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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)

I’ll be honest: I was not familiar with Juzo before this review.

However, given the overall branding of this project (including the title, cover art, and unorthodox use of capitalization or lack thereof) and the features listed, I was excited to dive in.

Let me tell you – Juzo did not disappoint.

In addition, every artist featured on ANIMA 01 is of Asian descent, with Juzo sharing on his Instagram story that “[a]s an Asian artist, I wanted to represent my heritage with this project and encourage my Asian brothers and sisters that our voice and stories matter.” This, to me, makes the project even cooler, right off the bat.

So, let’s get right into it and take it track-by-track!

ghost in my shell feat. Hatsune Miku

“You fill my soul but I’m still so empty.”

“ghost in my shell” sets the tone for the EP with an atmospheric track filled with dreamy synthesizers.

Juzo sings uncomplex but compelling lyrics over this soundscape, accompanied at times by Japanese vocaloid (i.e. synthetic voice program) Hatsune Miku. The title of the song is an obvious nod to popular manga Ghost in the Shell, and the lyrics reflect that inspiration. All-in-all, “ghost in my shell” does exactly what an intro track should: build anticipation for the rest of the project.

(Side note: I love creative uses of syntax in song titles, and I think that’s something ANIMA 01 does very well. Each song title is all the more interesting for it, and the tracklist is very aesthetically pleasing!)

SIBYL feat. Rhomar Jessy

“SIBYL” picks up the pace without completely leaving the vibes of “ghost in my shell” behind. Juzo and Rhomar Jessy each contribute a heavy-hitting verse. Overall, this song is masterfully crafted, from the bars to the variations in the beat to the brief interlude in the middle.

“Asian American with a driven approach / I’m tailor-made by a deity I’m knitted to boast.”

The Void feat. Thomas Iannucci

ANIMA 01 takes a darker turn three tracks in (which might’ve been predictable, given the title).

Juzo returns to sung lines, a style that matches the atmosphere of the song well and sets up Thomas Iannucci’s verse perfectly. Both artists paint a vivid and captivating picture of personal struggle.

“I still might fall back into the void and this emptiness I should avoid.”

Pathogenesis feat. HeeSun Lee

Pathogenesis: the manner of development of a disease.

Juzo continues with the strikingly transparent lyrics relating battles with vices and idols.

The hook is oddly simplistic, and the effects on the vocals are weird – but even though that sounds like a negative comment, I actually really dig it. It’s unconventional, refreshing even, as is Juzo’s honesty in his writing. HeeSun Lee delivers a killer verse as well, unsurprisingly.

“I gotta fight for my soul.”

fvith feat. Sarah Kang

“Don’t let me lose my way / Don’t let me lose my faith.”

“fvith” is a well-done song, but doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the project. The type of song that I would enjoy listening to (and did!) but wouldn’t put on a playlist. A highlight is when Juzo and Sarah Kang sing together as a duet at the end of the track.

JEHOVAH feat. Noah Moon

“I live for my King, this a do or die yeah.”

ANIMA 01 concludes with a heavy-hitting anthem in the form of “JEHOVAH.”

Juzo has emerged through his struggles and came out the other side with a renewed resolve to live for Jehovah. The project ends on a definite high note with this track. If I was recommending ANIMA 01 to a friend and I knew they’d only listen to one song, I’d recommend this one.

Some may find ANIMA 01 to be weird, but it’s exactly the type of innovation I like to see and exactly the fresh sound we need.

Sometimes, experimentation with unconventional types of musical storytelling doesn’t pay off. In my opinion, this is not one of those times.

Juzo’s songs are refreshingly original, masterfully crafted, and very personal. The branding and soundscaping of the album are on point. My favorite songs are “SIBYL” and “JEHOVAH.”

ANIMA 01 has no bad songs, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to hear a cohesive, original project.

Check out ANIMA 01 below and let us know what you think of the project in the comments!

Over the past couple of years, James Gardin has become one of my favorite artists.

There are several factors that play into this.

His flow is smooth and effortless; sonically Gardin has a classic sound that catches me as a listener; he is humble and willing to connect with people, showcasing a character that is easy to support. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to interview Gardin in the past, read here, but I’ve never done a review of his music.

I guess it is about time to change that.

Gardin recently released a collection of songs titled The Groove Collection.

A 13-track gathering of 12 previously dropped songs and one new track, Damage. It is a perfect sampling to introduce any new listener to the amazing artistry that Gardin delivers on a consistent basis.

Illect Recordings made the collection available in CD format, which I was ecstatic about as I am the old guy who still rocks CDs on my commute. With The Groove Collection, it is easy to say it has barely left my player since it was received a couple of weeks ago.

Gardin, and his eclectic musical approach, created a varied experience that simply doesn’t get old. It is more than hip hop as the music connects with the soul, stirring up a mixture of emotions.

Highlights include:

  • Iconic
  • Soul Rich
  • Promise Land
  • Groove
  • Momma’s Stove

The newest song, Damage, also standouts as the lead track for the album.

Damage is an invitation to hit the dance floor and cast off our stresses.

With a throwback vibe, the melodic hook simply feels right. Gardin’s simplistic approach to the verses is more than appropriate as this is not a track that is seeking technical lyricism. Instead, the production is meant to make you move. Featuring funky keys, a steady drum pattern, and a perfectly complimenting electric guitar solo. It is a track that fits easily in a ’70s disco while being right at home among 2020’s chaos.

While The Groove Collection is one of my favorite releases this year, I won’t say that it is a 10 out of 10.

I do not know what went into the selection process, but I do wish that a few tracks had been able to find their way onto this collection.

This is mostly due to the fact that I would love to have these tracks in a physical version compared to digital.

One of my top singles of the year, Parade, jumps out as a song that would have easily fit the overall feel of the project. Another track I would have loved to see included would be the worship driven Lovely. Two additional singles from 2020 that I think would have been great additions would be Diamond in the Rough and Ijuststartedlovingme. Again, this is a bit of selfishness on my part.

Regardless of my personal opinion, The Groove Collection is a solid offering from start to finish.

I’d love to know what you think!

What are the standouts from the album for you? What tracks would you have liked to see included that didn’t make the cut?

Hit the comments below and let me know!

This music seems to just come easy to Lank.

Okay, for starters this is not my typical review. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking this will be the first in a new series of “reviews” for me. One where I simply give my thoughts on projects of my choosing.

Typically I do a breakdown of each track, but these are projects I’ve enjoyed that I want to make sure you are aware of. So you’re getting my general overview.

When Lank announced his newest project, The Frustrated Producer, I had a feeling that it would make its way onto my list. Here we are.

Big Lank may not be your typical CHH artist, and that is okay. He describes himself as “just an average joe that loves Jesus!” Honestly, that is more than good enough for me. I think that is part of the appeal to the music. On his second album, Lank keeps moving within the lane that more than suits his gifts.

With this project, Lank is sharing his journey as a producer.

“It is an audio movie, you would have to listen to it start to finish to grasp it.” – Lank

Working on a Beat Intro sets a nice starting point for the project as Lank works his way through composing a beat. It is a candid look into the thought process, the highs and lows, that producers experience.

From here, The Frustrated Producer only continues its ascent.

The feel of the album is consistent and smooth. As I said at the beginning, music comes across as natural as breathing for Lank.

Lank has a sound that fits into the modern soundscape while throwing it back to classic hip hop. Whether it is the focus on lyricism, the cadences, or adding just the right elements – it is almost unfair. Unfair for other artists that Lank is this good and unfair that he is not popping on a bigger scale. I think the latter is simply a matter of time.

One thing that adds to the “audio movie” aspect of the album is the carefully constructed skits, something that has tied together every classic album that I can think of. This is an element that not everyone gets right.

For Lank, he knew the story he wanted to tell and his skits help develop the depth and detail for the listener.

A prime example is the lead into the track Second Guessin’ Myself, which is a standout track on the project. The flow pattern blends perfectly with the melody as Lank vents his frustration with artists looking for producers to “hook them up” with discount beats. Which typically means of the $Free.99 variety.

Artists, feel free to take some notes here.

I’m guessing every producer has a Larry or two in their life.

Sometimes you have to exercise both the demons and the leeches. Peep the track Support and you’ll understand. It is a great message of why it okay to be selfish in the right situations. Sometimes you simply have to focus on your best interests or no one will. However, don’t lose compassion for those who truly need it.

Jay Atoms delivers a fantastic feature on the track Got It Like That, a song that calls out rappers who are faking the life they’re living as they try to generate streams.

The run of tracks three through five is a truly great one.

While The Frustrated Producer is not what one would consider Christ-centric, that doesn’t mean that Lank’s faith is absent.

Here’s the skinny, even creatives who are believers struggle with insecurity, anxiety, and more. It’s not always something that gets discussed though. That is why I can appreciate an album like this. As the track Doubt reminds, “God gave you them abilities to go out and flex them”. Lank is pushing a conversation that needs to be had while not losing sight of what is truly important.

This was a great Q4 release and a welcomed way to end the crazy year that has been 2020.


Have you checked out Lank’s The Frustrated Producer?

Drop your thoughts in the comments below! Where do you rank it among this year’s releases?