Minorville by Derek Minor (PRo) | CD Reviews And Information | NewReleaseTuesday.com

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Minorville [edit]
by Derek Minor (PRo) | Genre: Rap/Urban | Release Date: September 10, 2013
 

Derek Minor had a vision for his new album. The Nashville rapper was inspired by the 1998 film Pleasantville to create a place with an idyllic exterior, but with layers of riveting subject matter underneath. His creation evolved into his dynamic new album, Minorville.

"Minorville is about this place where on the outside if you look at it, it looks really, really great," Derek Minor says. "It looks like a cool place to go visit. But just like any city, when you get there, you soon realize that it has many different dynamics to it. You've got the cool area, the rich and famous area, the place in the hood, the place in the suburbs that's moralistic and you've got the place where there aren't any morals. Every part of the city has its own problems. I just want to give people a tour of my mind, my world, my city."

An accomplished rap veteran formerly known as Pro, Derek Minor takes listeners through a series of story-driven songs throughout Minorville. One of the LP's standout selections is "Homecoming," an extraordinary tale of a homecoming queen from an affluent background whose poor decisions lead her down a spiral of chaos.
"When a lot of people look at urban areas, they think that all the problems in the world exist there and that the area outside of that is normal, that people don't have struggles there," Derek Minor says. "A lot of times, we talk about the struggles of the hood, being in an urban world, a world where systematic racism and all these things exist. But what I wanted to do was highlight a different story and say, 'We're all in this together.' That even goes for the people in the hood who are like, 'If I could only get out the hood, I'd be fine.' It's like, 'Nah. Not necessarily.' I wanted to start a dialog that there's issues everywhere, anywhere that you go."

"Dear Mr. Christian" takes a similarly stark stance, as Derek Minor raps from the perspective of a young woman who has been sexually abused on the song, while collaborator Dee-1 delivers a powerful verse about a kid who grew up without role models and feels as though his life is full of struggle and trouble. Lecrae finishes the song with a stinging rap about hypocrites who are quick to judge others while overlooking their own shortcomings. Then there's the driving, hard-hitting "IGWT." Short for "In God We Trust," this collaboration with Thi'sl features the rappers discussing the devastating impact drugs, violence and pride have in our communities.

Derek Minor shows another side of Minorville with "We Are," "Hot Air Balloon" and "We Gone Make It," three inspiring selections about overcoming adversity. "There's people out here hurting," Derek Minor says. "There's people out there who, whether or not they'll admit it, don't know what's next for them. They don't know if they're going to have food tomorrow, if they'll get harassed by the cops tomorrow. In this climate, we need something to put on when people are going through their struggles. If you think your life isn't worth living, I want you to throw on that Derek Minor record and say, 'You know what, I'm finna step it up. Life is worth living and I've got something to live for.'"

Yet Derek Minor is mindful of what he's living for. The organ-driven "Gimmie," for instance, discusses the danger of making money and materialism key components of our lives. "How much is enough?" he says. "When are we going to sit back and look back and be like, 'Maybe money isn't the answer. Maybe more isn't the answer.' I'm trying to shine a light on how crazy that is. I don't think there's anything wrong with having things, but if you let those things drive you in life, you really don't even live life at all."

Derek Minor also took a more hands-on approach with his music on Minorville, producing on 11 of the album's 15 tracks. "I'm really trying to carve my own lane out," he says. "It's really kind of scary because if the album's no good, I really can't point the finger. I'm the person who's behind this."

Track Listing
Click here to add a video. Click to add lyrics if not listed.
01. Lost In Minorville
02. IGWT (feat. Thi'sl)
03. Gimmie
04. We Gone Make It (feat. Canton Jones)
05. Ready, Set, Go
06. Hot Air Balloon (feat. Kiya Lacey)
07. We Are (Champions) (feat. SPZRKT)
08. Love You Better (feat. JC)
09. Respect That (feat. Deraj & RMG)
10. Making Me More (feat. Mel Washington)
11. Sweet Dreams
12. Dear Mr. Christian, (feat. Dee-1 & Lecrae)
13. Heaven's Little Runaway
Click To Add Lyrics
14. Homecoming (feat. Isaac Carree)
15. Deaf (Bonus)

Entry last edited by 007Bohn007 on 09.06.13

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A Milestone In Derek Minor's (fka PRo) Career | Posted September 10, 2013
 Minorville may have had something working against it from the start: It's been framed as a concept album. For that to be, it would have to have an arc, either as a progressive theme or with a story. It has neither. However, that may not be Minor's fault, and it may not be a bad thing.

In a recent promotional video from Reach Records, Derek Minor talks about Minorville: "I wanted to stretch my music content wise, as far as [...] there's a lot of topics that I think become dead horses, and what I wanted to do is approach different topics from different angles. I also wanted to say things that [...] we don't think to talk about. The goal is not to make a controversial album, but just to make an album that's real and connects with every day people. [...] It's a very organic, real, authentic, honest record." 

That's closer to what "Minorville" actually is: random stories and narratives taken from denizens of a fictional city. It's a bit overreaching as an overall theme, but it does work, as long as the listener doesn't expect any kind of arc or progression from song to song.

 The album starts off not with a gang-banger (as most CHH albums (including those by DM's former self, PRo) do these days), but with a light, smooth, bluesy, 1970's-styled joint reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz' "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over." While listening, I can already picture a POV video with DM walking down the street of a suburban neighborhood and talking right into the camera, because that's the vibe he immediately gives off: His rapping is so natural, his flow so elevated and subtle, that it seems to be nearly conversational.

Minorville, DM tells us, is the happiest place on earth (presumably second only to Disneyland):

"No political parties; the government's fair, right? /
It's illegal for fathers not to be in their kids' life. /
Marriages are happy, women are not objectified /
And rappers tell the truth..." 

After a minute of rapping about this supposed idyllic lifestyle, Minor begins the album proper with "IGWT (feat. Thi'sl)," and, in one narrative after another, shows us what the world is truly like: 

"High schools have armed guards because teenagers bear arms /
And they'll crack your head and put that video on World Star /
We look at [the] third world to turn up our nose /
Got the nerve to tell God we got it on our own"

Thi'sl brings his A-game to the track, growling out "In God we trust" as a sarcastic accusation instead of our nation's creed, following it up with a pleading "please take the government and put it in His hand."

Throughout Minorville's 54 minute running time, Minor covers topics as diverse as child pornography, drug abuse, social isolation, unwanted pregnancy, and the (presumably secular) world's obsession with money, fame, and power. Along with the album's varied themes, Minor skillfully utilizes varied rhythms; in a microcosm of the entire album, "Ready, Set, Go" starts off with an almost half-time feel, but by the time the chorus drops, Minor is spitting lyrics as fast and clean as anything label mates Andy Mineo or KB have ever done. 

Musically, the Tennessean is relying less heavily on his Southern roots than in the past, while adding increased references to crunk, as well as elements of east and west coast ("Respect That" even features a middle-eastern influenced introduction). While previous albums The Blackout and (to a lesser extent) Redemption found him genre-jumping, the music here flows together in a cohesive sound that is distinctly Derek Minor's alone. The single misstep may be the inclusion of an ethereal, beautiful track called "Heaven's Little Runaway" which, while serving as an intro to the next song, feels slightly out of place here.

 With the smooth flow of tracks such as "Hot Air Balloon" and "We Gone Make It (feat. Canton Jones)," and the slowly-get-under-your-skin hooks of more uptempo joints such as "Gimmie," Minorville is an album that demands repeated listens. There is nothing here that will grab and shake you into submission (such as "A Life Worth Dying For" or "Full Court Mess," both on DM's previous album Dying To Live). Rather, this is the kind of album that plays more like Memphis barbeque: cooked low and slow and tastes so much more satisfying. 

The Great:

The opening is so good, that I wish it had been a full track instead of merely an intro.
Minor's passion for his lyrics can be not only heard, but felt.
The album's high point, "Homecoming," mixes storytelling, music styles, and voice samples into a aural play. Listen to how Minor's voice actually changes through the song to fit the story; at times, it barely sounds like him. This isn't just a song; it's art.

 

Hot Tracks:

"Dear Mr. Christian," "Gimmie," "Ready, Set, Go," "Respect That (feat. Deraj & Rmg)," "Sweet Dreams," "Homecoming (feat. Isaac Carree)"
 

The Not-So-Great:

"IGWT (feat. Thi'sl)" does have some musical cliches in it, and the ending detracts from the song's urgent message.
The album's first few tracks, with their "life sucks" barrage, get a bit wearying and, **at times**, the album feels like it is centered more on worldly problems than on Christly solutions.

 

The Bottom Line:

This will be an iconic album for Derek Minor. I'm not certain it will be his personal Rebel (the album that Reach Records' head Lecrae is known for), but it certainly puts him in the position to make such an album. While that may sound like a dig, it actually means one thing: This man continues to get better with every recording he puts out. Minorville is a place you definitely need to visit. 4.5 stars from me.



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