issues that could be addressed. As stated, this is not a modern, current attempt to bring a relevant sound to the masses. This is an execution in delivering an authentic Christian message with a beat backdrop that doesn’t allow you to miss the intent of its content. Mission accomplished!

Let us know in the comments how you feel about Glory Up by Hugh Holla. Do you agree with this assessment? Which songs are standouts and which are lacking? #SoundOff

 

Act 1 was meant to set up the story.

With ‘Dreaming Wide Awake: Act 2’, The Dream Sequence is adding an array of colors and context to the shape of things as we know it.

The five-song EP (10 tracks including the instrumentals) officially releases on July 11, 2021. Scene 1 and Scene 2 (Sareem Poems + Ess Be) were kind enough to let us get early access. For fans of what many consider “classic hip hop”, what the talented duo is bringing to the table is a breath of fresh air. With skilled lyricism and a sound that both sets the bar and is familiar at the same time, The Dream Sequence marks the return of an era many believed had passed.

For those who clamor for groups/duos in hip hop, here is your new go-to.

Dreaming Wide Awake: Act 2 brings all the elements that a hip hop head could hope for. It does so in a way that also connects to today’s audience. Below are my thoughts, but I encourage you to come to your own conclusions about this project. You can pre-order the project via Bandcamp now.

Free Mind

The lead track on the project is also the first single released. On Free Mind, Scene 1 and Scene 2 do exactly what they were made to do. Poignant bars over classic boom-bap encourage the listener to open their mind in order to break free of what is currently holding them captive. Sareem Poems shares stories of people in his life who encouraged him to do the same. Ess Be uses hard-hitting bass coupled with string hits to create a choir-like sonic setting. It is a great introduction to Act 2.

Ay Yo!

Ay Yo! begins with a lo-fi static crackle and tribalistic drum patterns. I love Sareem’s cadence on the first verse. The synth underlying brings a beautiful element as well that defines the record’s parts. Ay Yo! is one of those head-nodders. The hook is far from the most impressive you’ve ever heard. It is not one that is likely to stay with you. Even so, that doesn’t mean that it fails in its purpose. This track is all about feeling and energizing the listener, which easily hits its mark. I can definitely see this record being a favorite for DJs as it is sure to keep people moving.

Idol Hands

The mood changes course on Idol Hands as slow piano chords and deep melodic vocals kick things off.

The inclusion of finger snaps are a nice touch that goes along with the soulful crooning. As the verse starts off, I really enjoyed the production change that features a reversed sample that again harkens back to golden-era hip hop. It complements the bars of Sareem Poems as the emcee tackles emotion-filled topics. In his verses, Poems openly works through personal difficulties that are more than relatable. Who are we really? Are we what brands, marketing, and society tell us, or are we indeed unique and created with a purpose? Then comes the hook. Like a glorious realization, Poems declares “I’m nothing close to what I’m painted to be, I’m free. I just want to be who God made me to be.” By the time the record ends, Idol Hands has become one of my favorite Dream Sequence songs so far.

Groovy

Sonically, Act 2 changes direction to a more open and simplistic feel for Groovy. It is a nice contrast coming off of Idol Hands and while the production is inviting, it is the lyricism that quickly jumps front and center. Sareem reminds the listener that he is one of the most gifted spitters in hip hop. He is in his bag as he seamlessly moves in and out of patterns. The ease with which he commands the beat is only found with an emcee who has truly mastered his craft. Groovy is a classic summer track. It is one of those records where, no matter what style you prefer, everyone tunes in for it when it drops.

Forever Everything

The finale of the five-song set is a subdued tempo paired with deep bass that surrounds your environment. Sareem Poems provides life lessons that are grounded in biblical truths. Life can certainly weigh on us and have us believing lies. It is up to us to either accept these falsehoods or look in the mirror and take ownership of our reality. For believers, we have the truth and it is powerful. Forever Everything is an encouragement and reminder of the promises we have been given.

“Everything’s imperfect, including you and me/forever’s a long time that our bodies never see/everything don’t last forever, this too shall pass/everytime that you cry, deserves a good laugh”

Overall, I really enjoyed Dreaming Wide Awake: Act 2.

What Sareem Poems and Ess Be are doing with The Dream Sequence is not only needed, but it simply feels special. They are proving that what is at the core of hip hop is not something that will just “go away”. It is a foundation that is proven. Mix its recipe with a good dose of high-quality expectations and it is hard to go wrong.

Dreaming Wide Awake (yes, I’m now including Act 1 & Act 2 as a whole), is certainly worthy to be in the discussions that center around the best releases of the year.

Be sure to follow The Dream Sequence on Twitter: @TheDreamSequen1 Instagram: @thedreamsequencemusic and Spotify

***What do you think of the single “Free Mind”? What songs are you excited to hear? Hit the comments and let us know!***

It’s Godchaserz Baby!!!

June 2021 represents 15 years of God chasing and the team is going big. It all starts with the release of a new project from an old friend.

It’s been nearly a decade since CStraight’s classic debut project Not So Cool. Even so, C is back and FiveTwenty was blessed with early access to his new album, The View From Here.

Can CStraight stand up with today’s CHH? We’re going to find out!

   

Dulolly (Intro)

On the opening track, CStraight acknowledges his hiatus while reminding everyone of the point behind this ministry.

With no hook, C showcases, for those who may not know, why he is considered by many as an elite emcee in Christian hip hop. He not only gives us one, but two verses on the intro and sets the bar for the remainder of the album.

Crazy

The lead single off the album, Crazy features Big Fil and Godchaserz big dog Brinson.

The song released on digital music retailers on June 11, 2021. Get a sample of the track below.

It is a great summer jam. With is smooth feel, it is easy to understand why this record was chosen as the lead single to serve as a reintroduction of sorts to the CHH community. CStraight and Brinson kill their verses and Big Fil ties it all together with a melodic hook.

“This ain’t a lecture, this is life in activation/ elevate ya, celebrate ya to a brand new creation/ It’s safe to say, it’s Christ I’m trying to mimic/ if death couldn’t beat Him, then what’s a pandemic?”

Cup Up

CStraight is joined by fellow Godchaserz artist Nazarite on this one. With the duo’s impressive lyrical ability, my expectations going in are pretty high.

I love the simplified production and hard-hitting 808. The lyricism is front and center. While C did his thing, I’m not going to lie, I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get a verse from Naz on the track. Instead, he held down duties on the hook. Overall though, Cup Up is a solid record that feels right in C’s wheelhouse.

G.M.M.D. (God Made Me Dope)

We continue to experience CStraight’s strengths as an artist on God Made Me Dope. His verses on the track are fantastic and I love the bridge, something that does not get used often in today’s music. The hook on G.M.M.D. falls a bit flat for me as there is a lack of a “Wow” factor. However, if you’re in it for lyricism, then you should enjoy this record.

T.V.F.H. (Interlude)

Produced by Brinson, the only track on the album not produced by Osym Beats, The View From Here is a chill vibe.

CStraight speaks on life without Christ and how God views the human experience. For believers, it is definitely a challenge to consider a different, and most important, perspective in life. It is easy to lose sight of the greater calling we have in our lives.

Level Up

The energy picks up after a relaxed stretch. Level Up brings us into the back half of the album with a bang. This is easily one of my favorite records with a strong hook and well-crafted verses. CStraight declares the strength we have in Christ. Not only in life, but over the enemy who wants to see us ultimately fall.

No Permission

For fans of CHH that are seeking Christ-centered artists/projects, CStraight answers the call.

On No Permission, C continues the theme of the freedom we have thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus. The record is an ode to CStraight’s father who, unfortunately, passed during the past year. The intro to the track is actually a voicemail that his father left him. This adds to the depth of meaning within the track.

Been Wondering

When you’re talking about the classic hip hop sound, look no further than Been Wondering. Add in ReadyWriter bars and you’re transported to the golden era. Again, Big Fil drops in to wrap the whole thing up with a soulful hook. I love boom-bap and elements like record scratches, perfectly incorporated adlibs, and a good bridge every now and then. Been Wondering checks the boxes for me…add it to my favorites list.

Wit It

The finale brings in CHH vet Dre Murray along with Rik Reed.

What’s the old adage? You should save the best for last? I’m not sure if Wit It is my number one record on the album, but it’s up there. The energy is electric, the melody moves throughout the track, and the artists complement each other beautifully. If you told me that this is your favorite song from ‘The View From Here’, I’m not going to argue with you. It is a great finish to what has been an enjoyable listen. The kind of final song that entices you to loop back around to the start (or keep Wit It on repeat).

Overall, The View From Here is a solid project and a great “welcome back” for CStraight. 

The Chrisitan Hip Hop landscape undoubtedly looks very different than the last time he was here. Because of that, CStraight is in a unique place to reinvent himself for a new crop of fans.

While the album brings us through the decade-long journey that C has been on, it also gives us glimpses of where God is taking him as an artist. CStraight recently told FiveTwenty that this may not be the only project he drops this year, and that the new music already has a different feel than The View From Here. Until then, this project is perfectly timed to kick off a time of celebration for the Godchaserz team.

My Favorite Tracks

  • Level Up
  • Wit It
  • Been Wondering
  • Crazy
  • No Permission

How are you feeling about getting new music from CStraight? Which songs are you excited to hear? Let us know in the comments below!

You can preorder The View From Here, and grab some merch as well, now at GodChaserz.com | Bandcamp | Digital Streaming

Follow CStraight on Twitter @Cstraighttheone

After more than a decade in music as a producer and DJ, Cephas has released his debut mixtape as a hip-hop artist.

The Ohio-based Cephas recently signed to Datin’s Menace Movement label. He is the latest, and perhaps most unique, addition to a growing roster.

Cephas blends soulful, jazzy production with an extremely clear Gospel message. This is where real hip hop and evangelism meet! Spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ is the single most important goal for Cephas. Tens of thousands of young people have heard the Good News through his platform.

While I have been familiar with Cephas for a minute now, I can’t say that I had fully dove into his work until recently. But when my guy Pacaso tells me I need to listen to a project, I know I need to pay attention. That was the case with We Will Go, Cephas’ first release with Menace.

I guess we’ll find out if it lives up to the hype!

From the start, I love that the project is available on Bandcamp!

Artists take note, use tools like Bandcamp that can give you greater return on your content. It may take a little extra time, but you can control how consumers access your music. That’s probably a different conversation…that we may have had.

Where to Start

We Will Go is a 13-track project.

The last three are bonus cuts which also happen to be Parts 1-3 of  “KNGDM State of Mind”.

The opening title track sets the tone with a wonderful combination of sample and melodic intro. Cephas clearly has his roots in classic hip hop. This is feel-good music that draws you in from the start. Some may call it a throwback, others boom-bap, but no matter how you choose to classify it, the sound is refreshing.

Next up is the 2020 single “New Day” which reminds us that each day is another opportunity to dwell with our “good, good Father”.

Track three is a record that is much needed in the Church today.

“Four Walls (ft. J. Carter)” may be one of my favorite records on the album.

Cephas gives us a reminder that “we’re one big family” as he declares we need to get back to the foundation of the faith. J. Carter croons on the hook “it’s not about the four walls at all”, something that a large part of the Body seems to have forgotten over time. It’s time to remember that the church building may be a home base, but the mission field is the world. Who’s willing to look a little different in order to fulfill the commission of Christ?

“So Good” rounds out the opening sequence of the album. It’s a simple track with a simple message: God has been so good to us. Johnathan Baker delivers a solid feature verse while Cephas works in a pleasant melodic element in the hook. The record even includes a prayer breakdown, something that is typically reserved for the end of a project. It is a unique touch that adds to the feeling of shifting to a new phase of the album.

What’s Next?

The opening of “Spell” has a cinematic feel. As the song unfolds, the sonics hit you like a blend of classic Nas mixed with the Dramatics. The next chapter of We Will Go is an expertly crafted example of storytelling.

This three-song stretch includes “Nah” which Cephas dropped a visual for. It’s a record with a statement. Cephas is not looking to let money or the music industry control him or who he is as an artist. Check it out!

“I seen a pastor cut his outreach budget sheet/ cause helping the needy doesn’t always equal butts in seats/ if I’m not careful, I be thinking if it were up to me/ I’d pull his whole family out the house, to make ’em slum the streets” – The Forgotten / Windows Up

As skilled as Cephas is at creating a mood with his production, he is equally gifted in his ability to share a tale. The final installment of this three-song set is a mash-up of sorts. Cephas tackles topics that are honestly easier to avoid. From holding leaders of the faith accountable to looking in the mirror and being honest about how we treat the less fortunate of God’s creation. “The Forgotten / Windows Up” may not be the ideal record when it comes to marketing, but it is a track that all Christians need to listen to and reflect on.

Menace

StefanOtto, Bumps INF (God Over Money), and the head menace Datin all join Cephas over the next couple of tracks.

“Divine Messengers” and “Stop Us” bring that raw, gritty sound that one would expect from a Menace Movement release. Even so, Cephas keeps his signature jazz samplings hanging close in the background. It’s an eclectic mix that does an excellent job of bringing the listener down the homestretch.

The main tracklist comes to an end with the record “New Day Reprise”.

The reprise is a fitting, compacted reimagination of the second track from the album. Adding in lo-fi elements that bring a satisfying, would-be end to one of the year’s best projects. However, it’s not over yet.

KNGDM Bonus

Over the past year, Cephas has given us a trilogy of releases known as “KNGDM State of Mind”. Parts 1, 2, & 3 are anthems for followers of Christ. Are we wrapped up in the temptations of the world or are we focused on our purpose?

It appears like a no-brainer to include these records on the album. Bonus cuts or not.

Final Thoughts

Cephas goes against the grain at every opportunity on We Will Go. At least as far as the majority of CHH is concerned.

Where are the trap beats? How are you going to have songs that are three minutes long? (Some even push towards six!) Don’t you know that the boom-bap/backpacker sound is dated?

Criticize all that you want, but this is the type of record that the space desperately needed.

We Will Go connects with the old heads while being completely relevant to today’s musical landscape. There is a freedom in the sound that has been missing for too long. Cephas showcases his impressive talents while also, unashamedly, putting Jesus Christ at the forefront. I’ve heard people ask, “if you were sharing CHH with someone who has never heard it, what would you play them?” While the answer is fluid, We Will Go wouldn’t be a bad choice by any stretch.

But this is just one man’s opinion.

What do you think about We Will Go? Hit the comments and weigh in!

“They been telling me I been acting like a…MENACE”

C4 Crotona is the newest member of Datin’s Menace Movement and on his debut label project, he shows exactly why he fits right in.

Formally known as WrittenbyC4, C4 Crotona brings gritty street music to the Christian Hip Hop table. He does so unapologetically. Let’s be honest, the Bridgeport emcee isn’t worried if you’re hungry – he’s still gonna feed you!

“I wanted to make it a little more personal. Crotona parkway is my childhood neighborhood. Almost like a ‘Never forget where you come from’ kinda thing. I went through a lot of hardships at a young age. Sometimes we tend to get over things and live life as if we never been through anything. Keeps me humble.”

The new project Snake Skin Bible Cover is a five-track EP that features fellow Menace Movement labelmate Knaladeus as well as Datin himself.

“It means I get to work with people I’m comfortable with. People I consider bros (and sis). I’m not gonna sit and act like I met every other Christian Rap label, but these guys have a true heart for the Lord. To me, that’s the kinda people I want to be around. As well as knowing they understand my style artistically and aren’t trying to change me one bit.”

So how does Snake Skin Bible Cover stack up? Let’s dive into it…

From the Jump

“Sometimes you gotta expect the unexpected…”

A nod to the Menace Movement signing perhaps, but the opening words to the EP carry a deeper meaning than that. C4’s gutter tone and Gospel-centric message is a flashback to a seemingly forgotten time in CHH. Or maybe it’s just the latest offering in the revival of the blatantly unashamed. Either way, for heads who cling to hip hop’s golden age, it is starting to feel like we can breathe again.

On “Save My Homies”, C4 lays out where he has come from and pleads for the Lord to take care of those still struggling. While the second track serves as a formidable bridge from the opening track, the project really takes off with “Snake Skin”.

“I would say the record Save My Homies really shows what the overall theme of the project is…the overall theme of all my music. I’m just tryna see my friends saved and do it through the artform we grew up loving, but at the same time [discovering] someone they can love even more!”

The default title track is everything that is great about East coast hip hop. With a looped sample that goes throughout the boom-bap production, C4 is squarely in his lane. This record could easily be dropped in the middle of the Wu-Tang discography and be right at home. “Got, nothing but scriptures in my arsenal/ if I read a part it blow a demon into particles”

The Home Stretch

“Toxic” is the fourth track on the project and features Datin. It continues the sample-heavy production of ProducedbyShamir.

With a focus on those who look to steer you in the wrong direction, C4 calls out those relationships that are a true representation of being unequally yoked. The thing that I enjoy about C4’s art is that he is not looking to out-clever the listener. Instead, he gives us honest, straight-to-the-point lyrics that quickly cut to the heart. While so many are looking to excuse away choices, maybe we need to be willing to accept our flaws, man up, and keep it moving.

Snake Skin Bible Cover ends with beautiful production from fellow Menace Knaladeus. Again, we get raw lyrics and introspection as C4 calls out the enemy’s attempts to derail his journey. Whether it is the lures of money and fame, the loss of his mother, sexual temptation, or simply feeling hopeless – Jesus remains the anchor in trying times.

“So if you know my history/ the fact I’m still standing is such a mystery/ I praise the Lord and what He did for me/ and now I’m walking in His victory”

Wrap Up

At 14-minutes, Snake Skin Bible Cover is a solid introduction to C4 Crotona for those who may not have followed him before joining Menace Movement. It certainly displays his skill and approach. There is also a strong desire for more like we are just getting started. The good news is…it appears we are.

During the final minute of the EP, C4 perhaps hints at what is on deck:

“A lot of things changed since we last spoke, coming soon”

Even if this is not the only project C4 drops this year, Snake Skin establishes himself as one of CHH’s heaviest of hitters. He has set the bar for himself while making “rapping rapping” the standard. Keep an eye out on this dude!

Drop your thoughts on ‘Snake Skin Bible Cover’ in the comments below! Where do you rank C4 Crotona with other lyricists in the space? Do you see gritty hip hop sustaining this current resurgence? 

 

Is he the most slept on emcee in Christian hip hop?

Maybe not. 

Is he one of the more talented artists that you may not know?

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Easily an early front-runner for indie CHH Project of the Year, In the Ruins of Dreamland by A.K.A. Fisher is a tour de force listening experience. A self-proclaimed “unusual LP”, while it may not fit perfectly in the current CHH mold, what it does is craft a very enjoyable mosaic. With high-quality level production across several genres, Ruins leaves little doubt that Fisher is an artist (in every sense) that you should know.

The project is themed around an abandoned amusement park.

The rusty, weather-worn gates attempt to contain a combination of conceptual album and autobiography while remaining Christ-centered.

A.K.A. Fisher is the CEO of indie imprint Tentmaker Music. Ruins features labelmate Old Man Xero in addition to a strong lineup of guest artists. Featured contributions for the album include KJ-52, HeeSun Lee, Xay Hill, ASAP Preach, Wrecktify, GiGi of AFTL, BRM, Average Joe of Meek Heroes, and more.

Whether you’re into straight hip hop, rock, gospel, or a combination thereof, Ruins has the goods to engage those interests.

“This album is the breath of fresh air we did not know we needed. The very essence of who God is is weaved into these words and melodies. [It] is a journey filled with deliverance, breakthrough, healing, and closeness with God.” – Denisse Burks

The reason that I have really enjoyed this project is pretty simple. 

Fisher is able to not only share his God-given talent in a way that relevant and connectable, but he also is unabashedly out front with his music’s purpose. It is always refreshing to find an artist who tells me, as a listener, why Jesus needs to be at the heart of their music instead of trying to convince me why “not every song has to be about Jesus”.

It is clear during the 17-tracks of Ruins that, as Fisher explains, “trusting God enough to let go of what we thought we needed” is the over-arching theme throughout.

From catchy hooks (“All That”), rock riffs (“Funhouse”), and even spiritual gun-bars (“Shooting Gallery”), Ruins runs quite the gambit of content narratives.

Beginning with the lead single “First Things” (featuring ASAP Preach and Xay Hill), the album delivers a powerful welcome to guests. It is a reminder of what the main thing is as we embark on this experience. The listener is put on notice before entering “Through the Gates”. The second track, featuring Wrecktify, is a standout record that throws back to early 2000s hip hop.

One thing that Fisher does, rather impressively, is present gospel phrasing in a way that is modern. See the hook for “Good Intentions”. “I know I meant well/tried to make a way instead I paved a road to Hell/told myself I’d only play the hand I was dealt/but I only played myself/built my castle high on shifting sand so thunder when it fell” 

We find similar wordplay in the hook of “All That” which also features Wrecktify.

The second half of Ruins includes several of the longest-running times you are sure to find. Especially in the CHH space.

“Long Way To Heaven” (featuring Deon Gladney and Autumn Star) clocks in at 6:14. Even while encompassing the timeline of three songs, by modern standards, the composition of these extended tracks are done in a way that maintains attention. Fisher stretches himself as an emcee. He is able to share his prowess as a composer. It is clear that God blessed him with a gifted ear.

Another of the top records on the project comes in the form of “Shooting Gallery”.

Fisher collaborates with CHH legend KJ-52 as well as Old Man Xero on the hook. Spiritual warfare and “killing demons” was once a mainstay in the genre. In recent years, the culture has shifted to a focus on vibes but the trio makes it clear that the enemy remains steady with its purpose. “To these demons the name of Jesus sound like click-clack/power and authority in hand watch the kick-back/knock ’em down, light work, big facts/cock-back, aim, hit ’em between the eyes wit’ a knick-knack”

Is In the Ruins of Dreamland a perfect album?

The obvious answer is “No”.

However…it is extremely well done for an independent project.

I would find it hard for any fan of Christian Hip Hop to listen to this album and not be impressed with what was accomplished. That is not an overstatement.

A.K.A. Fisher needs to be recognized in this space. He’s innovative and energetic. He is unashamed. Most importantly, he is about as down-to-earth as you will find.

It’s easy to say that I’m a fan!

I’m not often one for putting a score on an album. If I was to do so here, Ruins would easily be a 9/10 for me.

Check it out and hit the comments to let me know if you agree!

Favorite Tracks

  • All That
  • Shooting Gallery
  • Funhouse
  • Diddly Squat
  • Lights Out (It’s Like That)