|Strong Flow, Strong Faith | Posted July 31, 2012
The debut release for Jordan Lara ("JL"), City of Hope
is a project filled with personal reflections of the artist. JL got his break into the hip-hop scene in 2005 with the group Soul Chronicle. Since this time he has worked on his craft and is proud to release a solo project. The album title is a tribute to his father's battle with prostate cancer in 2011 and the name of the hospital he was treated in (jordanlara.com
The album starts with "All or None." A brooding bass line brings into the inner man with a theme very familiar to many Christians; Romans 7:15 "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." As we grow in our walk with God however we turn from the ways of the past and no longer live a lukewarm spiritual life but, by the power given to us in the form of the Holy Spirit, we are set on fire for Christ and live a life that is "All or None." Even as we grow in our relationship, the lyrics encourage us that we can begin to sing a new song and not continue on our mistakes of the past. The only thing that detracts from this song would be the last minute or so of beats and electronic with little of the impactful lyrics that filled the rest of the song.
As you listen through to the next track you think you may have switched to a classic rock station or that someone downloaded "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones onto your iPod. This is not the case though; it is merely the same two chords that start."Walk on Water". This track features Leonti aka ei8ht who adds the beats and some background vocals. This song is all about faith and walking out your Christian walk with strength and courage.
JL takes us "Downtown" next. This track is about the power of the youth culture in our world today and pays homage to influencers in the past. The key to the references is that a lot of this music came out of a youth movement, maybe not Christian youth, but the influencers influenced the youth who influenced the world. The key now is that there is a generation of influencers in the downtowns of cities across our nations" that have a chance to make a change, a generation that is the next to rock the stage, a generation that is making history today." These kids cannot be forgotten and must be encouraged to rise up and be the difference. The greatest redeeming factor of Christian hip-hop is that as an art form it has the ability to influence these kids to be the change and not to settle for what they may have seen in their short lives and what society in general may be expecting of them.
The next song may have one of coolest vibes I have heard this year. It is reminiscent of "Moon Dance" by Van Morrison. It is "The Dark Side of the Moon." It features Jetty Rae on the chorus and her voice adds to the almost spookiness on the track. Her voice is much like Zooey Deschanel's and is set off perfect against the brass section that plays the bass line. The song is about the darker side of the human condition that exists, but gives a stern warning to flee this side of ourselves, and how we can be redeemed from the flesh when we ask for the redemption of our Savior.
From the dark side we go to where darkness cannot exist. "Heaven" speaks of how we are offered the free gift of Heaven on a daily basis but we ignore the immediacy of the requirement for salvation and if we are offered heaven today then we should accept it because tomorrow may be too late for us. It is a message rarely spoken of in today's church, but still must be told.
A smooth Santana-like guitar vibe starts off "Mistaken I.D." It speaks of a man in jail who may have lead a rough life as a kid but has seen the err of his ways while in prison and now he is a new man and as such the wrong man is now in jail because he has found his new identity in Christ. "Check the prints on my fingers / check my DNA / tell me what you see / 'cause I'm a different man today / than the boy I used to be."
"Get Out of My Way" is up next with some solid electric guitar and a throwback '70s sound. This is JL strutting his stuff. This particular song lacks the personal reflection of some of the other tracks but it's what seems to be the prerequisite braggadocio that happens on quite a few debut albums.
Next up is "Amazing Grace", a heart's cry to the Father to be released from the valley that we all go through before we understand the grace that is offered by God. It asks questions throughout of what does it feel like when things always go right, but rather than seek perfection in the earthly things, the perfection can be found when we have the graced of the Father.
Once we experience the grace of God, we become a "New Creation" in Christ. These three songs in this order truly speak to the redemptive nature of salvation of in the Creator. This is the most musical track on the album. The background vocals offered up by JC Villafan and Devin Leonti (sister of Leonti) are smooth and fit perfectly into the song. "You're a new creation, old things are passed away, it's a new beginning, it's a brand new day." Take that truth and walk in it.
The title track "City of Hope" takes the listener to an extremely personal place. Right into the hospital room at the hospital, right to the lowest place of where I can only imagine JL and his family were in 2011, wondering if his father would survive what seems to be an insurmountable enemy in our world today. Rest assured though, JL doesn't dwell in the valley, but cries out to be taken to that "city of hope" where every sickness is healed and every captive is released from the pain. "I will learn to fly / if I only rely on You."
The album closes out with "Peace Be Still." The song is another heart cry of a troubled man, but as we cry out to God, he speaks to us to be still and come to the cleansing flow of Jesus Christ. It leaves the listener in a contemplative state of mind, thinking on the goodness of God Almighty, our source of strength and peace.
This is a beautiful album that speaks of the redemptive nature of a relationship with God and the peace that can be found when we are in Him and He in us. The artist notes on his website that "I believe this record really expresses this journey of overcoming and pushing through my own shortcomings. I desire for City of Hope to inspire, challenge, and awaken the souls, dreams, and visions of those experiencing this record."
As a reviewer and one of the first to enjoy this album it definitely awakened my soul and inspired me. It reminded me of my own journey with God as well. Musically, the album is excellent with the exception of some minor elements. Lyrically, JL hits the nail on the head several times bringing the strong message of redemption home. There is a maturity in the message not often found in younger artists. JL has a strong flow and his rhymes are solid. There truly is a city of hope that we as believers have our eyes fixed on, enjoy this album, it will bless you.
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