|Sho Baraka: Breaking new ground and making people talk | Posted January 28, 2013
Sho Baraka has been an artist who has served some innovative content and music for the last few years. He shocked many when he left Reach Records, hoping to tackle issues that were not usually covered by Reach artists. He along with Swoope, JR and Suzy Rock formed High Society released a great album, High Society Collective.
It seemed as if his "stepping out" inspired others such as Lecrae to veer out and take his message to a broader audience. After hearing several interviews, many were anticipating his new release, Talented Tenth. This is an album that will have many talking and analyzing. The title is borrowed from the book of the same title by W.E. Dubois. The songs serve as chapters instead of tracks. The content is heavy and may not sit well with some listeners. He enlists the help of Swoope and JR to produce a few songs, but the majority of production is provided by Ali and theBeatBreaker.
This is an album where you will gain more and more insight with each listen. There are parts that will call for a rewind or two. It's thought-provoking and challenging. Even titles of each chapter (song) will require thought and pondering.
"Michael" is an ode to youth who have been abandoned by their father or have lost hope in life itself. These youth then go towards the wrong life, lose their life and the lust for power. The boom-bap screams "hip-hop," and the lyrics scream, "Hope--seek it from Christ."
"Mahalia" that has a straight Gospel music feel with the organ riffs and the looped and sped up singing of "Sooooooo good. So good to me." The clever wordplay is some of the best bars/lyrics that I have heard from a rapper in a long time. Check these lyrics: "Black belt in the wrong way / Ju don't know? / I did what my sin say (sensei) / I'm living well / may change my name to Jonah / I got a Hebrew walk keeping it Kosher / It's hard to be fly when you ducking the vultures." Who does that?
High Society cohort JR brings some progressive soul to the upbeat jam, "Mrs." Muhammed Ali always claimed that he is the greatest alive and he always followed that dream to be the greatest. Thus the title "Ali," on one of the tracks, but do not worry, Sho is not claiming to be the best rapper, yet he is saying that we should strive to be great in what God has called you to be.
Singer Ali (Jamm) wonderfully constructs the production while crooning through the hook. Sho and Suzy Rock spit about men who love their wives, try to be a Godly example and the girls who are scholars and women of faith. They feel this is the ultimate example of class while having swag is more of an immature way of living the life. Since they are speaking about class, they properly titled it after an actor that has been deemed the ultimate classy man and actor, "Denzel." Chantae Cann brings her smooth vocals over the infectious beat.
"Jim Crow" is a song that has already garnered much attention because of the use of the "n-word" to drive a point home. It is a song about racism and the "island" or the negative persona that racists in society have wanted black people to have. The haunting singing or moans plus the strings add much to the theme of the song.
He calls out those in the black community who are loving this "island" of negativity. Lyrics that have also garnered much criticism, talk and praise include, "That woman you call ‘hoe,' that's my lover / That woman you call b****, that's my mother / them boys that you killed, that's my brothers / send a ship to the island we can rescue some others." Could he have used different words? Yes. Would it have had the same impact? I don't know. Understand what he is trying to do and remember to listen to the whole thing.
On the song, "King," Sho tells his "dream" to see harmony no matter what race, people wanted God "and didn't settle for good," but the way he puts his "dream", you can tell that he put great thought into this. This song is multifaceted with Tedashii joining in to put in his two cents while the pop vocals of Lizi Bailey are a welcomed and beautiful contrast. Please listen to "Me" for amazing old school vocals of Lee Green (how does he do it?) and the extremely candid verses from Sho and Theory Hazit. They both cry for God's help to deliver them from themselves.
The ballad-like "Nicodemus" serves as the ending and completion of this album. It's a song about trying to find out who God really is a la Nicodemus and coming "home" to Him.
Talented Tenth has to be one of the best albums to come out in a while. Even though I may have cringed a few times, it does not overshadow the gems, the refreshing music, ridiculous word play and fresh approach to music that Sho Baraka displays. This is a CD that deals with the "whole man" and one that could really bring intellectuals, social advocates and more to Christ.
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