Bringing Back the Live Experience of Music | Posted May-27-2021 What You Need To Know:
Zauntee is a 22-year-old independent rapper from Tampa, Florida. His passion for music began at the young age of 10 progressing forward to the age of 14 when he started to produce his own music. Zauntee’s made a prominent impact on the Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) genre shortly after at the age of 17 when his first single and video debuted “God Taught Me.” To date, the video has nearly 9.5 million views.
Three years after exploding onto the CHH scene, Zauntee released his debut album titled, 3:34. Seven months afterward, three tracks from the debut album and “God Taught Me” received a minor makeover for his latest EP release titled, 3:34: The Warehouse Sessions.
What it Sounds Like:
Zauntee’s latest 4-track EP keeps alive some of his hottest tracks from the debut album released in November 2020. Also, “God Taught Me” is still going strong nearly four years after its initial 2017 release. The differences of each track are subtle, electric guitar-driven with more of an echoed delivery you’d hear if a fan at a live show. Besides a few new guitar riffs, bends and slides, the sound remains true to the original offerings. All of the original lyrics remain as well as the core production soundscape.
The EP presents more of the live experience missed from nearly two years of isolation caused by the global pandemic. Each track also received visuals in video form providing fans as close of a concert experience as possible given the circumstances.
Like most within the CHH genre, Zauntee is unashamed of the gospel and spreading the Good News of Christ. One of the most prominent examples is the track “Glory.” Literally, it’s a worship-infused track with a whirlwind of impressive sounds and an ode to God our Creator. “Trust” dives into Zauntee’s personal trust in God regardless of the circumstance. “Die For You” explains his thankfulness for all God represents in his life and how he’d do nearly anything in return as a form of payment, gratitude.
There is no lack of God’s presence on this EP. It’s smothered and laced in faith, worship, and devotion. It’s a letter of encouragement during the difficult faith walk.
Best Song on the Record:
My personal favorite on The Warehouse Sessions would be “Glory.” It’s stuck directly in the middle of the track selection with reason. Besides “God Taught Me,” this track is my favorite track to date from Zauntee. I love the sonic appeal of the track. The added electric guitar components. The throaty, live vocals. The energy of the track. The crossover between the feel of a gospel track and a hip-hop track is incredible.
Zauntee’s follow-up EP to his debut album has a different, yet familiar feel. The content remains consistent and unchanged; however, differences are obviously noted throughout the soundscape and overall vibe. It’s a solid snapshot of the full picture of quality music present on the debut. The videos that go with the four tracks are worth watching, especially if you crave the concert venue environment as much as I do.
Testimony Exposed Between Valleys and Blessings | Posted April-13-2021 What You Need To Know
During the short-term period of just two years, Georgia's own Christopher Hulvey has exploded onto the Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) scene evolving from scrubbing toilets in a local grocery store to a certified hip-hop artist signed to Reach Records, one of the most profound music labels within the industry.
Rapper, singer, freestyler, and producer credits contribute to one of the most famed up-and-coming artists in CHH. Before signing with Reach Records in January of 2020 and releasing his debut EP Prelude the same month, Hulvey released his personal agenda to God before fully encompassing what His creator planned for the now 23-year-old lyricist. Four EPs and a handful of singles later, fans are rewarded with his debut album, Christopher.
Transparency takes front and center throughout the new album, representing an audio timeline from high school to present day. Hulvey’s transformation in maturity, faith, and artistry is exposed through snapshot moments of time pinpointed as game-changers.
The idea of worship is true to form as a lifestyle and not concealed to musical restraints as Hulvey’s heart for God is spotlighted all for His glory. Christopher correlates the best of Hulvey’s arsenal in rhyme and harmony perfected while expressing how the last decade has molded him into the man he represents today.
What it Sounds Like
The beauty resides in the various soundscapes experienced throughout Christopher. Worship anthems, Friday-night bangers, pop-driven hits, freestyle perfection, and songs of remembrance assemble collectively. A correlation of meaningful strings, energetic keys, and masterful mixes seesaw between the pulse of the streets and the refuge of the sanctuary.
Standout tracks tagged begin front and center with the first track, “Can’t Tell It All.” The beat, including the switch-up, is infectious. Hulvey’s flow comfortably and elegantly sits in the pocket. Rhyme schemes are on point and the content pours out directly from the heart and blessings from God.
Also, a highlight stems from one of the pre-release singles, “We Against the World,” featuring fellow hip-hop artist Andy Mineo. The visuals alone are worthy of a Best Video of the Year award nod. Andy’s acting mimics the caliber of an Oscar winner for Best Comedic Performance. Besides that, Hulvey explains how life is impossible alone, as we need a loving God beside us to foster success.
“Nothing Without Jesus” brings Revelation 12:11 to life, accenting how important a believer’s testimony is personally and to others in need.
The listener doesn’t have to wait long to hear of how God’s influence is written all over Hulvey's life. His first name, for starters, means “Christ Bearer.” From start to finish, on his debut album, Hulvey's goal was to glorify God. The entire project bleeds of God’s blessings, protection, and love everlasting—on his life and the life of his peers. From mission trip miracles to God’s calling not always being popular among friends—and even times feeling apart from the calling—Hulvey details how good our God is and the impact felt from preschool years forward.
Empowering lyrics follow one after another such as, “Holy Spirit, come into my life/Won't You wrap me up inside Your light?” Also, “All praise to the Father, to the Son/To the Spirit, You're the one/Hope You hear it, He's the one.”
Christopher is smothered in spiritual content—just like Hulvey's life. The goal of glorifying God as the overall theme of the record was accomplished hands down.
“Cold Nights” stands out on its own for good reason. As believers, we know how to praise and worship our creator when times are good. When life seems to ride on auto-pilot. However, how about the difficult seasons? The restless nights? The times we’re stuck in the valley? Those are the types of tracks I personally relate to the most.
Like many, 2020 was a year of struggle. The pandemic exposed many emotions usually well-kept hidden. Depression, anxiety, uncertainty, and a storm of negativity laced the year. Hulvey shares some of his own experiences and anxiety from that year and generally speaking. He calls out to us to reach out to those in need often and to always remember to praise Him even in the storm.
Hulvey infuses hope and passion into his brand of artistry. Christopher is a body of work well defined as a Christ-centered, unapologetic expression of faith. Listeners were treated to the raw form of Hulvey and his creative arsenal of talent. In the past 365 days, he’s provided a buffet of sound and material to marinate upon. The rapper has cemented himself as one of the top emcees in the space—and he’s only just began.
Stream Christopher on Spotify or purchase the debut album on iTunes.
Resetting the Culture One Track at a Time | Posted April-13-2021
What You Need To Know
Celebrating basically two decades involved in Christian Hip-Hop, Propaganda has nearly perfected the art of spoken word, poetry, and rap. In 2003, he collaborated with underground group Tunnel Rats, while beginning his own solo career with his debut album, Out of Knowhere.
Propaganda’s upbringing began in a Latino-dominated community in Los Angeles, followed by a low-income African American suburb (he was exposed to beautiful cultures from childhood). With his mother’s activist background, personal educational excellence, diverse cultural impacts, and life experiences, Propaganda has grown into a well-seasoned artist, emcee, and learner who can convey his message and sound through artistic mediums like poetry and music.
Propaganda presents to us one of his strongest works, to date—even in its shortened EP form. It’s definitely quality over quantity with his new Terraform: The People EP. He offers the idea of a cultural reset needed nationwide geared towards embracing America’s unique and numerous cultures, as opposed to berating individuals and mocking cultural differences often. To me, it says, "God made beautiful people worldwide who have gathered in our own borders."
What it Sounds Like
On the EP, On-air DJ Mal-Ski, from 102.3 KJLH, on Los Angeles radio, collaborated with Propaganda, thus adding a unique sound and flavor to the artwork. Also, Propoganda tagged some of the Christian music industry heavyweights—that is, Lecrae, Swoope, and V. Rose—to join him throughout this journey. Overall, the sound is a refreshing escape from what typical Cristian hip-hop singles have offered in 2021.
Between infectious handclaps and keys, Propoganda’s domineering delivery, echoing sounds of people gathered, and driving snares give listeners a different flavor. It’s not your typical trap sound. It’s not completely boom bap either. It’s a mixture of sonically pleasing instrumentation, highlighting how cultures express themselves musically.
“We Were Only 10” takes me back to the mid-’90s when storytelling rhyming was in its prime. “We All In,” featuring Lecrae, brings the idea of universal community to the forefront. It reminds us how beautiful culture can be defined when experienced firsthand.
“We No Entiende,” featuring Swoope, reminds us social injustice and police brutality aren’t concealed to “flavors of the month” for news sources. It’s a daily occurrence and needs to be broadcasted often, enabling the masses to never forget.
Propaganda wraps up with “Let the Credits Roll,” reminding us how important it is to appreciate the family and people who came before us and the roles they played in influencing lives of our own.
As mentioned, the recurring tone of a refreshing sound enters my mind when thinking about the overall content and soundscape. Each track stands out and could potentially shine on its own. Yet, collectively speaking, each track compliments the other quite remarkably. Again, quality trumps quantity with this EP, as it represents nearly 22 minutes of inner dialogue with self. A gut check. An introspection of emotions and thoughts against our actions and words.
Propaganda may not be known for his “JPMs” (Jesus per minute) on these tracks, however, his deeply-rooted faith can be found throughout this EP; in fact, his faith can be found on every one of his collections. He speaks more towards the actions and words of believers—or lack thereof—and exposes systematic injustice globally (this includes the church). Propaganda offers artistic solutions to situations that plague individuals on a daily basis—especially those of color.
Best Song on the Record
Collectively, Terraform: The People will sit in my personal rotation for weeks to follow. However, one standout track is “We All In,” which features Lecrae. The soundscape throughout the song is near perfection. The themes of community, culture, and unity accented on the project are pinpointed on this particular track.
One unique aspect driving the entire vibe is the heartbeat-like sound pulsating until the end, again relevant to that of what keeps communities alive—the lifeline of its people. As a long-time fan of Lecrae, this song speaks volumes that I find this feature to be one of his strongest to date.
Steady in the pocket, rhyme schemes well-defined, and a memorable flow. Of course, Propaganda did his thing. He offers some of the best examples of creative wordplay while remaining confident in the delivery. I can definitely see this track performing well—even if Lecrae’s verse is absent. The song reminds me of someone speaking out in front of a crowd, primed to jump at any opportunity to move forward for the culture.
I’ll echo the sentiment once again—quality over quantity. Usually, I’m not the biggest fan of the shortened EP form of music artistry, as the complete story is usually unfinished. However, Terraform: The People presents itself as the opposite. A complete work.
Propaganda reveals his motive from start to finish, while walking it out sonically. The rapper reminds me of a street version of contemporary Christian singer Kirk Franklin. Orchestrating soundtracks for the people moving individuals into a call for action; driven by transparent bars, personal experiences, and a heart for the Lord.
I admire Propoganda's confidence. He's unafraid to speak on issues of the people and for the people. He's for moving agendas forward towards solutions. A front runner. The purpose is imprinted in everything Propoganda touches. This is one appeal I’ve always been drawn towards—regardless of the album title. Propaganda, once again, outdid himself with this one. A must listen.
Stream Terraform: The People on Spotify or purchase the EP on iTunes.
Worship Like No Other | Posted February-03-2021 What You Need To Know
Australian natives Planetboom are the youth ministry band for the Planetshakers Church in Melbourne, Australia. This 10-plus member band is composed of young musicians, songwriters, and vocalists who lead thousands of teenagers in praise and worship weekly. Planetboom’s style of music infuses electronic dance music (EDM), hip-hop, contemporary, rock, and soulful worship powered by energetic handclaps, bass, and overpowering vocals.
The youth worship band began their public musical outreach by being featured on a track from a Planetshakers’ album in 2016. Next, three singles were released in 2018 and their debut album was released in 2019 titled, Jesus Over Everything. Most of their early singles have gathered over one million streams on Spotify, and the last two albums have songs close to 500,000 streams.
The youth band recently released JC Squad, their sophomore album. The project was inspired by the diversity present during weekly youth services representing 60 or more nationalities. Their goal is to witness generations of youth and young adults encounter the love of Jesus. JC Squad was produced by Josh Ham, mixed by worship leader Joth Hunt, and co-written by youth pastor Andy Harrison. The album serves as a message about the global church body.
What it Sounds Like
A multitude of elements is present throughout the album. An ode to the diversity present, it’s near impossible to fit Planetboom into a boxed genre. This is one of the most attractive qualities of their music and influence, from my personal perspective.
The album opens up with “Walk” while listeners are exposed to thundering bass, funky electronic rhythms, as well as crowd involvement. These sure-fire anthems will be a blast live once concerts and in-person events are possible again. The opener is immediately followed by the title track from the album. “JC Squad” encompasses variety in every shape and form. It’s complete with tempo changes, earth-shattering bass, sounds of a flute, sermon snippets, hypnotic handclaps, and an electronic explosion of sound.
The overall sonic value of the entire album is insanity at best with what feels like 101 examples of unique instrumentation. It’s a full-on combined Chinese and breakfast buffet smothered with more options than Amazon. There isn’t any lack of creativity and experimentation on the album. Thankfully, regardless of how many twists and turns the album takes via the soundscape, it all worked out beautifully in so many ways.
The only hints of normalcy related to an atypical worship track would be on “ILY (Live),” “All I Need,” and “Jesus is The Key.” It’s like the band took a short pause from the energetic theme throughout to just sing in awe of the love of Jesus. From there, the music quickly returns to its regularly scheduled dance party finishing out the album.
Due to the fact that the album is considered a collection of worship music, listeners are not hard-pressed to hear the spiritual influence of the band throughout the lyrics, regardless of the track. Fueled by youthful, spirited devout followers of Christ, each song possesses its own heavenly sound praising our Father and Savior equally.
“Kamsahamnida (Live)” exclaims, 'Jesus is the best.' Several tracks, such as “Loved By You” and “All I Need,” are just personal and expressive outcries to God and how much His love is appreciated by believers. “Praise Over Problems (VIP Mix)” is a remix of one of their original blockbusters that assures believers regardless of the trials and valleys faced, we shall always praise God for all the positive situations in life we’re blessed with frequently.
Best Song on the Record
A difficult choice, but if I had to select a favorite, I’d chose “Walk.” It’s an amazing opening track for the album cementing what to expect. The energy is infectious. The call-and-response of “We Win” closing the track out. The booming bass. All combined, I’d say this track is one of my favorites of the worship genre in quite some time.
Planetboom achieved something few other bands and artists have, a unique sound. No other band sounds like Planetboom regardless of the track. It’s memorizing. It’s unique. It’s over-the-top. It’s everything I never knew my ears and soul needed. I adore all of the various instrumentation and eclectic soundscapes. This is one of the few albums I’ve listened to 10-plus times in less than a month’s time. I hope other youth group bands follow the creative mold Planetboom has set going forward.
Servitude Through Music | Posted November-23-2020 What You Need To Know
Zauntee is a 21-year old independent rapper from Tampa, Florida. His passion for music began at the young age of 10. He started producing his own music. Zauntee’s made a prominent impact on the Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) genre shortly after at the age of 17 when his first single and video debuted “God Taught Me.” To date, the video has over 8.5 million views.
Zauntee has quite a successful touring history in a small span of time. He joined Casting Crowns for their Only Jesus Tour covering nearly 60 dates of travel. Then, he joined the Winter Jam tour in 2020 for a little more than 20 dates before the tour was canceled due to COVID-19.
Now, three years after exploding onto the Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) scene, Zauntee releases his debut album, 3:34. In September 2020, Zauntee explained his concept behind the album on Twitter: “We all have different battles, but we feel the same emotions. I have three desires: to glorify God, to take care of my family, and to be here for you (his fans).” 3:34 is personal. It’s transparent. It’s a direct connection between the music and the fans. This is for his fans, named the Zealots.
What it Sounds Like
Zauntee took a unique approach to how the album begins. Instead of launching his debut with a set of energetic, hype tracks, he chose his lead single for the project to be “I’m Sorry,” an apologetic display of emotional rawness putting everything on the line.
The album's tempo relates directly to the roller coaster of ups and downs. And, the album finishes strong, claiming victory through Jesus. 3:34 mirrors such with several slowed-down lyrical testimonies of faith sprinkled with powerful body-moving anthems wrapped up the single that started it all, “God Taught Me.”
The instrumentation stands out as an album highlight. Throughout, listeners will hear electric guitar, trumpet, piano, a choir, bells, and your typical dose of trap-laced high hats, as well as strong basslines. The diversity of the tracks impresses as well. The uber personal tracks like “Hurricane” and “I’m Sorry.” The summer, game-time powerhouses like “Winning” and “Showtime.” The soon-to-be radio hit “Glory.” There are hidden gems for every type of mood.
Like most artists within the CHH genre, Zauntee is unashamed of the gospel and spreading the Good News of Christ. One of the most prominent examples is the track “Glory.” Literally, it’s a worship-infused track with a whirlwind of impressive sounds and an ode to God, our creator. “Trust” dives into Zauntee’s personal trust in God regardless of the circumstance. “Die For You” explains his thankfulness for all God represents in his life and how he’d do nearly anything in return as a form of payment, gratitude.
There is no lack of God’s presence on this album. It’s smothered and laced in faith, worship, and devotion. It’s a letter of encouragement during the difficult faith walk from start to finish.
Best Song on the Record
My personal favorite track is “Glory.” It’s placed directly in the middle of the album with reason. I love the song's sonic appeal: the electric guitar, the choir, as well as the track's energy. The crossover between gospel and hip-hop is incredible. I’d love to see this track remixed with the likes of Tye Tribbett, Dietrick Haddon, or Travis Greene.
Zauntee’s debut album has a different vibe for most moods on any given day. Songs that encourage. Songs you can relate to. Songs that hype you up. It’s a welcomed collection of sounds begging for repeat listens. He’s discovered his core sound from the beginning, as many years of constant success are sure to follow his footsteps in the years to follow.
Stream the debut album on Spotify or purchase the project on iTunes.
The Ups and Downs of Growing Up | Posted November-12-2020 What You Need To Know:
Seattle-based resident Peabod (birth name Isaac Peabody) has one of the more creative roads to hip-hop in the Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) community. Peabod began his music career as a singer/songwriter in the folk genre. In 2014, he independently released an EP titled, Steps. However, Peabod was always rooted in hip-hop. He used to write rhymes for fun. It was a deeper passion unexplored. These “for fun” raps transformed into a mixtape. The mixtape was named Healthy Snacks. The self-produced engineered and recorded project caught the ears of staff at Centricity Music. In 2018, the label signed its first hip-hop artist. Centricity re-released Healthy Snacks as Peabod’s debut project.
Peabod’s latest EP, Growing Up, Pt. 1, is a collection of previously released singles from 2020 and two new tracks. He brought a few friends along for the storytelling journey, included his beloved wife Belle, Reach Records’ Tedashii, Gotee’s Cochren & Co., and independent rapper AKLESSO adds their talents to an overall impressive collective sound throughout the EP.
What it Sounds Like:
Just when you think concept projects are a thing of the past, Peabod creatively develops an EP with a story. The track names are perfect pertaining to the name of the EP. While we experience childhood and growing up, it’s both wonderful and scary. When we’re engaged in a relationship with our heavenly Father early on, we’re compelled to love everybody. During certain milestones in those early years, we experience big feelings grander than anything we previously experienced. Then, most of us relate to the prodigal son parable from the bible when we stray away on our own terms during teenage years returning years later when we solidify our faith.
The EP begins with the latest single from Peabod, “Wonderful and Scary.” As previously described, he presents the beginnings of his life and how everything can be both wonderful and scary as a child. He displays his own lyrical prowess with an impressive flow packed with metaphors and experiences every listener can relate with. An intro of sorts to the project, a portrait of his humble paintings is displayed lyrically providing a peek inside the creative mode Peabod possesses.
Next, we’re introduced to the first of two new tracks from Peabod, “Love Everybody” featuring Tedashii. He expresses a command directly from our Savior, love God and love thy neighbor. Essentially, love everyone. The track personifies Peabod’s “happy raps” reputation his music provides. The eccentric high hats and handclaps force a smile on the listener’s faces. It’s basically the definition of Peabod and his outlook beautifully displayed. Tedashii’s contributions highlight an already dope track.
The second brand new offering wraps up the EP, “Prodigal” featuring Belle (his wife). It’s an expansion from Peabod’s own viewpoint of the biblical parable describing the prodigal son. The contribution from Belle Peabody accents the track reminiscent of the father running to the son when he returns home and perfectly wraps up the first part of growing up from the mind of Peabod. The chorus/hook reminds me of how angels would react when the son returns and the heavens rejoice. Powerful and in perfect harmony.
The remaining two tracks were revealed to Peabod’s fanbase during the summer. “Big Feelings” featuring AKLESSO and “Heavenly Father” featuring Cochren and Co. These two marry well as “Big Feelings” reveals the inner workings of Peabod from a transparent introspective of struggle and doubt whereas “Heavenly Father” answers the call of prayer when we’re at our weakest crying out in worship to God.
The contents of the EP explain how Peabod found his faith early on during his childhood years. We discover the inner battle he struggles with early on carried forward into time as an adult. It showcases how his faith has grown from basic to extended wisdom through lessons and experiences.
In “Wonderful and Scary,” we hear of how Peabod is thankful for the blessings even though they may seem scary before being revealed as something wonderful. With “Love Everybody,” he takes God’s basic command to love everyone and applies it to his life outward. “Big Feelings” expresses how God remains with us regardless of the highs and lows we experience often. “Heavenly Father” exposes his everlasting love regardless of our own struggles. “Prodigal” is directly taken from God’s Word in the book of Luke and expands on the parable.
Peabod is known for his “happy raps” mentality because of the joy God provides within his life daily. He’s never discrete about his faith or the source of his happiness. Therefore, the art Peabod paints through the medium of music possess a blueprint from the Father himself.
Best Song on the Record:
Even from only a selection field of five tracks, I struggled with selecting the best track. I enjoy each of the five for different reasons. However, I’m going to stamp respect on “Prodigal” featuring Belle as my best song from the EP. There’s just something organic, poetic even about a husband and a wife sharing their creative giftings together during the short length of a song.
It’s rare two creative opposites merge ever-so beautifully during the art of a song. Peabod with the wordplay, crazy rhyme schemes focused on the parable of the prodigal son. Mrs. Peabod with the powerful chorus/hook driving home the beauty of when a child of God returns to the faith.
I absolutely adore the introduction filled with sounds of piano and a chorus. The piano throughout behind the driving bassline is beautiful.
The melodic and harmonious chorus/hook merged with the rhymes of excellence from Peabod combine for a solid track and a highlight of the EP.
I find it quite an incredible feat artists are beginning to achieve within the shortened EP form. Even though most projects range from four to seven tracks in 2020, the content hasn’t suffered. Peabod achieved a concept album within the borders of an EP. The project contains vivid storytelling, transparency, and an overall theme that resonates throughout each track in its own creative undertone.
I appreciate personally how Peabod laces each track with his brilliant lyricism, then features bolding break out during choruses or add an additional verse syncing with your overall vision for the track. The concept of the EP tagged along with the handpicked features all join together seamlessly in a gem of a project. Well done, well done indeed!
Unashamed Kingdom Soundtrack For The Misfit | Posted October-29-2020 What You Need To Know
Social Club Misfits have been a mainstay in the Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) culture for nearly a decade (2011). Beginning with solo EPs, they’ve amassed a discography of over 15 projects between solo efforts, EPs, and albums. They even experienced a name change during 2016 when they signed with a major label, Capitol Christian Music Group (CMG); adding Misfits to the end.
Marty and FERN represent the Miami, Florida region as their home base, yet reside in the hearts of their fans (Misfits) worldwide. Marty is known for his playful wordplay and skilled rhyme schemes while FERN continuously spits solid bars igniting witty punchlines and street-relevant content.
Feared By Hell is the fourth studio project released since being known as the Social Club Misfits. Fans are treated with a taste of the unique sound the new album illuminates during their two recent EPs titled, Doom and Mood. Framed within the bold statement of the cover art and title, Feared By Hell showcases the talents of the duo and their rooted faith unashamed in full display. Marty even had his creative mind working overtime as he either produced or helped produce nine of the overall tracks.
What It Sounds Like
FERN and Marty present to the people a collection of chapters from their soul fed to the mind and delivered through the lens of God Himself. These songs reveal how God has worked through these two, seasons that felt like hell, and how God brought them atop hands raised over and over. In the chaotic state of our society, these songs are needed. Healing. Victories. Difficult seasons. Praise above all. It’s a journey from the heart outward. A peek inside to see how God works through all situations for His glory!
Even with their extensive catalog of releases, Feared By Hell is their most eccentric and musical project. The variety of soundscapes, production, and featured artists adds to the unique album experience. Core fans will reign praise for the classic lyrical exchanges of the duo. Cultural fans will appreciate the strong Latin presence. Experimental moments exist throughout between production, rhyme schemes, bar for bar, and instrumentation.
Some highlights include “Young Guns” featuring Davies which interjects infectious handclaps and high hats. “Act of God” featuring nobigdyl. kicks off the project and resonates as one of the strongest tracks throughout. “Somas Familia” featuring Blanca is quite refreshing. The driving sounds of an acoustic guitar and various live drums force your body to move melodically with the track. The project wraps up with “Without You” featuring Riley Clemmons. It enforces why hell fears strong belief and practical faith lived out daily. Focus on God and allow the rest of your life to align with His Word and the beauty that Jesus interjects.
The entire premises of the album speaks to the spiritual walk of Marty and Fern. Feared By Hell in a sense of Christians living out their faith to a point where the devil is trembling. Listeners hear multiple situations and life experiences where God brought the duo literally out of hellish situation one after another.
“I know who to call when I need help / I talk to God I ain’t talking to myself” from “God On My Side” featuring Ty Brasel packages everything perfectly realizing we all need help. When we do, go directly to the source–God. I won’t spoil the beauty within the track titled “Savior” featuring Jeremy Camp, however, it’s basically a worship song to our Jesus rescuing us from the old forming us into something beautifully new.
No worries here, misfits. As usual, the album reeks of God’s fingerprints and outward love for His children.
Best Song On The Record
Quite a few gems exist on Feared By Hell. However, I kept returning to the opener “Act of God” featuring nobigdyl. With this banger, we are treated to Marty’s melodic hook and classic flow. Fern blesses us with some of his strongest bars out of the 12-track buffet of content. Finishing out the track is indie tribe’s nobigdyl. You can always expect witty wordplay smothered in God’s promises and revelations from Dyllie.
Sound-wise, I appreciate the uniqueness of the track. The slowed-down tempo, the calm before the storm. Almost reminiscent of trap meets LOFI. I love how the song speaks to what God does in our lives pre and post Jesus. For most of us, it truly takes an act of God for us to alter our ways and begin a righteous walk with our Creator.
This isn’t your atypical Social Club Misfits album. It’s transcendent. A barrage of cultures coexists throughout. Listeners are injected with a dose of the Latino community, CCM spectrum, and hip-hop vibe mixed into a range of talents expanded. Marty and Fern develop a recipe for success with sprinkles of various sounds across multiple genres. This album cannot be tagged in a specific direction. It’s sonic experimentation and musical prowess reign prevalent. A consistent theme points to God’s supremacy and the call on believers to live loudly. To display faith so extreme the depths of hell tremble in fear. To remain Kingdom-minded. Social Club Misfits continue to remain impactful as artists in multiple creative spaces.
Love At First Art | Posted September-30-2020 What You Need To Know
James Larrick, stage name JIMMY ROCK, originates from Sandusky, Ohio. He entered the Christian music scene in 2016 with his debut single “Primero,” under collaboration with Ben Crespo. Over the last four-year period, Rock has opened for premier artists such as Lecrae, Skillet, Social Club Misfits, Andy Mineo, Family Force 5, and a wide range of others. His talents range from an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) artist, performer, producer, and creative. Essentially, a renaissance man of the musical arts.
Some of Rock’s recent hit singles include “Here with You,” featuring Destiny Gurley, “Replay,” featuring Ben G., and “84.” You can check out his discography on Spotify by clicking here.
Over five years, he has already collected a number of accolades. Rock has co-hosted and performed at nationally-known festivals—Alive Festival, SonFest, United Festival—throughout major cities, including Nashville, Detroit, Las Vegas, and New York City. He’s deejayed at some of the most high-profile award show afterparties and watch shows, Mayweather vs. McGregor. Rock has taken his extensive skill set and traveled frequently using his talents from God to keep the party moving.
Rock’s highly anticipated debut studio EP, World of Drops, brings energy like no other. The collective sound combines varying stylings of music merging together hip-hop, trap, spoken word, and electronic dance as its core. Overall production of the project was kept in-house between Rock and long-time friend Ben Crespo.
What it Sounds Like
The EP opens up with "Intro to War," an introduction from spoken word artist, Egypt Speaks. The Cleveland, Ohio native has toured the world sharing her stories through the art of poetry. The essence of the track resonates that beyond war, beauty lies.
Jimmy Rock is an orchestrator of sound. His art form rests in the emotional draw of music. How particular sounds tug at the heart and soul. How an elevated tempo forces the body to move vigorously. Poised as a deejay first, then an artist second, Rock pursues a responsibility to control crowd response.
Tracks such as “War,” “Don’t Sleep on Me,” and “You Feel It” are within the wheelhouse of Rock. Such tracks were created to provide an immediate impact on a crowd of listeners. Some may see these as ideal tracks for a workout playlist or theme music at a sporting event. If so? Mission accomplished in the sight of Rock. Otherwise, future crowds will be wiping sweat off their foreheads while enjoying genuine dance music begging movement to occur from the front row to the rafters.
The remaining two tracks, “Catch These Hands,” featuring artist Pettidee, and “Won’t Stop,” featuring artist Steven Malcolm and FERN, of Social Club Misfits, invite guest features to the party Rock facilitates through his musical craft. They extend his reach between the EDM and CHH fanbases united in sound and rhyme.
The artist and the included features embrace a unique role on a project like this. The roles reverse as the features are the ones providing the content overall above the production merit Rock provides. To gauge spiritual content, we look to Pettidee, Steven Malcolm, FERN, and Egypt Speaks.
Listeners should particularly pay attention to the verbal talents of Egypt Speaks from the introduction. The value contained within her contribution speaks volumes. Steven Malcolm brings honor to God several times over on “Won’t Stop.” Malcolm speaks of what all Christians want to hear the day we meet Jesus, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Besides the wholesome generous helping of EDM content, Rock provides, his features do not disappoint exposing their own faith and willingness to brag on our God.
Best Song on the Record
I’ve been a “since day one” fan of both Malcolm and FERN, so “Won’t Stop” snags the accolade of my favorite track from the EP. Each featured artist spits some of their best bars in quite some time respectfully. Together with a forceful, deep baseline, the track doesn’t disappoint on any level. I do not think my minivan speakers have fully recovered to this day. The entire vibe just makes me smile and nod my head in accordance with the catchy feel.
Rock’s dominance of sound control and production excellence only disappoints by the lack of content. I crave at least two or three more doses of a similar sound after the last track ends. Then again, that’s why an old guy like me misses the focus on albums before EPs were ever normalized into the industry. Even in its shortened form, I adore each track individually for different reasons. The manor in which Rock was able to merge spoken word, EDM, and hip-hop into a short overall playtime was masterful. I’m immediately anticipating what’s next from Rock and to any artist—that equals success.
From the Altar to the Streets | Posted September-25-2020 What You Need To Know
Kevin “KB” Burgess solidified his career in Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) after signing with the infamous record label Reach Records in 2010. In college, prior to his signing, KB was the leader of a hip-hop independent group known as HGA (His Glory Alone). It was through HGA, Lecrae Moore, and the team at Reach where KB realized his true potential. Over the next eight years, the artist has released a mixtape, two EPs, three studio albums, and a handful of singles.
His devotion to faith and fellowship with Christ through the originating mantra “His Glory Alone” carried into KB’s own clothing line: Native Supply. To date, the merchandising hub has over 62,000 followers on Instagram, selling thousands of items annually.
Never apologetic about his faith as a strong ambassador for positive, God-filled hip-hop, KB returns with a vengeance on his fourth studio album, His Glory Alone.
KB recently signed with Sony Entertainment in early 2020. The label released a recent snippet about what KB's goal is for the record, "KB’s latest release is a message meant for today, but tailored to a better tomorrow. Music for hope and change earned through blood, sweat, and tears. It’s what happens when KB speaks straight from the heart without a filter. The things that KB loves the most—prayer, celebrating God, and music—come together to hopefully encourage, empower, and heal." His Glory Alone takes the best efforts of each of the last three albums and combines a collective sound like no other.
What it Sounds Like
KB has formulated an exciting bridge between worship music and the world of trap. It’s like an album from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, or Travis Scott and being revamped and rearranged by the likes of Kirk Franklin or Tye Tribbett. The message of the Gospel and the hard-hitting 808’s of trap wired together to create something beautiful and impactful.
Worship anthems such as “10,000 Reasons” (Matt Redman), “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” (Chris Tomlin), “Let It Rain” (Michael W. Smith) among others creatively flipped by KB and crafted into soundtracks for life to the streets.
KB also paid homage to his multi-cultural fanbase with two tracks featuring international heavyweights Tommy Royale, Bianca, and Musiko. “Libre” (Free) featuring Tommy Royale speaks about the freedom found in Christ and owed to all people regardless of color, race, or ethnicity. “Sí Canción" featuring Blanca and Musiko flipped a worship song from Vertical Worship with a Spanish twist. It’s unique, uplifting, and empowers the spirit regardless of your background.
“Masterpiece” is one of the album's standout tracks. It's an ode to KB’s daughter. As a father of daughters myself, this one especially hit home. The track displays KB's range of musical talent and honors the blessings God provides.
Essentially, His Glory Alone is a worship album with the streets serving as a background. The entire basis of the project is giving God his deserved Glory and thanking his son Jesus for unbound grace, mercy, and love. Over three-fourths of the tracks have classic and modern worship favorites as foundations for the included material. The few which do not are plastered in appreciation, devotion, and examples of servitude of God.
On “10K,” KB explains, “I got a God, don’t change with the seasons, uh.” On “Armies,” KB confirms, “Life ain’t been the same since death died, won it by a landslide.” Listeners will discover similar gems of faith throughout the album from KB and his all-star roster of featured guests.
I challenge the listener to not only pay attention to the spiritual content of His Glory Alone, but to pay close attention to the effects and victories KB speaks on due to his unwavering faith, dating back to his teenage years.
Best Song on the Record
Focusing on a single favorite track is no easy task. His Glory Alone doesn’t have one skippable track. However, “Let It Reign,” featuring artist Bizzle, has gathered the most repeat plays from me thus far. Several factors cultivate this track as a highlight. The driving bassline and infectious hand claps are hard to ignore. The classic worship line of lyrics from “Let It Rain” has been cemented in my memory since first listen: “Let it rain, let it rain/Open the floodgates of heaven.” That alone, driven by the handclaps, motivates you to move with the music.
Bizzle’s contribution acts as a cherry on top of sorts to an already blazing anthem. God Over Money’s frontman never disappoints in bringing the gospel forward with crisp and clear lyricism reminding us why God reigns over the lives of believers. Then, enter in KB’s lyrical contribution which has quotable lines one after another throughout. Personally, it’s one of the strongest tracks I’ve heard in CHH this year.
KB has always possessed an 'outside the box' mentality. Therefore, you cannot contain KB to one genre or one type of lyricism. His creativity overflows constantly. To combine the worship and hip-hop genre feels natural with KB’s persona and heart, wrapped around the art he provides fans consistently. Fans are treated to KB’s bag of talents. Worship. Check. International sound. Check. Innovative wordplay through raw lyricism. Check. As I previously mentioned, a skippable track doesn’t exist on His Glory Alone. It’s impossible to remove headphones and not walk away personally affected by the album's songs. KB has crafted a masterpiece.
Stream His Glory Alone on Spotify or purchase the album on iTunes.
A Roller Coaster of Emotions Exposed | Posted September-25-2020 What You Need To Know
Artist Byron Juane is from small-town Gastonia in North Carolina. He comes from a small town. But, he possesses the talents of a big city superpower. Similar to artist Aaron Cole, Byron has focused on his God-empowered musical talents since preschool. He can play several instruments from piano to trumpet. He remains immersed in a wide variety of soulful sounds from jazz to rhythm & blues to hip-hop. His debut in the Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) and Urban Soul scene dates back to 2015, under the moniker K¥NG.
Byron can effectively articulate his art through lyricism and harmonies. Lately, he's poured his efforts into an emotional outcry attached to his own version of Rhythm & Blues (R&B). His Hopeful Soul EP, released in 2019, is one final product that fits his recent musical vision. Now, he takes you through an emotional journey on his new release, Promise I’m Not Crazy. On the project, Byron unpacks heartbreak, pain, recovery, love, and happiness.
What It Sounds Like
A transparent roller coaster of emotion seems to capture the essence of Byron's new EP. Those of us who have fallen in love and developed an in-depth, complicated attachment to a person of interest will directly relate to the EP's songs. Listeners will discover a raw, exposed, and vulnerable version of Byron unseen to date.
“Nice Guy,” the EP's only single, is a theme song for men stuck in the 'friend zone.' The song is also relatable for people who are in a one-sided relationship. The combination of acoustic guitar, bass line, and crazy hi-hats gives the track a crisp, fresh sound.
The bonus track “Gorgeous” is an EP highlight (the song was an instant download for people who pre-ordered the EP). The song is a call of appreciation for the physical and emotional attributes of your female partner or spouse. It’s perfect to play around Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or anytime to reflect how much you love and appreciation that special someone.
Another highlight is found in “Crazy.” Byron speaks on how love may be seen as crazy, especially showing constant expressions of love. Love invokes a certain level of insanity. What we will do or say for a loved one baffles some, intrigues others.
Listeners are treated to a true R&B experience. Echoes of acoustic guitar and keys, harmonic runs, thick bass lines, and enough emotional output to make someone grab a tissue or two.
Anytime I try to pinpoint godly values on an R&B record, the word that comes to mind is integrity. How does the art stack up against who the artist is, was, or strives to become? Most refer to such a genre as grown folk music. As with daily life, people look to Christians to see how they handle challenges, differently than an unbeliever would. I think such applies to this form of musical expression, too.
I grew up as a male in the 1990s where R&B was at an elite level. Now, as a believer, I struggle to find solid R&B from a Christian's point of view. Then, enter Byron Juane. A Christian male shares his personal struggles in finding love and expressing it with a companion. Music like this is needed, as it’s rare in the Christian space.
Best Song On The Record
The intimate track “Crashing,” featuring artist itstaylormade, is my favorite song from the EP. It represents the soundtrack for heartbreak. Byron speaks of an emotional high when the relationship is good, but focuses on when the good fades to bad far too quickly. The featured artist chimes in with how heartbreak feels like a crashing wave or slamming the brakes of a vehicle.
Thinking back to relationships pre-marriage, I relate far too easily to the words spoken. I feel many will share in the relation and connect easily to this track. The production, especially the mix, shines brightly throughout as an array of sound links seamlessly together sharing the background to strong, powering vocals.
Byron's inner exposure through emotion and environmental chaos on Promise I’m Not Crazy is a welcomed spotlight we can all relate to at one point or another in our lifetime. He provides a sense of comfort realizing we’re not alone in our own feelings of being lost, heartbroken, and borderline shattered. Love is a powerful emotion. It can either empower us or destroy depending on the perspective of a given scenario.
As I mentioned earlier, we need more of this in our faith-based space. Since we’re called to be different in every given situation, how Christians handle love and heartbreak is a lonely grey area for most. I thoroughly enjoyed the overall production and sound selection as it fits well with Juane’s emotional outpour allowing his vocals to shine and not feel submerged or drowned out. I hope artists use such an EP as a guide or blueprint to expand on relational love and how believers interact with all relatable situations and emotions.