What I'm Listening to now: Swoope's New Album "Sonshine", "From The Park to the Palace" By Sevin & Sevin Duce, Ruslan – "Indie Jones II" , Deepspace5 - "5​:​55", & Christon Gray – "The Glory Album"

Swoope- Sonshine 

I’ve always appreciated how Swoope cares about fluidity in his albums. It’s evident to me that he chooses to pull in elements from the next song at the end of the current song in order to make everything flow together. 

On “Never Left” Natalie Lauren (fka Suzy Rock) brings in the theme right away. The beat is full of brass and a lot of synth layers. I feel like the beats on this project tell a story. Swoope treats the beats with as much intentionality as he does his flows and how his performances grow, the beats are a performance in themselves. Beatbreaker brought some heat on this track, and that switch up in the back half of this song is bonkers. The flow here is on point too.

“I’m an Anomaly/Check the gold plaque/’Crae, tell ’em we still follow Jesus/They can hold that/I’m back like a chiropractor off of vacation/Couldn’t come home ’til I covered all my bases/It’s it’s least I could do, like I’m working out of Avis/Eyes on Zion, unplug from the Matrix/Now I’m back”

“Old Me” begins with an old-school piano vibe and bass samples. There’s some record static on the track, and it feels a little old school. Wordplay has always been a strength of Swoope’s. This track is nuts with the wordplay. I want to decipher all the lyrics for you here, but how about you just go listen. He straight brings it on this tune with no hooks.

“TSNK” is another old-school vibe at the top. For some reason, it reminds me of the movie Scarface. TSNK stands for “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and it’s an important track. Not only because he’s speaking on injustices, but because he points to how murder isn’t right for anyone to have to deal with.

“It’s not a feeling any mother should feel/That’s why the Father said “thou shalt not kill”/It’s good cops, I’m just looking for balance/Can we stop hashtagging caskets please?”

“Way Up” is an interlude but picks up topically where that last one left off. One day Jesus is coming back and will renew everything. This track ends with a conversation that continues into the beginning of the next track. Fluidity on point.

“Black Boy” is chilled out with some soul samples and piano beds. Again there’s so much wordplay and meaningful words, and again the beat progresses naturally along with the performance of the flow. This song is talking about how to grow up into a man, and how the black boy is a king.

“You Got Me” is a song we all need to hear, about how our Father will never stop loving us. Here Swoope switches back and forth from singing to rapping. While this tune has a modern vibe, I love how he won’t waste an entire song by singing. It’s in this way that he gives us what we want. Some of us like to see versatility, and on the other hand, some of us just want to hear a tight flow. Taelor Gray is the only emcee feature on the album and lights it up. I have nothing bad to say about any of this.

With next to no features he shows he can carry an entire project all on his own. Throughout “Sonshine” the creative direction is on point, the topics are fire, the fluidity, writing, and performances are all above the bar. This is a slam dunk album for me. 

You can stream ‘Sonshine’ on Spotify.

Read More Here

SEVIN & SEVIN DUCE “FROM THE PARK TO THE PALACE”

  
No matter how high you get up on the latter of life, there is always work to do at the bottom. And Sevin’s new album, From the Park to the Palace, is a true representation of that. He’s really reaching out to all of Christ’s children and the homies back home on this one. God Over Money staff sergeant Sevin, from Sacramento, California, has got something to put into your ear.

Yankin’, starts the album with a west coast bump to it. Sevin begins to weave a story from where Jesus saved him, to what mindset he’s gained in Christ, to telling satan; he better beware of the ministry that God has given him.

Help Us, tells a tale of what a person from the streets goes through. From carrying a “tool” (gun) to survive, to robbing, to banging for your set or streets, to getting the benefits for all the work you’ve done for streets, (like selling drugs). Sevin & Sevin Duce are telling the truths about what happens out there in the streets, with young urban males. It’s a cold world out there, but with guys like them. I believe we’re going to make it.

99 brings everything to a close. It’s a beautiful poetic song, where Sevin Duce; talks about some personal things that happened to him, like the shooting of his daughter. Sevin even speaks truth about, how grave a loss of someone who’s been killed; without remorse or feelings. The song really hits home, and reveals some truth about the street life.

God Over Money, I must admit. You all have brought another heart reflecting album, as you always have. Making people aware of what goes on out here. Thank y’all from the bottom of my heart. Because people really need to know. Much love to Sevin & Sevin Duce on this one. I’m definitely going to download this one for memory sake. Read More Here

Ruslan – Indie Jones II (Mixtape)

Straight away on “Time To Go” Ruslan is in with a flow. Topically, he’s talking about how he shoots it straight and tells it like it is. “He didn’t come all this way to play with you” and he doesn’t just tell you, he shows you. The writing is full of wordplay… he rattles off some double entendre lines using the word “back” that are bonkers. I won’t quote it here because I don’t want to ruin it. The beat is unorthodox, and there’s a chipmunk soul sample that’s very prevalent throughout. It’s dope.

The bass lines on this album are crazy. A lot of movement. I’d be surprised if some weren’t programmed and were played by a musician in the studio. “Cool Guy Raps” is a track talking about things in the culture that are popular to talk about. Ruslan’s confidence and charisma leaps out of these songs. There’s so much personality on these tracks and Ruslan is so personable it’s like he’s sitting across the table from you.

RG continues his impressive run with a feature on “Cold Flow.” Of course RG comes with the best hook of this young year. “Been through hell and back and the flow’s still cold.” The instrumental lays an almost eerie bed of strings and samples with big bass, and Ruslan’s flow is on point. He even switches up his tone and digs in a bit later in the track.

“Cali boy but colder than the winter of Lake Michigan.”

“Like That” – At first glance, this was the track I was looking forward to the most. I haven’t heard much Jon Keith, and Derek Minor is usually a boss on a feature. The keys here bring you in slowly, with cymbal swells as the beat drops. The music on this track is intricate, with samples layered over samples. Mixing a track like this seems like it’d be quite difficult. Making all of those samples sound like they belong together could make that instrumental feel disjointed, but it’s so fluid there’s nothing that distracts. The raps on this track are fire too. Everything here is above the bar, and so far this project is off the charts.

Track 6 “Back Against The Wall” starts with a hook and brings in a slower beat. This beat is easy and chilled out, but Ruslan absolutely spazzes on it. The juxtaposition of that seems very intentional though. He starts his flow with a melody and to increase dynamic as the song progresses, he takes you somewhere. The construction of that alone works hand in hand with the concept of the track – paving your own way, rebelling against the status quo.

“Money’s gonna come we gon’ make it through/if they never had a doubt then they never knew/ that the kid doesn’t follow the rules cuz he’s supposed to.”

“Hyena” is a great track on it’s own. The choices Ru makes in production and tone throughout keep intrigue and that hook is extremely catchy. That beat is very similar to the previous one though, and “Wrong Time” even begins with a similar vibe. In the context of an album full of big beats and uptempo vibes, it’s just easy for the listener to slump in this spot. I’m not knocking the songs necessarily, I’m just saying there’s a chill spot in this record and it entails these three songs. I can’t help but think that Ruslan knew this, and it’s navigated to perfection. This is a perfect example of intentional album flow and it’s awesome. The song “Wrong Time,” while it begins with that similar vibe to the previous two, there’s some layers added, as well as a switch in the beat to 6/8 in places, which provides a ramp out of the slump.

Track 9 is “Winona’s Song” and it’s a story about addiction and redemption. The beat is full-on 6/8 and Ruslan bobs and weaves with this beat seemingly effortlessly, while still maintaining natural inflections in his voice. Again this feels like a conversation. Mannywellz kills the hook, a John Legend-like vibe, and the performances here I feel are the best on the entire project.

“Paul’s Dime” plays like an interlude, and throws back to the theme that was introduced in the intro of the album. Ruslan jumps in with his least polished flow here, but keeps intentionality around the tone he chooses.

“Never posing like I’m closer to Jesus/ But He chose to move in and I don’t think He’s planning to leave us.”

The final track is called “Bring Me To Life.” The beat is quintessential West Coast. Think “Richie Rich: Pillow.” Once more, Ruslan is solid in candor, and as the track progresses we move into a heartfelt prayer, with emotion in his voice. We then close the book on Indie Jones II with a reciting of Romans 12. A terrific song to close out the strongest project of 2018 so far.

, I was thoroughly impressed by this project. It sounds original, the content is challenging, and the intentionality behind every decision is glaringly evident. It’s artists like Ruslan who will be advocates for creative change in the CHH culture. Thank you Ruslan for this breath of fresh air. Read More Here

 Deepspace5 - 5 : 55

inspired by Jay Z's recent offering, “4:44”, Freddie Bruno had a thought. Why not dig in to those same samples, flip them with his signature sound and enlist his Deepspace5 brethren to make a little music? In our humble opinion, he nailed it. The veteran producer nods to NO I.D.’s tracks but still creates a new and vibrant take, laying the framework for the DS5 rhyme sayers to deliver the goods. You can feel their experience and life-lived as they give you their heart, soul and bars as only they can. From the melodic and soulful to the downright gritty, Deepspace5 lays it on the line for their fans once again. No matter your time zone, you’re going to want to set your alarm clocks for 5:55. Read More Here

Christon Gray – The Glory Album

The Glory Album takes up where Roses left off. The sequel finds Gray trying to make sense of the often incomprehensible strands of life with which everybody grapples, such as family, love, relationships, spirituality, the responsibility that comes with having talent, turning one’s passion into a livelihood, and the elusive future. The world is a complex place, hard to navigate, especially for a young black man, as Gray illustrates in “Black Male (Blackmail).” Rather than separate the strands of life into “secular” and “sacred” categories, he weaves them together, as happens in reality. The result is a patchwork of emotions and musical shades.

Gray couples his intellectual musings with clever beats and atmospheric touches that run the gamut from interpolations of Gregorian Chant on “Fort Knox” to a crescendo of classical choral singing on “50 Shades.” He is just as comfortable singing in a light, lyric tenor as rapping in an incisive tone.

One theme on The Glory Album is the establishment’s narrow view of Gray’s musical style, but on “Open Door (See You Later),” the current single, he bids the naysayers sayonara and follows his talent and vision out the door and into the public. The album’s sleeper is “Nowhere,” a beautifully rendered ballad that addresses another recurrent theme: how God pursues us even when we try to run away. “You came out of nowhere,” Gray sings, and “brought me to you.” To that point, the concluding track, “Follow You,” is a reassurance that no matter how hard it may be to grasp the golden ring, seeking relationship with God is the solution–possibly the only solution.

 The Glory Album pushes the sacred music envelope, surely, but it remains accessible, though it is worth listening to a few times to comprehend its many messages. Doing so will reward the listener with, if nothing else, the sense that he or she is not alone in trying to come to terms with the complexities of post-modern life and growing up African American in the 21st century. Christon Gray’s “wrestlin’ like Jacob,” too, and there is comfort in commonality. Read More Here

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