Tomorrow We Live, Today We Shine
Posted April 28, 2015
By MarcusHathcock_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Trip Lee and Tedashii have made some major comebacks as of late, with the latter just having come off the massive Rock & Worship Roadshow tour. Andy Mineo has been making appearances on Sway in the Morning and saw his latest project hit No. 1 on the rap charts. Lecrae just won a GRAMMY (and had a couple other nominations too), had a No. 1 record and appeared on a number of national television shows.
So how in the world does KB make some noise among an already noisy Reach Records roster? By doing what he does best--thoughtful, powerful wordplay.
In his sophomore full-length album and follow-up to last year's 100 EP, at the artist legally known as Kevin Burgess took a comprehensive look at the human experience and the ultimate hope that spurs us on with Tomorrow We Live. In an interview with NRT, KB said the record takes listeners through a "collection of moments" in a 24-hour period.
The result is a profound mix of musical excellence, brilliant wordplay and spiritual gravitas that stands up to the best projects contemporary hip-hop has to offer.
While many rappers love to flaunt their money and expensive trappings, KB flaunts the riches of the Kingdom of God in "Rich Forever": "Let that money fall / But when it's all said and done / We'll still be countin' / We rollin' in it."
He further clarifies: "Be rich in good works cause that's what you bring home / In the face of heaven's gates." This mid-tempo song reflects on how God has brought him from having an "empty fridge apartment with no power in it" to being able to provide for his family, but notes it's not his focus: "Your money's too cheap to fund my joy."
Fans will recognize the song, as it's mostly taking pieces from the tune "Silver and Gold," which KB released via SoundCloud in August 2014.
The father of a one-year-old son now, KB says the experience of becoming a parent has fundamentally changed everything about him as a person. He includes the experience of being a family man with the songs "Fall In Love With You" (dedicated to his baby) and "Always & Forever," a song of fidelity and love for his wife. The interlude track "9 A.M." is a tender moment of KB walking in the door of his home to greet his wife and baby.
"Fall In Love With You" is the most lighthearted KB track to date, with a gentle ukulele providing most of the background to the bubbly, gentle pop ode to falling in love with his son. "Always & Forever" gives more than a nod to 1970s funk love songs (but with a Christian marriage covenant in the forefront), and would be quite the fitting group dance number at a wedding reception. (Word has it that KB wrote the tune picturing being at a wedding reception, so there you go.) The bass grooves from Kendrick Lamar's bassist, along with the disco strings, provides a nice musical diversion (as did "Fall In Love With You").
Perhaps the most surprising part of that song is that KB does no rapping at all on it. He's... singing? Indeed, KB has been taking voice lessons and has been building his vocal chops, and it's clear he's got some pipes (also showcased on the bonus song, "Find Your Way.")
KB definitely tackles the challenges of life on earth, too, from dealing with scrutiny from inside and outside the church ("Sideways") to sobering thoughts about death and dying ("Cruising"), to the struggle between succeeding and serving ("Crowns & Thorns"), to women's unhealthy views of themselves (bonus track "Find Your Way") and the internal struggles of depression and sin ("Drowning"). The song "Sideways" in particular is a standout, not just because Lecrae features on it (and originally intended it as part of his Anomaly project), but because it encapsulates the unique place followers of Christ can find themselves not fitting in with the hyper-religious and the anti-religious.
One of the standout tracks for sure is also the heaviest. "Calling You" is a dramatic telling of KB's friend--an Iraq war veteran--struggling with taking his life. The track starts off fairly quiet in its introduction, before exploding into aggressive verse, much like the way you'd expect a crisis like this to emerge: suddenly.
Playing out like a thriller, KB tries to speak life to his friend who wants to die after coming back from war, losing his family and everything that meant something to him. Taking place at 3 a.m., the track is a gripping dialogue between KB and his friend. There's a reference to Kanye West in the song, referring to the lifestyle he promotes and the comfort to which he points people: "But you been looking to the weed and them dancers / Don't be conned by the Ye / Nobody in the West got the answers."
Probably the most heartbreaking part of this song is that it's based on a true story--one that didn't end the same way as the song. KB's real friend actually took his life. It makes his plea all the more poignant: "Jason, I love you, but the next step is God, homie / You ain't escaping a thing / You know Jesus wanted to die in that garden / Acquainted to man and his sorrows / But he kept up the fight / Cause he knew joy, it was coming tomorrow." His friend, tragically, didn't get to that part of the story.
Despite life's challenges, though, the album's called Tomorrow We Live, and there's a thread of hope woven throughout. Probably the biggest declaration of that is in the tribal-sounding uptempo banger "I Believe" featuring Mattie from hardcore band For Today. That tune uses a screaming sports chant--"I... I believe... I believe that we will win!"--as the main hook of the tune. It's a declaration that today's struggles pale in comparison to the present and future hope we have: "The dream works no matter how bad the pics are / Cause I see how bad the globe is / But they don't know how mad our hope is / They don't know how bad we want this / It ain't where we at boy, it's where we're going!"
"I Believe" also has a legit theological treatise on suffering inserted into a verse: "As struggles do multiple valuable things that are wonderful / We suffer though, hustle through all the things / He wants to humble you / Humble you, take you and break you and make you into another dude." The title phrase finds a place in this rallying cry: "Take away any other truth / He's the One that can comfort you / Wait on it; tomorrow we live!"
That confidence drives us to accomplish great and eternal things in life. "The only type of life in this life that is really worth livin' is the life that will go and take risks," declares KB in "Ima Just Do It," a song that is all about doing the right thing at the right time without fear. KB takes aim at the fellas out there who date their girl for six years without putting a ring on her, asking, "You livin' by faith or are you livin' by your fear though?" One of the best uptempo songs in the bunch, it puts a happy face on the underlying message, which is, "Get off your rear and do something with your life."
A cameo by KB's buddy, professional golfer Bubba Watson is an unexpected but fun addition to the song, which features the most hilarious line on the whole record: "Not a gangsta rapper, but my caddie got a nine."
The best song on the entire project has to be "Lights Go Out" featuring Blanca and Justin Ebach. Beach's piercing, Adam Levine-like voice opens the track, and the immediate thought is, "Who IS this guy?" He's a songwriter, content to be in the background, apparently, but KB--not one to care about names or titles--insisted he sing the hook.
Lyrically and thematically, the song is all about KB singing to someone named CeCe, which, from a Christian perspective, you can quickly figure out is the Christian Church or Christ's Church. He said he'd die for CeCe, and all he does is for CeCe: "Every line on my EP from the mixtape, singles to CDs / Pray to God she'd see me making sure that she's eating."
The head-banging jam declares love and allegiance to CeCe, despite being brutally attacked by her: "Hurt me more than my enemies ever could, but I take it / Leave you? No never, I never would." Throughout there's a beautiful personification of the Church, from her beauty, to her flaws, to her self-hatred and checkered past... through it all, "When the lights go out, it's gonna be me and you." Blanca gradually finds her way into the song, providing natural crescendo with her dramatic vocals.
KB's Tomorrow We Live is best enjoyed with the lyrics right in front of you, if you're like I am and can't necessarily pick them out from one cursory listen. It's a bit mind boggling how much meaning and clever wordplay KB packs into each of his rhymes (he even hints in one of the songs that most people won't pick up on it). The recording is top notch with Dirty Rice and Joseph Prielozny handling the bulk of production duties.
But bigger than that is the soundtrack of real, struggling humans trying to live in this broken world, and trying to do so with the help of Jesus. From the big numbers of declaration and celebration to the rock bottom moments of struggle and loss, KB is at the top of his game in meeting people where they're at and calling them to the great hope he has. And he does that by unveiling some new tricks, particularly his newfound singing ability.
This is sure to be one of the strongest releases in Christian hip-hop this year, and my only hope is that it doesn't get lost among the bigger names in the industry (or even in KB's own record label), because this is deep, introspective, challenging material here.
Some of the Best Lines:
"Derek Jeter, boy, we cool being Number 2."
"No biggie to me that you could do it B-I-G / 'Til you and God align like a DMV"
"They wanna see your boy Kevin wear (down)" (Kevin Ware reference)
"Reading James, can't let my heart harden, boy." (James Harden reference)
"Jacked for every nickel, son." (Jack Nicholson reference)
"Spend your life trying to be a 'ten' / When that ten ain't worth a dime."
"Not a gansta rapper / But my caddie's got a nine."
Song to Download Now:
"Lights Go Out" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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