Hip-Hop Reviews - K to L (30 reviews, February 2019)
Please note that the reviews are ordered by Artist first name..
Please note if you see any of these reviews elsewhere, it is because I have done the reviews for others (Cross Rhythms). These are sometimes edited for clarity and to fit a word limit. The reviews on these pages are my full reviews.
Kaleb Mitchell – ‘45’
Kaleb Mitchell is a rapper, singer, songwriter and producer from Wharton in northern New Jersey. With more than a nod to basketball and track titles to match, this sophomore album was recorded and produced by Kaleb himself and features an assortment of guests without losing the essence of Kaleb’s Mitchell. The deeply gospel infused “SOS” sees Kaleb mixes contemporary life as a black man, his own life and some double-timing rhymes. The lead track launches us into Kaleb’s life and thoughts with zest before tracks like “Watchu Mean” remind us that no-one should define Kaleb or any of us as nothing because of who our Father in heaven is. The album is mainly east coast in vibe - even sampling some boom bap tracks like Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario”. There is an old skool atmosphere throughtout but without the album ever becoming fully definable or sitting in one or another hip-hop genre. This is demonstrated by Kaleb Mitchell’s lyrical and vocal prowess, which he showcases throughout without ever been a show-off. For someone who is still relatively young on the hip-hop scene (19 years at the time of writing), this album belies both his age and demonstrates Kaleb Mitchell should be respected as a great hip-hop all-rounder.
Kaleb Mitchell – ‘Soliloguy’
You’re seventeen years old and want to start writing your first hip-hop project. So what do you write about? You speak about your own life, telling your own story. That’s what Kaleb Mitchell set out to do in this, his first (and free) release. This album is a showcase for the great potential that this rapper has. Delivery and production is tight and he is as focused as the excellent track by the same name. With instrumentals that move from mainly East coast to Midwest and with a hint of southern at times (“Lost My Way”, “Going For Broke”). An impassioned and mature flow just pours out of Kaleb Mitchell throughout (“Land Of The Free” being an outstanding example). Kaleb Mitchell is often serious in his lyrics but this never descends into hopelessness. Conversely, this is an album of hope and of Christ with the standout “Moving On” with a clear message of God’s grace – the very thing that has gifted Kaleb Mitchell with the talents he undoubtedly has on the mic and in production.
K-Drama – ‘Behind The Glory’
Top notch crunk and lively 12 track album taking a Biblical look through K-Drama’s eyes. This album explodes with energy. “Wheeewwwww!!!” drops a massive booming Tony Stone beat over a shout out to the goodness of Christ Jesus - always providing and taking care of us. This a theme also taken up “Okhay”, with K-Drama lacing Proverbs 3.5-6 and Matthew 6, about committing our ways to God, over a slow grooving beat and catchy hook. With another piece of Tony Stone freshness, we have “At 7” with K-Drama telling us about struggling to catch a flight, with God saying to him that, ‘everything will be OK’. Some tracks call out, encourage and challenge Christians, such as the bass heavy, “Teeter Totter” looking at wishy-washy Christians, and the slower “Let Freedom Bang” with some quality lyrical patterns from K-Drama. In “Waste Of Time”, K-Drama confronts the pointlessness of Christian dating as opposed to going out, with marriage as a goal. The artist also drops tracks where he speaks honestly, openly and personally, such as “In Trouble With The Law” and the smooth and funky, “Moving On” where K-Drama talks about his life as he became a man (very similar to “All That I Got Is You” by Ghostface Killah). There is the brilliantly fast, funky and bouncy “Behind The Glory” - as K-Drama focuses on his musical and life struggles. We end with the downtempo, “Let’s Luv Em” as K-Drama suggests we love people into the Kingdom of God, not tolerating sin, but bringing the Biblical understanding of love. A faith-filled, Bible-filled album of immense freshness! Run Time - 49.22.
K. Poetic – ‘Noize’
K. Poetic is a Toronto based gospel emcee with a powerful testimony and a distinct gritty voice. “Noize” is the lead single off his upcoming EP, “Transparency”. Over bounding bassline and beat, K.Poetic expresses his respectful but passionate determination to bring the gospel with new ways – like hip-hop, which is so much more than just ‘noize’.
Khul Rhema – What The World Needs Now
Straight crunk, dancefloor filling tunes with lots of spiritual and societal vocal zing! Khul Rhema produces an album that manages to bring crunk sounds to reach out across the gospel and secular divide and mash up any hip-hop dancefloor, such as “Throw Em Up”. What we have is an album of bouncy, sub bass driven kicks, syncopated hats and rolling, snappy clappy snares. The message of this ‘Souljah for Jehovah’ (“Grindin”) is clear, whether it be a determination to give God his best and keep it real for Christ (“Get Loose”). This is an album that gives props and glory to Christ in every area of life and come against the evil one and his schemes, such as in “Praizin God” which brings a crunk but almost old skool feel. Khul Rhema is not afraid to quote from the Word across the album which brings an extra dimension. Khul Rhema also mixes things up with a poem, “Frienemies” and a spoken word track telling us that “God is love and that’s what the world needs now..” We journey through some spiritual issues such as “Can’t Survive” looking loosely at the Holy Spirit. In “King Solomon” Khul Rhema fires a verbal warning shot across the bows of those who think ‘God ain’t really cool with money but when I read my Bible I see different..’ For one terrible moment, I became worried about prosperity gospel teaching. Balance is restored in the slower “Almighty $’ which warns against money, power, fame and fortune. Amen. Phew! Not a bad album this one, although I'm not a big crunk hip-hop fan. But this represents Christ with quality so props for that. Nice. Run Time - 52.30.
Kidd – ‘Hipsavvy: The Introduction’
Following on from several free songs and music videos and his album “Murder My Flesh” Kidd from Infiltrate Music releases this free EP as he speaks from his heart and spirit. His musical influences range from music from his musical father to his more current influences of Lupe Fiasco, Sho Baraka, and Swoope. Taking his influences and adding his personality and creativity, KIDD plans to use music to speak to the youth of the world not by musical sermons but through crafty wordplay, vivid imagery, and challenging music. We kick off with a plea from Angelisa to come out of the harmful hip-hop culture to a life of value in Christ. “Hippsavvy Cypher” kicks of things with a tasty compressed and nicely gritty loop, a feature repeated through the project. There’s a soulful jazzy edge to “Versace Dreams” and a muted trumpet sample as Kidd opens up about the battle against vanity, fashion, money. “Jumpman (After The Rain)” is a standout for me with the talents of JGivens lifting things and encouraging his generation to put their guns down and live. “Dat Typa Dude” has a tasty beat which immediately raises the eyebrows and gets the head nodding. This is a solid album that strikes a balance between underground rap and accessible tunes, from someone who clearly has a future as an MC and speaks into his own generation with aplomb. A switch up in production would lift things further but good things are on the horizon for Kidd.
Kingdom Chillzzz – “The Holy Tape”
Describing his work as ‘swaggy, confident and mesmerizing’ and with 200 original songs to his name, this 24 year old Detroit, Michigan native is firing out many righteous tunes. “The Holy Tape” is a 2015 release from this artist who is involved in holy hip-hop within Detroit as well as being an entrepreneur with is label, ‘Holy Team’, with the intention of talking heaven on earth and changing lives every day. With a mainly southern style of rap, Kingdom Chellzzz manages to infuse the album with a range of varied breaks, sounds and lyricism with a number of seriously fizzing basslines and a southern yet clear flow (“Find Your Love”). Aside from a couple of bangers “Heavy” the flow is fairly laid back but this shouldn’t be confused with a lack of passion. With a message that it’s not about us, but is all about love, all about God, the standout track “Make Love” defines both the heart behind the artist and the vibe of the project.
KJ52 - Behind The Musik
KJ describes this as the hardest and most rewarding record he’s ever made. His purpose was to take the listener behind the music to his life – and to Christ. A nice touch is the album sleeve, designed as a book, with photos from KJ’s life. ‘Are You Real’ drops an almost Linkin Park style. ‘Just rock with it’ is for the bboys with an electro beat (as is the break on ‘Jesus’ and others). Next up is a remix of ‘God’ by / with Rebecca St James – the hook dropping a beefed up beat / heavy guitaring, in contrast to the minimal acoustic verses. ‘Behind the Musik’ delivers a much more contemporary East coast break with some soulful vocals from Pee Wee - KJ drops a smooth flow taking us on a life journey through his history, his past and his testimony. On ‘Thank You’ we have KJ-52 thanking his mom and dad, with Kollins Community Choir (kids) on the hook. A contemporary and tuneful track. ‘Right Here’ featuring its writer, Jeremy Camp, is another deep and moving message with KJ varying up his delivery, a real worshipful track. In ‘Video Games’ we find KJ’s wordplay around the names of video games. A couple tracks do remind of Eminem in some ways – ‘Fivetweezy’ and ‘’Plain White Rapper’ but both really work. ‘Life After Death’ challenges the listener about life after death, over a rock crossover beat. ‘Never Look Away’ is a nice track with soothing vocals from Brynn Sanchez. ‘For The Ladies’ is a powerful message for ladies, with an almost Usher style chorus from Seth Ready. ‘I Can Call on You’ is a truly beautiful r&b rap crossover feat. Donnie Lewis. ‘Cry No More’ takes a serious turn, telling a powerful story of a boy’s healing from sexual abuse by a neighbour over moving strings and piano. ‘One’ sees KJ vary it up, talking about Christ, playing with crescendo in delivery - over a thudding bass and cuts from DJ Morphizz. ‘It still all comes down to one love one God and one way’. Last up is ‘He Is All’ about your Father in heaven being your all – a deep track over acoustic guitar and strings, KJ mixing up rap and vocals. A very uplifting and moving album which is a hip-hop and emotional experience. Run Time - 76.53.
KJ52 – ‘Dangerous'
“Dangerous” - more explosive, fun and uplifting hip-hop from KJ-52 featuring high quality production plus mix of guests, styles and lyricism. To kick off his latest project we have “It’s Going Down” feat Canton Jones. Over a kick beat and electronic fusions and vocals, you’ll be jumping around with this infectious tune as “52 is the loaves and fishes” as KJ rocks the party. “Brand New Day” is similarly dance-driven with a real pop-edge (almost LZ7-ish!) The excellent “They Like Me” with Lecrae over overdriven guitar sees Lecrae bring a summary of the heart of the track - “I don’t do black music, I don’t do white music, I do fight music. Unified in Christ music…” KJ-52 brings a redeemed ‘drop it like it’s hot’ vibe to “Superhero” with references to various superheroes but pointing to God as The Superhero. Little scratches and vocal noises help the track standout. KJ-52 warns talks to anyone who may have fallen away from God in the heartfelt guitar-driven ‘worship’ style track “Dangerous” In a similar musical vein is “So Far Apart” which is more of a redemptive song. KJ-52 has always been known for featuring other musical styles and “Facemelt” shows this with distorted guitars and a catchy chorus. Abundant life in Christ is lifted in the atmospheric “Shake Em Up”. We move from the hip-hop “Speed That Light” to a more hip-pop “That Was My Life”. We end with a Hillsong United remix in the semi-trance dance-out of “Go”.
KJ52 - It's Pronounced "Five Two"
This album from KJ-52 was released in 2003. Another mix and blend of fun, deep, rock and tight delivery and beats produced by the highly talented Todd Collins. 'Dear Slim Part 2' makes a come back, another track talking to Eminem, not to call him out, but to say that he's praying for him. We also learn that the first 'Dear Slim' was given to Eminem backstage at once concert. Whatever happened to that CD? Who knows but KJ still says he's praying for Eminem. In the same vein as '47 emcees' we have a freestyle around '47 popstars' which is more fun. We have a heavy rock crossover almost rapcore song with 'Rock On' featuring Rob Beckley of rockers, Pillar. My favourite track off the album is '#1 Fan' which is basically about how one of KJs tracks so affected the life of one girl that it actually saved her life. Real moving. I also like the track, 'I'm Guilty' in which KJ sets himself into a kind of courtroom promising to tell the whole truth about Jesus and how he shed his blood. KJ confesses this was him and his guilt, his sin that caused Jesus to need to die. It's true and it shows God's love for us through Jesus. Fun tracks hint around 'Your Breath Stinks' and KJs 'addiction' to Mountain Dew. If you wanna hear more from KJ in terms of devotionals, check out his soundclick page. For more, go visit kj52.com. Run Time - 63.11.
KJ52 - Collaborations
KJ-52 springs up with a fun and very commercial sounding album. Likened to a Christian equivalent Eminem, some Christians have spent time poking fun at KJ for not being 'hip hop' enough. OK, so the album may not reach the hip hop underground depths of Mars Ill but there is a definite place for KJ and his music. In a similar vein to John Reuben, this album gained a reputation for the song aimed at Eminem, with track 6, 'Dear Slim'. This was no hater track, biting Eminem, but rather a heart felt verse to Eminem saying KJ was praying for him. KJ-52 received some negative feedback from Eminem fans for his song (unfairly) but this is the song that nevertheless exacerbated KJs rep as being the 'Christian Eminem'. Other stand-out tracks on the album include the very clever, very dope '5th Element' where KJ develops a track ranging over 5 beats going through the 4 elements of hip hop - breaking - emcees on the mic - turntablism - graffiti - and then the 5th element, God. Then there's '47 Emcees', a shout out to 47 mainstream emcees in a well constructed track. 'Nursery Rhymes' is also a clever track. There's a mick-take of folks just using over the top hip hop lingo. On the outro there's a shout out to commit your life to God. Good delivery. KJ is one emcee who I feel is over-criticised. The fun track? The one about the mullet? Y'all know what I mean if you get the album!
KJ-52– ‘Collaborations’ / ‘It’s Pronounced Five Two’
I recently introduced KJ-52 to some young people and they were instantly engaged and hooked, as I always have been. KJ-52 has a unique blend of highly commercial appeal, yet with powerful and moving tracks that have clearly touched lives across the globe. These 2 projects showcase the KJ-52 that we know and love – a fusion of rap, rap and old skool beats, interweaving heartfelt stories, playful lyrics and catchy wordplay. KJ’s message is unequivocal about the truth and transforming power of Jesus such as the immensely powerful “I’m Guilty”. The power of God working through rap and KJ himself is clear in tunes like “#1 Fan” and KJs heartfelt plea to Eminem in the much-misuderstood, “Dear Slim” which led to a part 2 on the ‘It’s Pronunced Five Two’ album. KJ-52 performs some verbal linguistics in old skool theme-specific tracks like “47 Emcees”, “47 Popstars” and “5th Element” looking at the (original) 5 elements of hip-hop. If you roll with KJ-52s humourous side, you’ll love tracks like “Ya Bref Stank” and the infamous mullet track from the ‘Collaborations’ album. Two for the price of 1 for KJ-52 showcasing his earlier work – can’t go wrong!!
KJ52 – ‘Mental’
KJ52 is a phenomenon. Not only has he been one of the most creative and pioneering Christian hip-hop artists, his pop rap shows a never-ending ability to transform, morph, stay fresh yet never come across as being too cheesy! “Mental” once again feels like an artist dedicated to Christ, to his craft, to his usual mix of seriousness and silliness (”Fresh Kicks On”) - and to giving other guest emcees a huge platform to break out through lyrical and writing skills. Lecrae, Propaganda, Tedashii, Flame, Canton Jones and many more practically take over the project at times without them overtaking it. Beats are solid, crisp, pure and production is brilliantly high – “Fight Music” being one of many standouts. This isn’t a pop or rock crossover project but one that’s more focused on hip-hop and dancey hip-hop too (such as “Tonight” which in many ways reminds me of the epic sounds of LZ7). KJ brings his usual lyrical ferocity in the southern smasher, “Gameface”, reprised later in the album. There are a huge range of issues touched upon throughout but in “Mental” we find a track that manages to bring a massive party vibe to blow your speakers and the closed minds of those who don’t know Christ. Ending the 9 track project is the dancey uplifting message of “Brand New Day”. If this doesn’t get you jumping up and jumping around for Christ then you need to start the album over!
Kre8tor and Buck Barnabas – ‘Hostile Takeover’
Over some mainly East Coast breaks and rollers, Kre8tor and Buck Barnabas bring some challenging thoughts about the church in the lead track “Church”, especially calling out religion and fakers in the church, as “I’m On It” does equally powerfully. “H.O.O.D” (Hand Of Our Deliverer) is a clever piece of lyrical meat, comparing the Hood and the Hand of God in their life, so people see the Christ in them. Another standout track sees the excellent Sean Slaughter guesting and bringing his usual smooth militant flow in “Hostile Takeover”, rapping “God’s Word tighter than a onesey” alongside Buck and Kre8tor. “It Is What It Is” sees a more southern flow and beat with a testimonial roller. Sometimes hope can be hard to find. In “Keep It Going”, as Kre8tor brings encouragement to women stuck in some hard situations – prompting them to ask God and watch God work. In “MOG” (Man of God), we journey over the lyrics of Buck Barnabas, Ric Flo and Kre8tor as they seek to serve God till they ‘D.I.E’ – something all of us guys aspire too – with “Jesus is my lifeline, MOG til the day I see the light shine.” As we closeout the project we end up as uplifted as we started in the tight beats of “More Than Anything”, the highly Biblical and punchy “The Call” and the laid back “There’s A Time” focused around Ecclesiastes.
Kristi B – ‘Power of Love EP’
Kristi B hails out of London and has a rich and diverse musical heritage as a poet and musician. “Power of Love” comes in 3 different mixes on this EP (with a fourth mix available on myspace and youtube), showcasing both MC and vocal skills. The essence of the track is the depth and distance of love with Carmen bringing a beautiful soulful vocal hook. Kristi B lets us know that God is his ‘governor’. Guvna B enlightens us to the love of a mother working for her children. Kristi B brings us home with the power of love shown by Christ on the Cross, empowering us to reach out to others. Mix-wise, the grooving house mix does it best with a touch of bassline. This is positive, uplifting and inspiring. Looking forward to hearing more.
Lampmode Recordings - Grassroots (promotional CD)
This was a free (shipping / donation only) 7 track sampler that Lampmode Recordings released (1000 copies only) that were snapped up real quickly. This is a properly printed, pressed and shrink wrapped CD that features Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle on the mics with Deejay Essence on turntables - and DJ Essence, DJ Man-e' and DJ Cast One on beats and production. First up we have Grassroots Inchrow which starts up over a rolling beat and scratches repping Christ. As the lyrics go, 'By church I mean people, the steeple's not essential..' Some great rhyming schemes and delivery techniques represent. 'Christ Crucified' lyricises over east coast beats and a trumpet riff, with Shai Linne spitting, 'who's the answer.. Christ crucified..' On track 3, 'Let's Kill Sin', Timothy Brindle steps up to encourage us to be 'militant and diligent' to kill sin, over a musical background of harps and a nicely compressed beats and bass. The incredibly dope and clever 'WorldWideWeb' sees Shai Linne to challenge us about WWW - 'world wide wickedness' with lyrics dropping internet-related words and vignettes. I love the beat on this, with a funky, almost live drum feel. In 'A letter to my friends', Timothy Brindle drops a heartfelt track to his ex-hip hop crews who he felt he had to leave after God saved him. He expresses his heart to them, expresses his feelings and thanks but reps Christ to them fully, 'I was living in darkness.. now every day is bright.. I pray my salvation's a great example, to how Christ can save a crazy raging vandal..' Next up is 'From beginning to end' which is a boom-bap style thumper from deejay essence - with words being read over the top from Romans 3.10-31. Great concept, well delivered. Finally we have 'Holiness of God' feat both Shai Linne and Timothy Brindle. This is a banger with a classical operatic orchestral sample, underlied by a big phat beat, a tune that deserves major heat on dancefloors. This has an almost old skool beat and is an anthem. Very big and very fresh. The hook says it all, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord..' Don't sleep on these guys from Philly.
LA Symphony - Disappear Here
Having never purchased an LA Symph album before, my only thing to go on was a good review from Sphereofhiphop (as well as Flynn's album, which I quite enjoyed). Well, LA Symhp deliver the goods big time, with some big tunes, memorable hooks. Definitely a big project and by many reviews, their best to date. 'Timeless' is a great hip-hop track with with a stuttering piano type riff, scratches and nice tunes. Nice intro track after the 'Finaland Intro' to the CD, with a live recording of a crowd in Finalnd being led in shouting the LA Symphony name. 'Put Up or Shut Up' reminds me more of tracks off Flynn's album. Synthesized bass, an almost eastern riff with wordplay encouraging us to put up or shut up - give it our best. In the 'Money Song' LA Symphony touch on a serious topic with perceptive and humorous lines. In 'Universal' the crew rhyme over an nicely compressed break - talking about how hip-hop started up and has spread across the world, in its many forms, through many mediums. In 'Dance Like' we have another synthesized and creative track, with some nice samples and syncopated programming, creating an almost eerie effect. Some good calling out of fake rappers too, like it! In 'Funky Music' we have an almost jungle (animal noises) background. Nice effects on vocals - with the crew displaying great vocal agility, with lyrcis delivered in different tones. 'Hold On' encourages people to hold on and hold up, a slower track encouraging perseverence, with instruments matching the overall tone of the track. 'C'est La Vie' is a Latino track, with sung vocals and guitar, piano - a beautiful tune, love this. In 'Grand Piano' a great drum break, piano and vocal noises underpin lyrics that force you to listen carefully and closely. 'Give' is another downtempo song, paying tribute, sounding very similar (to my ears) to the vibe that 'Spooks, Karma Hotel' created - with a touch of Lauryn Hill. Absolute class, with great wordplay smoothly riding the track. 'Pops Song' is another real nice hip-hop roller, giving props to our pops (dads). 'Less Than Zero' is a challenging song, talking about how life doesn't always work out quite like it should. 'Rise' is another clever song, with slow beat / double time hats and guitar. Incredibly smooth lyrics mark out this track, some verses running at double tempo to other verses. A deep track. We end with 'Don't Call Me', a lighter track - very amusing, having friendly digs at each other. Hope this review is useful to you - I've listened to this CD more times than most of my CDs, that's a big recommendation!! Run Time - 50.09.
Lecrae – ‘After The Music Stops’
Lecrae is another talented artist coming out of the legendary gospel hip-hop CM camp. One reviewer described this album as good as Ludacris but without the swearing and negative message. But this is so much more than that, as the title track suggests, Lecrae challenging the listener, “After the show, after the set, after the music stops, what's next?” There are several top-notch tracks across the project, laden with mainly dirty south beats, rumbling basslines and deft tunes. Case in point is the jump-up, “Jesus Muzik” which is a dirty south rider as Lecrae and Trip Lee display lyrical agility as they discuss bumping ‘Jesus music’ in their vehicles. More lyrical fury comes in “Run” with Lecrae demonstrating an absurdly smooth flow, with a ragga-toting hook. A change in direction is “Get Low”, over crunk rumbling beats and electric guitar as Lecrae reminds us to get low and humble before God and rep God not self. “I really shouldn’t trust myself, cos without God I’m nothing but dust myself.” A down-tempo standout track is “Prayin For You” as a man struggles with life’s temptations and in his relationship with God, despite God’s blessing – Lecrae revealing that, “the person I’ve been praying about is really me.” All in all: great music, Christ-filled lyrics and top production. Quality crossover material.
Lecrae – ‘Church Clothes’
Sometimes when an artist raises his head above the parapet or starts challenging the status quo, there are those ready to throw stones. In “Church Clothes” we have hip-hop raw and uncut, in the words of Lecrae himself who has produced a mainly, not exclusively (“Rise”), southern-influenced mixtape that engages with the wider hip-hop community. His spot-on lyrics, especially in “Church Clothes” have clearly got too close for comfort for some in church culture. Lecrae’s heartcry is for true Jesus disciples to step up and step out. This project has a radical and cutting edge message that engages with those outside of religious culture, just like Jesus did and just as he calls us to. The project is simply an extension of what Lecrae does and he delivers powerfully as ever. With guests like Tedashii (the smooth “Welcome to H Town”) and the combo of Propaganda, Braille and Odd Thomas (the God-filled and almost underground styled “Micsonception”) only add fuel to the mixtape’s fire. The project addresses many issues that impact on a world outside the church (“Cold World” and “Special” among others). Not to say that Lecrae doesn’t focus on God (“Inspiration” and “No Regrets”). Production crosses hip-hop styles (minimal “Darkest Hour” to “Black Rose” with a reggae feel, to the gentle “The Price Of Life” to many tracks with southern influences like “Spazz”). Ending up with “Sacrifice” and “Rejects” close out the mixtape as Lecrae lives for the truth, even if he’s rejected.
Lecrae – ‘Church Clothes 2’
A free mixtpae? From Lecrae? OK so let’s shoot from the hip. Why do so many hate on Lecrae simply because he releases CDs with varied target audiences? It amazes me that there are hip-hop Pharisees out there who criticize things done differently by artists like Lecrae. Let’s get this straight. You follow God’s call on your life, I’ll follow mine and let Lecrae follow his. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches but each branch (and hip-hop branch) is unique and still connected to Jesus. Period. Rant over, this is another outstanding piece of work from Lecrae and let’s not forget this is a free mixtape with the aim of loosing the music. With a full of varifocal delivery that blows away other ‘big named’ rappers, with some of the freshest and hottest beats and an aim to reach into place that other hip-hop projects don’t reach, this is a mix tape on point and on fire. Can’t speak highly enough of this project. Get it and get it out there! Now!
Lecrae – Rebel
The powerful intro track sets the tone for this truth-filled and heartfelt album, as Lecrae spits rebellion over a slow burner. This is no ordinary rebellion, but the lifestyle of unashamedly following Jesus Christ. Lecrae explains we are in rebellion against the culture, not conforming to the ways of this world or this age. “Don’t Waste Your Life” featuring Cam and Dwayne Tryumf identifies a burning passion of not wanting to waste life, as double-time rhymes roll over rumbling bass. Excuses such as procrastination are pushed away in a commitment to Jesus. There are a number of more traditional dirty south bangers crying out praise and cries to God to use us (“Go Hard”). Lecrae and the production team bring a range of varied beats, such as the house beat-ing and catchy, “Identity” with Da T.R.U.T.H and JR, and “Live Free” featuring Sho, declaring we are free from sin and death’s power in Christ. Another epic track with interesting production arrives in the form of “Change”. Lecrae fills his album with depth and powerful truths about Christ and life, “Truth” (found in Jesus alone) and “Desperate” (for God), featuring Cam. As we draw to a close, Lecrae represents with “Beautiful Feet”, with Dawntoya - with true stories like the one about a ghetto life turned around to win souls for Christ. We are encouraged to “go” to live for Christ. And, buy this album.
LG Tee – Alpha 2 Omega
LG Tee – expressive and heartfelt hip-hop from female UK MC. LG Tee is a UK artist with influences like the Real Roxanne, Queen Latifah and Salt n Pepa and was inspired by their ability to influence from the mic. LG Tee worked to educate and enable young people to empower themselves through music and lyrics. Her album and heart is also to encourage investment and belief in UK performers and artists, to get the respect they deserve to enable them to succeed. “Alpha 2 Omega” the lead track and album are the start of something new for LG Tee. LG Tee brings a range of delivery styles beyond her steady flow – with inventive intonation “Wats It All About” through to expressive flows in tracks like “Fail To Plan” and the excellent challenge to women in “Goodman”. Very real issues are addressed head on (in the smooth “Junkie” and “Children Of The Ghetto”). Mr G brings some varied production touches (“Crazy Low”) through to some smoothies (“La La La”, a song about luurrve). “Ladies are encouraged to not allow themselves to be disrespected in the slow grooving “Bounce”. It’s great to be reviewing a female UK MC – looking forward to hearing more and hopefully inspiring other female MCs.
Lightheaded - Timeless (vinyl)
Oh my goodness, this EP is outstanding. This is funky, jazzy hip-hop at its best. I stand in awe of crews able to make this level of quality positive hip-hop. Featuring the Lightheaded trio of Ohmega Watts, Othello and Braille, we get funky old skool breaks in a jazzy mould. Impeccable deliveries from all 3 MCs with old skool party shouts and lyrical insight all round, with Muneshine bringing top of the range production & scratch essentials. Boom!
Lightheaded - Wrong Way
Bought this on vinyl as it's one of very few 'Christian' or positive / conscious albums I could get on vinyl here in the UK. Needless to say it rocks, in a very funky hip-hop way. If I had to point to my favourite crews around, I'd point to Lightheaded. It's incredibly funky, jazzy, fun, musical, uses live instrumentation as well. The 3 MCs together drop some real magic in this album. I cannot recommend this highly enough. I'm even thinking of buying it on CD as well, rather than recording from vinyl to CD. When I get my decks out I'll post up more on individual tracks. If you're a fan of Lightheaded, or the whole boom-bap, funky party shout-out kinds of stuff, or like any of these MCs on their individual projects, GET THIS!! In fact, get it anyway.
Lil Prophet – ‘Versatile’
The title track featuring K.A.S, summarises this album in its message and overwhelming passion. We find Lil Prophet (coming out of Florida, USA) stepping out of the world, turning his back on its ways and committing his life forward and upward - “I need God.. We got Christ, we are everything” This is a message of defiance, of passion, of victory, giving everything to God – who alone can turn any life around. The album is filled with bangers and animated driving tracks – “Most High God” where Lil Prophet vigorously rhymes and cries out, “I rep the Most High God.” Lil Prophet also shows his versatility with “That’s Me” (featuring the vocal talents of Philip Ray) – a downtempo shout-out to his girl, while the soulful “Trapped In Love” rolls in a similar vein, about true love. A real standout and challenging track is the rolling beat-filled, “Taste Like Candy” where Lil Prophet likens the flesh and its sinful desires to wanting some candy. This is the kind of track with crossover commercial appeal. The second half of the album sees that raw energy return with some crunk party bangers like “Never Scared” and “I Go Hard” featuring Pettidee, Bonafide among others. Standout is “Stupid Crazy Crunk” – ideal for those Summer parties, car rides and times when you just need to jump up for Christ! We outro on the same crunk vibe as we started with, completing the perfect circle with “We Ready”. A truly versatile and spirited project.
Litarodi – The Transition
Litarodi has a passion for gospel hip-hop, forged out of the events and heartaches in his life. His rapping career has been both outside of and now within gospel hip-hop. His message is one of faith, perseverance and that God can reach into any broken life to bring restoration (“March When You Step”). “Oh My” opens up the album with a minimalist dirty south roller as Litarodi confesses Jesus makes him feel sky high. Standout tracks include, “I’m a Believer” as Litarodi mixes flows in 3 distinct verses over a grooving backing, ‘I’m a believer, I’m an achiever, I’m a survivor, a rider, a dreamer.’ We delve deep into Litarodi’s life and history in “The Interview” over a rolling break and guitar lick. Litarodi demonstrates his lyrical skills in the excellent “Shake Loose” that looks at the tongue, ‘the Bible says whatever makes you sin, cut it out’. In “Eres Lo Mejor”, Litarodi mixes up his English and Spanish vocals that helped him to Best Up and Coming Latin Rapper in Texas Award in 2005. There’s a powerful declaration of the truth of Christ the warrior, declaring ‘you can take my life, can’t take my soul, so pick up your soul, it’s time for war.’ Showing his softer side, we end with “Make The World Change”, a downtempo smoothy - ‘what the world needs is Jesus’ reminding us that we are the ones who are going to change the world, through Jesus in us. Amen!
Logical – Random Thoughts Mixtape
Logical was born and raised in West Philadelphia and brings an album that reminds me of a lot of the quality that comes out of Lampmode Recordings in Philly. “Who Killed Christ” is a feature-length opener that sets the tone for the album that is serious but life and Word-bringing as he investigates who killed Christ. As an MC, Logical keeps things very tight with lyrics that show a depth of gratitude towards God and a rejection of the old self and life of sin. A shout out to hip-hop, songs, artists, t-shirts and more in “Cliché” really nails Logical’s heart and this album… “Jesus walks that’s the truth, but are you running to him? Everybody’s got to die, but are you rising again? Is Jesus just your homeboy? Is he really your friend? Someone to get you out of a jam so you can do it again..” The album calls out and doesn’t hold back speaking out against various sins (“Porn” and the industry that promotes this evil and “Lust” etc) as well as challenges in tracks such as the freestyle “4 Walls”. At times the production dips a notch and there can be a danger in focusing so much on sin that we take our eyes of the Saviour but overall this is a challenging, tight and truth-filled project. Most importantly it points us to Christ as demonstrated in the final song, “My sin has a price and only one way it can be paid” (“Penalty For Sin”).
Lojique - Process Of Illumination
I started off a little hesitant with this but by the end was lovin it. Dope riffs, vocal and musical hooks, tight lyrics flowing smoothly with underground beats and sweet production. Good consistent levels across both mastering and mic work. There's also a couple boom bap with some neat scratching and phat breaks. We start off with an amusing flow 'However You Want It' which starts off with someone hating on hip hop, concluding, 'I'd rather be fishing..' However, Lojique have the answer to this, bringing hip hop 'however you want it'. In 'Represent Like This', we hear a mix of Lojique's determination to mix quality - 'Can you perceive the expertise with which I slice fisher price emcees..' combined with the determination to put Christ first and live for eternity. Another favourite is track 4 which drops a remix of the infamous and over-played 'Shine Jesus Shine'. But this really works and makes you worship God, hip hop worship at its absolute illest. The lead track is Adrenaline Rush which drops some unbelievable fast lyrics. What I like about the Lojique Crew style is some of the ill lyrical hooks that they have created like in 'Hermeneutics', 'Strugglin' Strivin' and 'Fools Quest' with quality musical riffs like in 'Afterbirth' and 'Pike Place'. Lyrical flow is clever, with some deep but accessible lyrics, spittin Christ visibly and cleverly like in 'Valley of Decision' and 'Afterbirth'. Sometimes there's an underground flow like in 'God Is My Witness'. Other times it's more accessible like in 'Shine'. This isn't just an album for the backpacker hip hop head. This has both depth and commercial delivery to appeal to a wider market than many independent releases. Made me want to get into the studio! Run Time - 50.24.
LZ - Light
LZ7's latest project is 'Light', the follow up to the 2008 project, 'Gasoline'. Hailing from Manchester and associated with the phenomenal Message Trust, Lindz, Rob, Nic and Nana have been having a positive impact across the nation and the world, in both their music and their message.
As seen in the album art, this is a project that is full of bouncy, infectious and life-breathing tracks. LZ7 lay down the truth in accessible rhymes, contagious hooks and mostly party-beats. In truth this is a change from LZ7's previous projects away from a more grime sound to a more hip-pop and dance-oriented beats and vibe, with hints of the classic vocal correction sound at times. This is no criticism though, it shows the band's musical progression and direction.
The vibrant project comprises 14 tracks, including 2 remixes of the lead track, "This little light" - a fun, engaging and light hip-pop remixing of the classic gospel track from the 1920s. The title track made it into the UK charts recently, spreading a message of social action, shining your light and challenging young people to do fifteen acts of kindness.
The lead track is a bouncy, inspiring, hope-filled, head-nodder, encouraging people to let their light shine over a grooving beat and hook. Definitely a hands-in-the-air number. LZ7 themselves describe the track as a mix between JLS and the Black Eyed Peas and this is not far wrong. Guvna B and Whisteljacket guesting on the project do add that UK grime sound synonymous with artists like Dizzee Rascal and Sway.
"Amazing" is a pop-dance mix that would easily sit in the charts as LZ7 point to God's love being an amazing, despite us messing up, "always pick me up when I burst my bubble, you're still right there whenever I'm in trouble." Definitely a BEP-type party track, with some well produced vocals and shouts mixed together over punchy kick drum.
"Sold Out" featuring Whistlejacket on the rhymes, "it's one of those times when the beat brings life..." with a definite Summer-feeling, uplifting funky house vibe. The focus of the track over synth stabs is being sold out fully for God.
"Ditto" has more of a r&b groove to it over some tasty guitar licks as both Nana and Lindz bring some love and inspire others to spread this love around, as Nic sings, this is "ditto". Taking the Biblical principle of reaping what you sow, Lindz lets us know that, "when you give a little love and you get it right back, that's ditto... when you shine your light and the light comes back that's ditto" leaving space for the listener to insert their own ideas. Inspiring piece of freshness.
"Superstar" with the effervescent Guvna B is a dance semi-bassline rumbler - pointing to the fact that Jesus is a superstar, that he's inside believers and makes them into superstars. "Allo mate" says Guvna B (in a shout to to the title of his own project 'The Narrow Road') as he drops some fun, "Bring it back - frisbee" before explaining that God is with him.
"Greatest Day" over pulsating synth and rhythm, sees Nic kick things off and then Lindz and Nana take over explaining life before meeting with God, "changed my direction like a TomTom", before exploding into the guitar fuelled anthemic hook, "It was the greatest day." Lindz explains how the change has meant wanting to spread the light, God changing the heart. Definitely a poppy, hands-in-the-air, sing-a-long number!
"Dance This Night Away" - let's get those hands up, dance to the music and party! A weekend anthem to dance the night away. A club banger to jump-up to, let go, blow those whistles and get the hands in the air!! Brilliant party track.
"You" is a more downtempo ballad and yet uplifting song, "It's always been you... from the start..." As Nic says, "From good times and bad times, you'll be forever in my heart." Lindz gets personal as he lets us know that the track points to God. The track gets ever-more powerful as it progresses and builds. This could equally be a love-song as we learn, "It's always been you."
"Fall At Your Feet" is much more of a ballad over piano and drums, before breaking out into a beautiful hook, falling at the feet of an amazing God who has done so much for us. This is probably the deepest and most classicly worshipful song on the project. A compelling, deeply moving and exquisite track.
"Come Alive" brings us back up with some scratching, more of a grimey / breakbeat kind of beat as Lindz raps with a flow mixing hip-hop and grime. Probably the most hip-hop track on the project as Nic showcases her great vocal abilities.
"Party Time" is another track like "Dance This Night Away" bringing a funky house style, with some tight flows and an almost Beastie Boys and old skool grooving beat. Get your adidas sneakers on, get the breakdance DVD on and get moving!
"Four Points" kicks off partly like a trance anthem with a heavenly, synth stabbing, bassline vibe. Lindz and Ad-Apt bring some seriously sick grime flows before building to a sample of "O Happy Days' in a sound described as being similar to the 5-piece Hadouken, with some vocal correction and production fun and games as Nic expresses how God paid the price. Another uplifting piece of perfection. If your hands aren't up in the air and you're not bouncing on this one, you're probably dead!
"This Little Light" remix from Kenny Hayes is a nclassy piece of electro-house and bassline, whereas the Starz Angelz mix takes things down a bit to a more deep house / progressive house feel. Both are oustanding and don't in any way come across as add-ons, but quality remixes and tracks in their own right. Really appreciate both of these mixes.
LZ7 - a pop, hip-hop, club project fuelled with elements of grime, bassline. Infectious, fun, uplifting, inspiring, bouncy. Get this project, let your light shine, bring hope where there is hopelessness, truth where there is deception and love where there is none. A top quality album.
Who's it for? It will connect with teens, tweens, and those who appreciate good positive music. The album is equally at home in the church, youth group, school or club. Can't get better than that.
LZ7 - Ruckus
This is more than your typical hip-hop album. From his days with the Tribe, Lindz West has had a passion to see young people in Manchester and the UK impacted relevantly with the Gospel. “Ruckus” is LZ7’s first album - a fusion of hip-hop and heavy rock, with vocals addressing hard-hitting issues (or so the Press Release tells us). More explicitly, think influences of The Tribe, TobyMac, The Bandwithnoname, Linkin Park. For topics, think drugs, sex, life, racism and more. Without doubt this will appeal to many young people across and beyond the urban scene. The hot production must be given a mention too, props to all the varied producers who often don't get enough love and support - big up! Getting into the album we have tracks such as “Start Something” (in which Lindz displays some lyrical agility) and “Worldwide” which bring a rock-rap vibe. “Why” reminds me of TobyMac. “Cross I Carry” is a standout collabo with Blush, which builds up from an ethereal builder to a heavy rock sound. There’s more of a UK grime feel to tracks like “Get Out Ya Seat” and “Come Around”. Awesome downtempo hip-hop track with Myles Dhillon, confronting racism in “Colour”. “Break The Beat” reminds a little of the Tribe’s “Take Back The Beat”. Greenjade guest on “Head Back” about regaining control of your head, asking, “Where’s Your Head At..” (Basement Jaxx anyone..?) Then there’s “We Came Here”, a remix of the Tupac classic, “California Love”, which to be honest, isn't as strong as the original! More importantly though - as LZ7 tours schools, festivals, youth offender institutions and beyond with its show of urban arts - the Gospel message will go out relevantly with quality and clarity, no doubt. Run Time - 41.44.