|Back Again | Posted August 27, 2012
One of the most anticipated albums of the year drops on September 4. The new release from Lecrae, entitled Gravity, is the follow up to the free mixtape Church Clothes. This album is well produced and laid out with great features, beats, and lyrics.
The album comes in hard with "The Drop (Intro).” Orchestral sounds with an epic soundtrack feel captivate you immediately. Your ears perk up for what will be a musical version of Golden Corral. By the end of this full course offering you will be full to overflowing, wondering what's next.
The title track is up next featuring the unmistakable vocals of JR. "Gravity" pulls us down to the earth and is used as a metaphor for what keeps us from heaven. But as Christians we desire to go somewhere where there is no gravity, no sin, no sickness, no shame, just to the place that we are meant to strive for. Following on this theme, the album musically changes gears with a gospel driven sound. "Walk With Me" is a man's cry for Jesus to walk closely with us through all of our struggles, whether it's a sick child, the death of loved ones, or soldiers in Afghanistan. We can cry out to Jesus and know that He hears our prayers ‘cause the walls can't hear us.
"Free From It All" is up next. This features the vocal stylings of Mathai. The central theme behind this song is that regardless of where you are in life, if you fall in any way shape or form, you are still free from the trappings of this world. You have your identity in Christ and even if you fall from social graces you will continually fall up in to the arms of Christ and be free from it all. Falling continues into the next track with "Falling Down" featuring Swoope and Trip Lee. The song gets you bobbin your head right away and Trip takes the first verse. This song speaks to the hip-hop culture and to the general culture of today. No matter how much wealth you build up, or how popular you get, everything will fall down around you.
"Fakin'" featuring This'l is up next. This song hits hard. It speaks of the guys out there that pretend to be something they're not. From the guys wrapping their Chrysler 300s with Bentley front ends and guys pretending to be Scarface not realizing how the movie ended. At the end of the day, they are fakers pure and simple. From taking on fakers, Lecrae takes on the prevalence of "Violence" in today's society. At this point the album takes a harsh shift musically, and I didn't have to flip the cassette over, but this is where the B-side would have started. It is a jarring transition musically from the dancehall vibe of "Violence" into a smoother R&B flow of into "Mayday.”
"Confe$$ions" is up next. This song moves back to theme of regardless of the wonderful thing the world offers, it is just temporary. Private jets, first class, European cars, none of it can be passed from this world to the next so there is no reason to make that your sole purpose in life. "Buttons" is the next track. This song is about the sanctity of marriage and how when we make that vow of for better or for worse, even if we push each other's buttons, there is no reason to leave. That just means what you have is a real relationship.
"Power Trip" featuring Derek Minor (aka PRo), Sho Baraka, and Andy Mineo slides into the mix next. The song asks the question, "who's got the power?" Is it the tycoons, pro athletes, and entertainers that have the power? Or is it Jesus Christ? "Who made the crowd put their hands in the sky? (me)/ Who made the sky with their hands?" Tedashii features on the next track, "Lord Have Mercy.” This song has an industrial sound that adds a new dimension to this grand buffet of music. The song speaks of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and the change He can make in a life. "I Know" comes next and is somewhat manic musically and being such somewhat detracts from the flow of the album.
The album finishes with "Tell The World" and "Lucky Ones," which both give testimony that we have grace and mercy thanks to Jesus Christ and this mercy and grace will set us free from Gravity.
Closing Thoughts: This truly is one the most highly anticipated albums of the year, not only by fans of Christian hip-hop, but by fans of Christian music in general and by fans of secular hip-hop. Lecrae is arguably the biggest name in the genre (CHH) right now and rightly so. The genre saw a shift change with his debut album and he continues to challenge the establishment by offering music not strictly targeted towards Christians. In many ways this album lived up to the anticipation, but not without its low spots. There are 3 or 4 songs too many on the album that detract from the album as a whole. Fans and newcomers alike will enjoy the album, and there is no doubt that another Dove and Grammy nomination will show up in Crae's mailbox. However, there were too many low spots for this reviewer to get overly excited.
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|Lecrae: Gravity | Posted September 03, 2012
Lecrae, the face of Christian hip hop, has released his long-awaited album, Gravity. The album is a natural progression from his mixtape Church Clothes, which released a few months ago in May. The production is better, which says a lot considering Church Clothes had impeccable production for a mixtape. The lyrics are just as hard-hitting and theological, but just like Church Clothes they should be easily understood by both the churched and unchurched alike. Two years ago this month Lecrae released his album, Rehab, which became not only my favorite album by him, but one of my top two or three albums of all time. I have no doubt listened to Rehab - from start to finish - at least 100 times. So, coming into Gravity I not only had very high expectations, but I had a preconceived notion that there was no way it could top Rehab. I stand - well actually sit - before you a humbled man. I was wrong. My friends, Gravity is better than Rehab. As hard as that is for me to say, I say it with no doubt in my mind that this is Lecrae's greatest release to date.
One thing I have grown to love from Lecrae is his awesome intro tracks, from "Rehab Intro" to "Check In" to "Overdose" to "Co-Sign;" he has always done a fantastic job of crafting a stellar intro track, so why would Gravity be any different? "The Drop" starts off the album with killer violins that lead into a pretty sick beat. Right off the bat Lecrae - once again - dispelled the thought that he might be going soft in his lyrics to try and appeal more to the mainstream audience. That is absolutely false, and after you listen to the first couple lines of "The Drop" I have a feeling you will feel the same as I do. Time after time Lecrae has put his fans at ease by writing biblical, Christ-centered lyrics, and yet critics and skeptics alike always wonder if he will go soft on his next record. He has not given me any reason to think this will ever happen, so therefore I am not worried one bit.
"Gravity" features the soothing vocals of JR, one of Christian hip hop's most well-known and greatest singers. The title track is honestly a little slower than I expected, which Lecrae accomplished by slowing it down in the chorus with JR's vocals. It is still a good song, just slower than I expected. The next track, "Walk With Me," is a little more old-school; the beat has some pretty sweet organs in the back, and is definitely reminiscent of good ol' hip hop. The song deals with the struggles of this world, but knowing we have hope and reassurance in Christ. Oh and Lecrae was a genius to bring in Novel to do the chorus, because he absolutely killed it.
"Free From it All" has the catchiest chorus on the album, which is sung by Mathai; I get it stuck in my head every time I listen to it. The song talks about being free from all the struggles on this world and not letting what this world does to you get you down because we are free from this world because of Christ. On a side note, if you want to hear stellar production, this is probably the best song to check out; it sounds impeccable. The following track, "Falling Down," is also a great example of stellar production as well though. The beat is easily my favorite off the album; in fact, the whole song is easily my favorite on Gravity. Trip Lee opens up the song with a killer verse, and Swoope and Lecrae follow that up with great verses as well; I believe each of the three artists are at the top of their game on this song, and these may be some of their best verses they have ever done. The three of them talk about how everything in this world will fade away eventually, none of the fame, wealth, sex - none of it - will last.
Thi'sl and Lecrae seem to be a lethal combination. First we had "Anger Management," then "APB" earlier this year and now "Fakin.'" Thi'sl brings the hood sound to Lecrae's songs, something Lecrae's more polished voice cannot really achieve on its own. This song goes out to everyone faking like they are all high and mighty and tougher than anyone else, it basically just calls them out. Then we go from gangster rap to Jamaican rap with the song "Violence," produced by Tyshane, who you probably know from Lecrae's "Black Rose." The minute I heard the first beat I could hear Tyshane's imprint on the song. My big prediction for this year is that Tyshane is going to be the next big producer in Christian hip hop; he is going to be the next Alex Medina or Alex Faith. "Violence" is a pretty sweet song, and it added a whole nother element to the album by doing a completely different style than on the rest of the Gravity.
I was a little leery about Big K.R.I.T. being on "Mayday," just because he is not exactly a Christian rapper. But going back to my trust in Lecrae, I trusted that he knew what he was doing in putting K.R.I.T. on the song; and, once again, Lecrae did not disappoint me at all. K.R.I.T. brought a whole new perspective to the song, from the nonchristian point of view that really rounded out the song perfectly. He admits he does not have all the answers to life, but then Lecrae comes on the song and basically says, "But I know someone who does: Jesus." The song is one of the most powerful on Gravity, which really surprised me, considering I thought it was going to be one of the softest, lyrically, on the album.
"Confe$$ions" slows it down again, with possibly the slowest beat ever on a Reach album. The song is meant to make you reflect and really think about your life. Lecrae talks about the fleeting value of money and what comes with it, something society does not exactly understand. "Buttons" follows in the recent trend of Lecrae doing a love song on each of his releases: "I Love You" on Rehab, he did not do one on The Overdose, but he did "Rise" on Church Clothes, and now "Buttons." This song is a little different than his previous romance tracks in that it does not deal as much with traditional love themes, but is more about every day life, especially when they get on each other's nerves. I love that Lecrae is giving good alternatives to the secular 'love' songs that are so filled with garbage and are not really about true love, but rather lust. So, "Buttons" and the rest of his love songs are definitely great alternatives to those.
"Power Trip" features the stellar lineup of PRo, Sho Baraka, and Andy Mineo. I built this song up so much in my mind before listening to it that I thought it was easily going to be the song of the century. Yes, I admit that was a stupid thing to do, but I did. The song is good, but it is clearly not the song of the century since I chose Falling Down as my favorite song over it. The beat is very eccentric, in a good way, but it kind of takes some getting used to. Sho Baraka seems to have gotten better since he left Reach, because every feature he has done since has been stellar, including his verse on "Power Trip." However, Andy Mineo's verse is easily the best on the track. In case you did not know, the dude can rap! He closes out the song really well, and it makes me wish his verse was a lot longer.
The second song released from Gravity was "Lord Have Mercy," and the minute I heard it I had a feeling this album was going to be something special. The song is probably not the greatest song Lecrae has ever done, but something about it makes it really good. The beat is very different from anything he has ever done before, which seems to be the theme of this whole album: doing things completely different than in the past. I also really like the inclusion of No Malice's soundbite during the chorus off his song "Darkest Hour" on Church Clothes. The first song released from the album, "I Know," follows up "Lord Have Mercy." The song definitely stays far away from playing it safe, from the beat to the hard-hitting lyrics. I have not stopped listening to this song since it was released, and it is easily one of my top two or three songs on the album.
The album finishes off with two more melodic songs: "Tell the World" and "Lucky Ones." Lecrae basically says on "Tell the World" that because of what Christ did for us on the cross he is going to live his life for Him and tell everyone he can about the love of Christ. But then "Lucky Ones" comes next, and it is not exactly what I expected for the end of this album. Based off how the rest of the album sounded I was honestly expecting a more fast-paced closing track, of which "Lucky Ones" is the exact opposite. It has another very slow beat, but it actually ends the album perfectly; the song brings the record full circle. I think this song would be perfect to play at the end of war movie where everyone is lying dead on the battlefield, but one guy stands up crippled and raises the flag of his country up high in victory. He is the lucky one to have lived through the battle, and in that same way, Lecrae talks about how we are the lucky ones to have received the grace of God to forgive us of our sins and give us eternal life.
After saying all that about the album, all I have left to say is wow. Gravity more than exceeded my expectations and has worked its way into hip hop hall of fame. If this record does not hit number one on every music chart imaginable, I will honestly be shocked. Every song on this CD is stellar from start to finish. Every beat was perfectly created. The production is at a higher level than I have seen on any album in the past. The lyrics to each song on Gravity are hard-hitting and theologically solid. Everything is set up perfectly for this album to hit number one on all the charts, and I believe it will. I cannot stop listening to Gravity, and I have a feeling neither will you. I cannot stress enough how great of a masterpiece this album is. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy or two of Gravity; you will not regret it.
Favorite Song: Falling Down
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