I've almost come to view Reach Records albums the way I view Pixar films. Every new one is different from the last but bound to be high quality. I was very exited at the thought of Trip Lee's Between Two Worlds album. His guest spots are usually a highlight on other rappers albums - so a full album of his own is bound to be awesome right? Well I'm sad to say that's not the case.
Between Two Worlds
Judging by the Amazon reviews I may be the only person on the planet that thinks this way, but for me nothing on the album hangs together right. The overall tone of the record seems a little dark, beats are mostly uninspiring, too many tracks filled with noodly gypsy violin solos. The raps themselves are either well done but targeting topics that have been done better before or have a fresh theme or angle (like confession in Snitch or the resurrection in Invasion) that Trip doesn't really handle in any interesting way.
Sadly it makes me want to paraphrase the comment ascribe to Dr Johnson "Your record is both good and original, but the parts that are good aren't original and the parts that are original aren't very good". The production seems sonically cluttered even though on some tracks there's very little on there and occasionally Trips vocals are almost drowned out by the track.
I can't put my finger on what is wrong with this album. I've listened to it so much trying to will myself to like it more that I've ended up liking it even less. Trip almost sounds like a young guy who is not ready to carry his album yet - but this is his third.
The one ray of light is the first part of Twisted. For about a minute and a half the track motors along with a passion, energy and originality that seems to have bypassed the rest of the set. Racking my brains to think what was different about this track, it hit me.
The first section of the song features Lecrae all by himself.
Which brings me to Rehab by Lecrae. He seems to have a first among equals status among the Reach Records guys, so any CD by 'Crae is a big deal. And he doesn't disappoint.
Every track is packed with passion, dazzling artistry and deep theology. Some things grab you first or second time around but there are lines that on the tenth listen suddenly jump out at you as you realise how profound an insight he has just managed to slot into two lines.
There are some huge tracks on this record (High, Divine Intervention, Walking On Water) but first place must go to 40 Deep. Over a track that sounds like an outtake from Kill Bill or Enter The Dragon we get 3 body slamming verses from Crae, Tedashii & Trip Lee. And back to form Trip shines (as does Tedashii - singing!).
If this record stood on Lecrae's rapping alone it would be straight out one of 2010’s top albums, but there are a couple of things that let it down. Biggest of all are the hooks.
A chorus on a rap tune is supposed to give you something memorable to grab onto as the millions of words speed by you. The hooks for the most part fail here in an epic way. Tracks with a rap hook (40 Deep, Used To Do It Too, High) are fine, but the tracks with a sung chorus just ramble, have too many words, little definable shape (God Is Enough, ‘Nuff), and sometimes seem unsure about what the title is (Gotta Know). It sounds like Lecrae just let the singer improvise till they got something usable or wrote a rap chorus and then got someone to make up a tune.
Here's my plea - Lecrae you need to work with a real songwriter!
Second I'm a little uncomfortable with the whole ‘rehab’ vibe. NOT cos I have a problem with Christian artists going mainstream, NOT because I'm against Christian rappers reaching out evangelistically to the unchurched. But the artwork (Lecrae blowing smoke like he has a joint just out of shot), songs like Check In and Killa and the whole Rehab concept itself, seems engineered to pull some kind of bait and switch scam on non-christians. eg “Hey kids I'm a gangster doing drugs, screwing my life up. Check me out!” but then when they buy the record it’s "hey praise the Lord, you've been suckered into buying a gospel rap CD"
I won’t mention the continuing Reach Records tradition of awful artwork. I’ll just say ‘light grey liner notes on grey/black background’ and leave it at that.
Overall, a lot of great songs on here and well worth checking out, but I am hoping that Lecrae can kick the habit of putting lame hooks into his music.
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