Ben Ben Knight describes himself as a "Christian Nerdcore hip-hop artist." As the genre title suggests, Knight blends humor and a plethora of pop culture references to rap about all things nerdy...
Nerdcore Hip-Hop | Posted November-06-2017
Ben Knight describes himself as a "Christian Nerdcore hip-hop artist." As the genre title suggests, Knight blends humor and a plethora of pop culture references to rap about all things nerdy (think "Mountain Dew" by KJ-52). Knight's most recent album Lyrical Masterpieces is a fun and optimistic jaunt through a fictional storybook of nerdy adventures.
The album kicks off with the aptly-titled "Shawty Likes My Seuss Collection," which weaves an intricate tale of love in the children's section of Barnes & Noble. Knight's sense of humor is immediately evident on this track. I genuinely laughed out loud at lines like "Read 'em every day / Yeah, she will / He's the doctor / Cures all her ills" and "Her love for the Grinch isn't something you should test." "My New Delorean" contains plenty of clever references to Marty McFly and Back To The Future. It was the first (and likely last) time I've ever heard flux dispersion mentioned in a song.
However, Knight still finds ways to tackle deeper topics. "To Boldly Go To A Galaxy Far Far Away" is a metaphor for unity in a time where the world desperately needs some. Set to the backdrop of the unending nerd conflict of Star Trek vs. Star Wars, Knight and guest artist Mega Ran each take time to plead their case about which one is better. It's a hilarious thing to witness, and the track is packed to the brim with deep lore references and quick-witted digs at the opposing fanbase.
The allegory doesn't end there. "Never Ending In Neverland" plays out as the confessional of Peter Pan, who has finally realized that Neverland is not all it's cracked up to be, while "Warren Worthington Is No Angel" is a tongue-in-cheek take on the redemption of the X-Men Angel. You don't need to be a fan of the subject matter to appreciate the content of these tracks, which is a testament to how funny and welcoming Knight's music is.
The Bottom Line: Ben Knight's Lyrical Masterpieces is a unique breath of fresh air that will make you smile. The layered references reward multiple listens, meaning there's always something new to discover.
For Fans Of: KJ-52
Song To Download Now:
"To Boldy Go To A Galaxy Far Far Away" (Get it on bandcamp here.)
Infectious Hope | Posted August-23-2017
Carter Frodge is no stranger to the music industry. Having toured across the world with rock group Everyday Sunday, he is now stepping out on his own with his own electro-pop project, Life of Carter. Frodge's vision for the band is to reach the millennial generation with lyrics that are relevant to the life of a young Christian adult, and he certainly succeeds in that goal.
From its opening moments, the self-titled EP makes a statement. The joyously upbeat "All We Need" sets the tone for the album with anthemic choruses and slick, smooth production that showcases the strengths of the project. Frodge declares "When we look at the stars / When we open our hearts / It's all we need / All we need / When our eyes can't deny / When hope is alive / It's all we need / All we need tonight."
"Brand New" is an unashamed take on 2 Corinthians 5:17, functioning as a declaration of faith for Frodge. It's also an earworm as it boasts one of the strongest pop hooks of the year. "We're The Colors" is a timely ode to the beautiful uniqueness and diversity of God's creation: "Take these expectations / Throw them out the door / It's okay to ride a different wave / You're bigger than a planet / I wish you could understand it / You're a universe of galaxies / Life is just a slumber / You're the dream."
The last two tracks on the collection bring things down a notch and diverge from the spiritual themes to show a different side of the band. "Without Warning" is a melodramatic take on young love, while "I Think I'm Afraid" expounds on the previous song by showing us the highs and lows of a relationship. It's an enjoyable experience to see Life of Carter so expertly walk the fine line between spirituality and everyday struggles on this EP, which allows the music to hit home with people from all walks of life.
The Bottom Line: Even at its most vulnerable moments, Life of Carter EP displays an impressive hope and optimism that's ridiculously infectious and will leave you wanting more.
Welcome to the Safe House | Posted June-21-2017
Sanctuary is defined as a place of refuge or safety. That's exactly what Renaissance Movement Music desires to provide with The Safe House Project, an initiative created by the label and Kerus Global to raise awareness about human trafficking around the world. The goal is to raise enough funds to build a safe house in South Africa by the end of the year, and the Safe House album is the means to do so. The much-anticipated compilation album is comprised of RMM label artists Legin, Sinai and Focus, and it features appearances from other hip-hop greats such as Da' T.R.U.T.H., Spec and Eshon Burgundy.
Safe House is powerful because of its unique backstory. With 100% of the proceeds from the album going directly to the safe house, the message of the album is at the forefront. Sure, the wordplay is exciting and the beats can stand with the best of the genre, but it's the pure, honest passion in every bar that sets the album apart from its peers.
The album plays out almost like a novel, building up the tension and conflict of the problems in the early tracks while offering freedom, truth and hope to counter the darkness. The title track "Safe House" says it best: "The name of the LORD is a strong tower / the righteous run to it for the strong power / Man, I swear to God I feel safe now / anywhere in God's hand is my safe house." "Shattered People" functions as the climax of the album, continuing the ongoing theme of faith and redemption with a beautiful, introspective look at the importance and value of "even the least of these" (as seen in Matthew 25:40).
There's a smart brand of humor present on the album as well. One of the best lines on the album comes from the banger "Pride:" "Dark world / I've got the light / You can see my glare, boy / The galaxy know every verse / I catch fire like an Android." It's little things like this that make repeat listens worth it.
James 1:27 describes true religion as looking after orphans and widows, so it's fitting that "Show Them" acts as an epilogue of sorts, challenging the listener to be proactive in showing God's love in their everyday interactions with other people. It's convicting and a beautiful way to close the album.
The Bottom Line: Safe House is a gut-wrenching call-to-action, provoking difficult topics in order to spur an authentic response. The beats will hook you, but it's the message that will stay with you long after the album finishes. You can learn more about the Safe House Project here.
A Debut On Fire | Posted February-16-2017 Steven Malcolm has made it his goal to become the best Christian rapper in the game. The Grand Rapids-based lyricist made waves when he exploded onto the scene last year, and now, with the release of his self-titled debut album, Malcolm puts his money where his mouth is. It's a lofty goal to be sure, but one he backs up with exciting beats and ear-catching wordplay.
Steven Malcolm quickly establishes himself as someone who can walk the fine line between humor and heart well. "Cereal" is a tongue-in-cheek ode to just about every kind of cereal you can imagine: "When it come to the size of the bowl / The bigger the better / Growing up I can only have some in the morning / But now it's whenever." "Party In The Hills," an upbeat pop track featuring Hollyn and Andy Mineo, is a laid-back, carefree exposition on enjoying life and having a good time with your friends. "Leh Get It" is CHH's answer to last year's breakout hit "Juju On That Beat," with a catchy hook that will probably be stuck in your head for a long time.
However, Malcom's strongest writing comes when he bares his soul. In "Can't Take My Dream," he proclaims "And so I write my wrongs / and hope that they relate / today they be so quick to judge and never know my pain / never know my struggle / just the battles that I lose / when there's defeat you'll find the strongest person in them shoes." "The Struggle" continues this theme as it explores the various temptations believers face in their everyday lives, stressing the importance of calling on God when he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. Although Malcolm understands that life can get rough at times, he chooses to display the joy of the Lord. His optimism is infectious, making the album a feel-good listen even at its darkest moments.
All in all, Steven Malcolm is a blast to listen to. With thirteen tracks, there's something for everyone here. This is one of the rare albums that gets better the further it progresses, and repeat listens will provide a goldmine of new intricacies to discover. Malcolm says he wants to be the best Christian rapper. If he keeps this up, he just might be.
The Bottom Line: Steven Malcolm is an entertaining, accessible journey through the life of one of the most exciting rappers to hit the scene in a long time. You'll want to keep an eye on Malcolm. It's going to be a fun ride.
Song to Download Now:
"Leh Get It (feat. Pyrexx)" (Get it on iTunes here.)
New Horizons | Posted October-31-2012
Barely over a week ago Flyleaf dropped a bomb on the world; that lead singer Lacey Sturm would be leaving the band to be replaced by Kristen May. While many fans were shocked by the announcement, even more questioned the timing of the announcement? How would this affect Lacey’s last album with Flyleaf?
For one, you can hear the passion on every track as Lacey’s voice cracks and whines with raw emotion. Her vocals have never been better, as evidenced on the opening track Fire Fire. The song opens with brief acoustic guitar which quickly vanishes to make way for the aggressive, but poppy chorus that’s one of the biggest Flyleaf has ever written. Lacey rebukes the recent YOLO trend with perhaps the boldest line on the album; “We can’t die because we’re young. At least that’s what we heard in a song.”
The first single New Horizons is next. Flyleaf delves even deeper into alternative pop/rock that only slightly resembles any music they’ve done before. Fans don’t have to wait much longer for more rock music as Call You Out kicks in. It’s a track that’s impossible not to headbang or pump your fist to.
The next few tracks are much softer, but with no less power. Cage On the Ground speaks about the dangers and problems that come with fame and power. “Welcome to the machine. It’s a currency generator, and then it’s a guillotine.”
Aptly titled Great Love is a pure love song written to God. Transparency and innocence exude forth on this track, and it feels as if you’re looking through a window into Lacey’s soul. It’s a beautiful and introspective moment. Bury Your Heart continues the theme of power and corruption found in Cage On The Ground, and musically it’s one of the strongest moments on the album.
Freedom, formerly titled “Blankets of Words”, comes crashing in next. The track is chaotic and feels almost cataclysmic at times. In a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, Lacey even unleashes a few welcome guttural screams towards the end. An assault to the senses, the song fails to make any sort of memorable impact, and as a result, pales in comparison to the other rockers on the album.
Unlike some of the other veiled lyrics on New Horizons, Saving Grace’s message is blatantly clear, with Lacey belting out, “Save me grace, I'm sick of saving face. Will You hold me close? You're all I want to know”. For anyone doubting how Flyleaf’s faith impacts their music, they need look no further.
Stand is boring both lyrically and musically. There’s good intention behind it, but it’s nothing special and feels like nothing more than a filler track. That's probably because of Green Heart, the heaviest song Flyleaf has ever written. Guitarists Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartmann really outdo themselves, and for once, Lacey’s vocals take a backseat to their intense riffs.
Broken Wings, one of the first Flyleaf songs ever written, finally finds itself onto New Horizons. It ends the album on a positive note, but doesn’t hold a candle to previous closers “So I Thought” and “Arise”. It’s worthy effort, though, and when it’s all said and done will leave you wanting more.
All in all, New Horizons is arguably Flyleaf’s best album to date. Almost every song has a place, and the music and vocals have never been stronger. It’s hard to look past this being Lacey Sturm’s swan song, but if you do, you’ll find a truly special piece of art. This may be the end of a chapter for Flyleaf, but a bright future for the band is evident. I, for one, will be excited to follow them wherever they go next.
Pressure creates diamonds and the fire refines the gold | Posted April-14-2012
Trip Lee first made waves on Lecrae’s breakout hit, Jesus Muzik. After putting out three albums, he proved that he has what it takes to stand on his own. Now he returns with The Good Life, cementing his place as one of CHH’s top artists. But does he deserve that credit?
The album opens with the moody New Dreams which features Sho Baraka and J.R. Immediately you can hear the leap in maturity between this and Trip’s last album. New Dreams sets an epic vibe for the rest of album while Trip and Sho Baraka rap about what the good life really means. The song hits home when Trip proclaims “The good life is the life that’s been laid down”.
Robot, the first single from the album, is next. Much like Tedashii’s Dum Dum, this is a love-it-or-hate-it song. Some people may find the mechanical robot beat and high pitched voice annoying, but personally, I loved it.
In I’m Good Lecrae makes his typical appearance, and what an appearance it is. Originally Trip and ‘Crae had written a different song, but scrapped it because it wasn’t up to their standard. The result is what is sure to be a CHH classic for years to come. Trip and Lecrae use this track to talk about martyrdom, and being willing to die for the gospel. As Lecrae says in the hook, “Pressure creates diamonds and fire refines the gold.” It is a song that invokes courage to the listener and hopefully will cause them to think about how far they are willing to go for the good news of Jesus Christ.
War, a song that samples Dustin Kensrue’s ‘This Is War’, may take some people off guard when they first hear it. The chipmunked hook proclaims “This is war like you’ve never seen. The winter’s long and it’s cold to me.” After listening to it several times, the track grew on me and is one of my favorite songs on the album.
Fallin’, featuring J. Paul, continues the streak of great songs. This is one of Trip’s mellowest tracks to date. Like Covenant Eyes before it, he speaks about his ongoing war against lust and its consequences. Towards the end of the song the lyrics of the chorus change from repentant to hopeful, allowing for contemplation before heading into the next track.
iLove may be the most provocative song on the album. Trip speaks of technology as if it were a girlfriend. With lines like “I told her if she ain’t gonna let me meditate, then for my sake, we gotta separate” and “Weighted thoughts are pushed out by her light shows”, iLove is by far the most interesting song Trip has put out.
During the next song Know Me, Trip speaks about the Bible from the perspective of the Bible. It’s an interesting twist that may be confusing to some. It’s a good song (I can’t get enough of the broken record hook), but it’s one of the weakest on the album, lyrically and musically.
I’m sure that when Trip released the tracklisting for this album, most everyone turned their attention to One Sixteen. Featuring fast spitting label mates, KB and Andy Mineo, One Sixteen was one of the most hyped CCH tracks in recent memory, and it definitely delivered, just not in the way I was expecting. The beat is more reminiscent of Envy from the Man Up project (which also featured KB and Andy Mineo) than something like Lecrae’s 40 Deep. Trip’s opening verse is overshadowed by the other rappers’ flows. Andy Mineo’s verse in particular is unstoppable; an instant classic. He delivers possibly the best line on the album: “When you heard a story ‘bout the hero dying for the villain?” All in all, One Sixteen is an album highlight, and is sure to be considered one of the year’s best by year end.
Heart Problem, an experimental banger, speaks about how money, sex and power were gifts from God, corrupted by men. Those things are not evil within themselves; the real problem resides in our hearts. While the flow and beat are impressive, the once again chipmunked vocals throughout the song detract from it, keeping it from reaching its full potential as an album highlight.
Trip’s last song with Jimmy Needham left a lot to be desired, but luckily Take Me There fixes this problem. The jazzy song sounds like it could be a Bruno Mars b-side. While not one of the strongest songs musically, the lyrics are hopeful and a fun listen.
V. Rose. lends a stunning chorus to Beautiful Life, a song about abortion. Trip admits in the first verse that he “can’t quite tell you that he understands your pain”, but he does a fine job relating to every side. He addresses the mother, the father, and people who regret their past actions. The idea to add a brief children’s chorus in the verses pays off well, making this one of the most beautiful songs Trip has ever written. It’s hard trying not to tear up while listening to this.
In Fantasy, which could be considered New Dreams (Pt. II), Trip contrasts the rich and famous and their picture of the good life with the life God intended for them. The song is too mellow for me, and I would have loved to hear Suzy Rock spit a verse (which I know she is capable of) rather than hear her silky smooth vocals on the chorus. This is my least favorite song on The Good Life.
First there was Lecrae’s Background, then there was Tedashii’s Reverse, now Andy Mineo gets a chance to shine with Trip Lee on the haunting Love On Display. His chorus is amazing, proving that he is one of the most versatile performers out there. Love On Display reflects on Christ’s death on the cross, painting a beautiful picture of his suffering. I get chills every time I listen to it.
Rounding out the album are 80’s throwback For My Good and Good Thing. Neither are anything special (I found For My Good out of place and annoying). If it were up to me, I would have left both songs out completely.
The Good Life is easily Trip Lee’s best album so far. He continues to mature and experiment as an artist, standing toe to toe with his peers. The lyrics are excellent, the beats are exciting, and the production feels fresh. Even if you aren’t a fan of rap, there’s enough here to satisfy everyone. Don’t pass up The Good Life. It’s the album to beat this year.
I had heard of Rhema Soul before, but it was only after RED came out that I finally gave them a serious listen. And boy, am I glad that I did.
The album opens with the sonic assault of the title track. Veteran emcees Butta-P, JuanLove, and K-Nuff hold nothing back as they share their hearts for reaching out to people. The song features an all-too-brief and gritty verse by southern rapper Thi’sl, which may be one of his best features to date. His small addition to the track is a memorable one which greatly enhances the track.
Rhema Soul shows their range with lead single No Walking Away, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The radio friendly song leans more toward rock than their usual hip hop, while at the same time failing to deliver a catchy hook or memorable chorus. Luckily the next track Danger remedies this problem, being the most straight up hip hop song on the album. Each emcee gets a chance to shine, but Butta-P clearly stands out with a verse that could hold up against Nicki Minaj.
The next three tracks are three of the album’s best. On War, Rhema Soul talks about the war in the streets for the souls of our children and families. The song is extremely hopeful, and Benjah adds a catchy chorus that will surely be stuck in your head for days. Need An Answer relies heavily on dubstep, along with Off The Edge. The latter starts off slow, but builds up to an epic chorus and bridge.
So Beautiful allows Butta-P to have a song of her own. Directed at girls (although the concept could be applied to anyone struggling with image issues and low self-esteem), the lyrics are cliche, but they no doubt mean well and are sure to impact someone’s life. On My Way continues the theme of self empowerment, reminding the listener that bad things happen to everyone, and we shouldn’t be bogged down by our mistakes. Celebration is simply a fun song set to a massive but repetitive beat. I can picture this song being great live, but on the album it’s nothing special. A bit too forgettable.
Musically, Break Out is another radio friendly song with a weak chorus. Lyrically it continues the theme of On My Way. Not Forgotten sounds like a filler song, although I was a huge fan of the upbeat, positive message. It speaks from the perspective of someone who feels left behind while everyone around them is out living their dreams. Listening to it always puts a smile on my face. Moment In Time, while back to their hip hops roots, is another filler. There’s nothing memorable about this song. No hook, no catchy chorus, no outstanding verses.
Rhema Soul saves their best song for last with the club ready anthem Stop The World From Spinning. The silky smooth vocals from guest artist Shonlock along with fantastic verses and a dubstep breakdown make this song the album highlight, and one of my favorite songs in recent memory. If you buy one song off the album, this should be it.
There’s something for everyone on RED, from rap to pop to rock, and even a little bit of dubstep. The sheer diversity of the album detracts from the overall cohesiveness, while adding a lot of replay value. Overall, Rhema Soul cements themselves as one of the best Christian hip hop groups alongside Group 1 Crew and Superherose. By the end of the year I’m sure RED will still be in my regular rotation. It’s that good. If you’re a fan of Group 1 Crew or The Black Eyed Peas, I highly recommend checking this album out. There are a few weak tracks, but the strong tracks more than make up for them. Don’t miss out on this one.
The Party Comes Alive | Posted April-05-2012
Over the past couple years Family Force 5 has been churning out music like there's no tomorrow. First came Dance or Die, then the remix album Dance or Die With A Vengeance, then Keep the Party Alive EP, and finally their latest Christmas album.
So, how does their latest EP stack up? Not very well, actually. I'm a huge FF5 fan, but their latest offering is a bit uninspired. All but the title track have been released previously on other albums. Keep the Party Alive is a great song filled with energy and acoustic guitar (on a FF5 album?). The two bonus videos are a nice touch, but not enough to warrant a purchase.
I would only recommend this EP to anyone who does not have 'Dance or Die' or 'DOD With a Vengeance'. If you have both of those albums, I would recommend downloading the title track separately.
Don't miss out on this Christmas party | Posted June-04-2012
Family Force 5 meets Christmas. Could there possibly be a better combination? After listening to the CD a couple times I've come to the conclusion that if there is something that can top that combo, they have yet to show itself.
Only a couple songs are mediocre (T'was The Night Before Christmas, Wonderful Christmastime), but most of them stand out as true Christmas gems that will be played for years to come. The stand-out tracks include 'Carol of the Bells', 'The Baby', and 'Do You Hear What I Hear', despite being slightly repetitive.
Family Force 5 has put their mark on Christmas time. You don't want to miss their Christmas Pageant.