#ThrowbackThursday Album Review: Swoope – Sinema

Sinema embraces a theatrical-like plot between Allen Swoope and Mya Desirae (My Desire) smothered in temptation while overshadowed by the daily battle men struggle with in lust as the starring role. Swoope’s third full release portrays a summer blockbuster tagged as one of the most prolific concept albums released since the likes of Sho Baraka’s Talented 10th. This project intertwines tracks seamlessly together like movie scenes building the relationship between Swoope and Mya similar to a twisted love story. Swoope ingeniously describes how desire and lust are masked behind individuals from the innocent to that of a horrific beast. Swoope emits a first person vantage point of how Christian males are subject to the terrors of lust in many forms and how one is to deal with such consequences if temptation succeeds. His imagination leads the listener through many highs and lows ending with a cinematic climax begging for an encore. Regardless if each of the 12-track production directly affects the struggles of the protagonist, one can close their eyes and become artistically led through themes we’ve all experienced at some point. The story unfolds.

Voicemail snippets replace movie clips as the plot unravels between tracks. The title track releases the plot, in its two-faced form, known as our inner desire. A desire to pursue love wrapped in either temptation or the genuine alternative God calls men to follow. Swoope digs into the depth of the addictive nature temptation presents in “On My Mind.” He pinpoints the mindset males possess when intrigued by a female counterpart. J.R., the first star of the supporting cast lineup, lends a beautiful assist on the hook.

The storyline picks back up within the lyrics of “LSD,” Swoope’s first single released from this project. He relates the evils of lust similar to the addictive nature of drugs, hence the title. The video cements the war men face daily with the desires towards another female when already involved in a sturdy relationship. As men, this is a problem faced daily, rarely with success to avoid sin. Labelmate Christon Grey adds a soulful melody to drive home the desires faced on the day-to-day from the heart. Bridging into “Bow Down,” the mindset of Swoope is exposed challenging us to chose a side: lustful desires or the desires of God. The good verses evil battle of the flesh is masterfully exposed on this track.

“Best of Me” is the turning point of the production. A light emits brightly. Consequences of sin turn to victory. Natalie Sims’s (fka Suzy Rock) soulful overtones point to victory in Jesus as the road to faithfulness. As we all experience when we feel God’s grasp over a situation, the echoes of the flesh grow louder and stronger. Enter “Right Side.” Which side will be chosen when circumstance demands an immediate response?

“Beauty and the Beast” submits itself as a final outcry of sin. The beauty depicted as God and the beast depicted as sin, the struggle lives on. Lyrics such as “Lust in her eyes, death on her tongue,” confirm the intention of our flesh. Who wins?

As men, we all crave an orchestrated battle scene before the climax is revealed. The combination of “Before Goodnight” and “Sin In Me” provide an emotional battle proven to satisfy such cravings. Within the voices of Mya and Swoope, desperation is revealed. How many of us have uttered the words of “I don’t really know what I’m doing here” when we ignore the Spirit within to satisfy the appeal of temptation? When a direct relation to a topic is formed, the project handcrafts a new personal meaning to the listener. A climax is on the horizon. Sinema concludes with “Fix My Heart.” Swoope and Propaganda solidify a heart of worship, offering praises to the mastermind that protects from the evils of desire when fueled by lust and temptation. Read More Here

 

Concept

Since coming onto the scene, Swoope has been something of a conceptual giant in the game. He’s always providing more than what meets the eye (or ear in this case). There is always some kind of theme and bigger picture to what he does. This has been something that fans have come to expect, and Swoope delivers this in a big way on Sinema. It starts from the very beginning of the record with a voicemail from a female voice that we will get to know better throughout the record. This leads right into the first track where Swoope gives us the backstory.

On the surface the concept seems like a story of a man and woman and there developing relationship. As the record carries on (or you give it a few more listens) you can start to see the other side of the story, which is a man’s struggle with the sin that is in him. The story is cleverly told, so the listener is able to digest the story at their own pace. This also gives the record a monumental amount of playback value, because with each listen more pieces of the story reveal themselves.

Conceptually, Swoope’s goals were not to simply tell a story. It was clear that he was trying to deliver an album in a movie format. Sinema was supposed to play like an audio movie, which sounds nearly impossible. This isn’t something that many artists before him have tried and even less has done it successfully (Kendrick Lamar is the only one that comes to mind). Swoope can now add his name to that short list because he created exactly what he was aiming to create. Sinema plays like a movie from start to finish. In every way a hip-hop album can play like a movie, Sinema did.

Starting with the story, it developed the way stories usually develop throughout a movie. There is an introduction then it builds and reaches a climax. The music is also another cinematic element. In film the music plays a complimentary role, but it’s also used to tell the story. On Sinema that same element is present. The music is used here just as cleverly as it is used in film. It is a complimentary piece to a beautiful story, but the music itself helps to bring out the emotion in the listener that is supposed to be felt.

The track “Sin In Me” is one of many examples of this. This is a huge turning point of the story (or the climax of it) and it carries a more somber musical sound, which allows the listener to understand (and more importantly) feel what is happening. Throughout the entire record the cinematic element is always present. It was innovative and beautiful and a conceptual masterpiece.

Lyricism

It’s hard to talk about Swoope and not talk about lyricism. He’s become one of the best lyricists in all of CHH, and many would venture to say all of hip-hop. He’s developed this reputation by continually dropping lyrical gems and pushing the genre forward lyrically. Sinema is no different. It really is a lyrical masterpiece. From start to finish Swoope displayed phenomenal lyricism. To create the audio movie that Swoope was aiming for, his lyricism had to be spot on because his words are what’s bringing the story to life. That’s exactly what he did; his lyricism is a huge part of what brought this story to life.

Swoope’s storytelling was great, but that’s not all he had on display. The metaphors, similes, double entendres and punch lines were incredible. He showed all of these skills early on by opening up the record with “Sinema”, which was a beautiful portrait of what Swoope is as an emcee:

“She said, I gave you everything you wanted

Now you’re talking about leaving me

What’s it you don’t see in me?

How you put this seed in me?

Sowed your royal oats and just leave me with this cream of wheat”

Swoope also brought back the critically acclaimed “TGC” with Sho Baraka. This track is a true hip-hop heads dream. It’s just two great lyricists giving everything they have on the track:

“Similar to Lillard, shooting just for practice

Trail blazer y’all just follow behind a jacket”

That’s just a small taste of what this track has to offer, it will probably take a few dozen listens to catch all of the lyrical gems on this one. Continually throughout Sinema Swoope brings this high level of lyricism. He also stretched himself farther on this record with some transparent honesty. This was best displayed on “Best of Me” featuring Natalie Sims. He poured out his heart unfiltered on this track and it was a whole new element that elevated the record even higher.

With Sinema Swoope has set the lyrical bar very high for all CHH artists to try and reach. He also continued his legacy of being a lyrical genius.

Conclusion

There are so many elements that came together to make Sinema great. One of those elements was something that seems small but was huge for this album, and that was balance. In every way possible this record was balanced. The sound was versatile but balanced. There was something musically on this record for everyone. Conceptually it was also balanced. Swoope did the seemingly impossible; he made a record that casual fans and hip-hop heads would love. The storytelling and concept was deep enough to please hardcore fans but there was enough simplicity to keep the casual fan. That same balance applies to the spiritual aspect of the record. There is enough meat on this record to keep even the hardest of lyrical theology fans coming back. It also appeals to the CHH fan that isn’t into lyrical theology. It was beautiful to hear how he was able to keep this balance throughout the entirety of Sinema.

Swoope was rapping with supreme confidence throughout this record, and it was for good reason. Sinema is a beautiful work of art. That seemed to be part of the goal of this record; to be a work of art. He was firing on all the aspects of this record and was able to create a timeless piece of art. There’s probably nothing that Swoope will be able to do that will have the cultural impact that Wake Up had but he was able to create some art that might be musically better than anything he’s done. Swoope proved that no pressure is too great for him and that he is a musical genius unlike anything CHH has ever seen. Sinema is another piece of art to add to the museum that is CHH, and it will define this time in the genre. That’s a beautiful thing.

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