|Raw Beats Full of Inspiration | Posted June 06, 2012
Christian hip-hop is a genre that has taken a great deal of time to gain mainstream exposure due to skepticism, lack of quality music and other reasons. It has grown by leaps and bound musically and lyrically, and it is very diverse. Stephen the Levite is an artist who is very theological in content, but he has that raw hip-hop sound that heads enjoy. He is back with The Last Missionary, a collection of dope beats, songs to his wife, many scriptural references and gritty rhymes.
Stephen pulls no punches lyrically on "Give It Up," a mid-tempo head-nodder which is definitely something heard on the East Coast. He speaks to people to give their talents, time, etc. to God and he even speaks to husbands to give up any selfishness to honor their marriage.
Next up is "Voltron." Zae da Blacksmith and Mac da Doulos step in to aid Stephen as they cleverly explain the role of the body of Christ a la the cartoon, "Voltron." For those who are unaware of Voltron, It is an anime cartoon where five pilots who commanded robot lions came together to form the body of the superhero Volton. This is why the title is appropriate and makes sense to describe the power of unity and the role of the members of body of Christ.
"Soundtrack for My Wife" is a very honest and beautiful look at how he and his wife met, courted, made some mistakes, repented and got married. The beat is not real hard-hitting, but it's definitely a raw hip-hop beat. One problem that I have with this CD is that a few of the beats sound the same. He continues this soundtrack to his wife on "S.O.S."--a melodic jam that is definitely a great example of how a Christian man should honor his wife. It is definitely not what you would hear on the majority of mainstream hip-hop songs. He says things like, "She's more than a thing. I put a ring on her. I see that Proverbs 31 steez on her."
Stephen reunites with his Redeemed Thought partner Muse One as they spit over the fast-paced, "Fight Club" while labelmate, S.O. kills his verse on "Dividing Lies." The latter track will be one that surely will get many replays from people like me who have a great appreciation for clever wordplay and nice lyricism. Whatever is lacking beat wise on some songs is definitely made up for lyrically on the entire album.
Check out "Wrote It This Way." It is so refreshing to hear Stephen the Levite, Hazakim and Timothy Brindle show appreciate the beauty of a diverse body of Christ while admonishing the body not to let doctrines divide us. They even allude to Ephesians 4:11-16.
Stephen has no problem being candid; just listen to his confessions on "Temptation." Those who love good ole hip-hop 101 with cuts, scratches and sampled drum beats while be in retro hip-hop heaven when listening to "Enter:missionary."
It is not secret that hip-hop is a powerful tool to reach a sector of youth and people that society considers "unreachable." There seems to be a carelessness and lackadaisical attitude by mainstream rappers when it comes to their lyrical content. Stephen addresses this and more on "Rehoboam," during which he keeps reminding listeners of the rebellion Solomon's son of the same name.
"Dead Beat" and "Reign and Rebellion" have to be mentioned together because they both have an infectious sound with slight hints of ‘70s retro soul. These songs are hard to pass over and if you listen to them first, you will have hard time listening to other songs. It is not because other songs are not good, but it is because those two songs are just that good!
Stephen the Levite definitely comes back with a vengeance. He is well-versed in the scriptures and isn't afraid to expose his own struggles. Even in his honesty, he still challenges the body of Christ and those who are not Christians to serve God wholeheartedly. Don't look for any autotune or any overproduced music. The Last Missionary is one of those stripped down hip-hop albums that give the target audience many things to ponder and enjoy. With great artists like Lecrae, Theory Hazit, Rhema Soul and more, Stephen the Levite definitely carves his own niche in the ever-growing Christian hip-hop ministry.
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