As a man who has traveled the world, Sho Baraka finds himself more and more engaged in things such as international affairs and domestic activism. Realizing that the Lord has given him a voice and a platform, he desires to use it to help contribute to cultural and personal change in society. To that end, Sho follows up "The Talented Tenth" with his newest album titled "The Narrative." The content of "The Narrative" touches on social consciousness, issues of everyday life and the struggles we face as humans. All the topics are saturated in a Gospel worldview which informs how Sho wrestles through each train of thought. Just as Sho has grown up and matured, so has the sound of his music. "The Narrative" is heavily influenced by jazz and soul, while still maintaining a hip-hop backbone. The soundscape is supported by live instrumentation, providing layers of musicality not often experienced on hip-hop albums. These musical arrangements act as a soundtrack to the vivid word pictures Sho paints with his potent lyrics for the entirety of "The Narrative".
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Changing the Narrative| Posted October 21, 2016
With one of the most awaited CHH releases this year, Sho Baraka has blessed his listeners with The Narrative. This album was over three years in the making, starting out as an independent release that was to be released under the name of Louis Portier as a partnership between Sho and featured artist Jamie Portee (who also produced eight tracks on the album).
The album is unique. Sonically, the album brings a strong jazz, funk and soul feel thanks to the production of Portee along with Nate Robinson (the BeatBreaker), JR (aka Courtney Orlando) and Swoope. Throughout The Narrative you will get a sense of James Brown, Marvin Gaye and John Coltrane.
Through artistic wordplay and blunt force, Sho pays homage to black history and elevates the conscience of the listener to want to learn more about the truth and "stay woke." Every track on the album has a message. The message may not be as "gospel" oriented as some may wish, however, it will create important discussions. The album probably won't win any awards in Christendom because it will offend the establishment. The album may provoke anger in some, and I can imagine some of the comment sections regarding some of the issues talked about here already.
Sho is a legend and always thought provoking. The Narrative evoked within me emotions such as sadness, remorse and repentance. This is probably due to the fact that I am a white man with a bucket load of white privilege. On the other hand, I can also feel the pain and hurt caused by systemic racism based on the fact I am in a bi-racial marriage with bi-racial children.
The Bottom Line: Sho Baraka gives us conscious hip hop that makes us think. It is not intended for easy listening. It was created to provide an important narrative during a critical time in our history.
Song to Download Now:
"Here, 2016" (Get it on iTunes here.)
P.S.: If you want a detailed listen of The Narrative you can check it out on First Spins on Forth District (be warned, it's 3.5 hours). It is a detailed breakdown of the album and discussion between Sho Baraka and the show host, Adan Bean.
Mark is a Christ follower, husband to one wife and father to three daughters. Mark's three passions are Jesus, Hip Hop and Coffee. He invites you to grab a single origin coffee and visit him at themarkcryan.com. You can also find him on twitter and Instagram as @themarkcryan.
Creative, Relevant and Important Music for Today| Posted July 27, 2017
Three years in the making, Sho Baraka returns with his fourth album. The fourteen songs address themes of race, faith and love. Each title has an accompanying year that symbolizes something important. It is an important album that is musically diverse and creative, and lyrically relevant. Below are a few comments on each song:
Foreward, 1619 – The opening track was written by the Beatbreaker (who also produced it), Adam Bean and Baraka. It features C Lacy and Bean. 1619 was the start of American slavery, which is addressed in Adam Bean’s verse. From 1619 and beyond, here he stands. He is a man. Baraka asks whether he should he pray or riot. He states that we are all desperate and broken. Don't close the book, I got more to write You can change the story, that is my advice
I read in color, they see black and white
You just saw the cover, but there's more to life
Soul, 1971 – This track was written by Baraka and produced by Jamie Portee, who also contributes vocals. It features some excellent James Brown-like horns. He’s picking up the pieces in a world that's fallen. He addresses being poor, bad schools, bad food, and bad predatory lenders.
Kanye, 2009 - This song was produced by Jamie Portee and Swoope. It features Jackie Hill-Perry, who co-wrote the song with Baraka. The song briefly opens with piano and a gospel choir. This is his Kanye rant. He has something to say and a lot on his mind. The track features some good sax work.
Love, 1959 – This song is produced by the Beatbreaker and Jamie Portee and written by Baraka. He references Jimmy Bee’s “If It Wasn’t For Love” in the opening. Features some good horns and piano. And if it wasn't for love, where would he be? It’s unconditional love that he needs.
Here, 2016 - This song is produced by the Beatbreaker and Swoope and features Lecrae, who co-wrote the song with Baraka. First of all, the song sounds great – live horns, drums and keys. It has jazz and soul elements. The song also has powerful lyrics, about justice, equality, holding politicians accountable, love over hate, faith, etc. The song ends with a spoken word piece about the strength of Black women.
30 & Up, 1986 – This song is produced by J.R. and features Courtney Orlando, who co-writes the song with Baraka. Baraka has said that this is a song that celebrates those people who are living life 30 and up in the sense of love and relationships. A key lyric: You know we got to work to stay in love.
Profhet, 1968 - This song is produced by and features Jamie Portee, who co-writes it with Baraka. Baraka has said that the song is about the commodification of him as an individual, his body, his likeness, his tonality, also his religion, his faith, and how sometimes we allow ourselves to be pimped out and sold. And also, the idea that activism needs prophets, not profit. You can offer him money but you can’t have his soul. A key lyric: I'm undervalued but I can be a prophet. Maybe Both, 1865 – This song is produced by, and features Jamie Portee, who also co-wrote the song with Baraka. This song is loosely based on Malcolm X’s “Ballot in a Bullet” speech. He critiques both political parties, and looks at how we can use Jesus to promote our own agendas, but understands that Christ is pretty complicated. A key lyric: Are they killing with a pistol or a vote?
Excellent, 2017 – This song is produced and features Courtney Orlando, who also co-wrote the song with Baraka. Creative musically, he mentions several people in this song. A key lyric: I know Black lives matter, and they should matter in the womb.
Road to Humble, 1979 – This autobiographical song is produced by Jamie Portee, who also co-wrote the song with Baraka. He raps about pride, salvation, being a part of 116 Clique, Reach and Humble Beast. A key lyric I'm deeply loved, I'm forgiven, I have vision. He has changed my condition on the day he was risen.
Myhood, U.S.A., 1937 – This song is produced by theBeatbreaker and features Venessa Hill, who also co-wrote the song with Baraka, theBeatbreaker and Lataurus Johnson. Baraka tells us a love story, though not your typical love story. He gives us a history lesson for Black Americans from the 1930s onward using a fictional 'Myhood USA'. A key lyric: This is a love song, I like to call it justice.
Words, 2006 – This song is produced by theBeatbreaker and Jamie Portee and written by Baraka. It is about being a father of a child with special needs and his father with cancer. It opens with a baby crying over a piano, then builds with drums. Key lyric: Maybe we don’t need words to communicate our love.
Fathers, 2004 – This song is produced by Jamie Portee and written by Baraka. Musically, it’s more laid back, with piano, light drums and horns. He gives advice and encouragement to first his son, and then daughter, and finally to other fathers. Key lyric: How do you spell Dad? It goes L-O-V-E.
Piano Break, 33 A.D. - The final song is produced by Jamie Portee and written by Baraka. He sings about being made in the image of God and celebrating that.
Contains some language that got the album banned from a major Christian bookstore chain. Features piano over a drum beat. Includes samples from a preacher, who shouts “Hallelujah” throughout the song. Key lyrics: If my words bring conviction, let's call in context, I'm realizin' life is pretty complex and I'm a servant, but I have a room in the palace.