Posted October 21, 2011
By SarahFine_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Benjah may not be a household name in the Christian music world, but chances are, you've heard his work before and just haven't realized it. Having been one of the original members of well known CCM band Group 1 Crew and written several tracks on their first album, Benjamin “Benjah” Thom is most notably known for his work on Lecrae’s Grammy award nominated project, Rehab.
In his latest solo project, Benjah isn’t exactly collaborating, but rather, going through a public break-up--piritually speaking.
To be a follower of Christ, there needs to be a divorce of self. This is the idea The Break Up introduces, and over the course of 13 songs, Benjah takes the listener on a reggae/rap infused journey of what it means to follow Christ and to die yourself in the process.
“Intro” serves as a platform for the break-up theme of the record, and transitions directly into “Sinking Ship,” a song in which the idea of a break up occurs. “Not Alone,” featuring guest vocals from acclaimed female vocalist Rachael Lampa, is a heartfelt anthem about the sting of a broken heart, ultimately reminding the listener that no matter what pain they have felt before, true love is waiting to heal them if they'd only open themselves to it.
“Jezebel,” while on point melodically, lyrically, is a head scratcher. The song talks about a man falling in love with a woman named 'Jezebel', whom we are to believe is his God-sent wife, only to then to surprise us with the fact that 'Jezebel' has become an idol, and their whole affair is based on vanity. While the moral of the song is obvious, if taken the wrong way, it can send an 'anti-relationship' message, and unfortunately, only ends up confusing the listener in the end.
“Keep Ridin’” talks about walking your talk despite those who try keep you down, while the loud and infectious “3rd World Fam” goes out as a raw challenge for all believers to remember those serving Christ globally who face numerous challenges on a daily basis: “If you call yourself a Christian, you got family world wide, so another mission to hold them when they cry.”
The breezy and bumpin' “Walkin' Out” reminds us of the short time we have on earth and our duty to shine the light of Jesus. “On Grace I Stand,” melodic and piano driven, the chorus comes as an honest prayer to God. While full of brokenness and pain, it becomes a solid remembrance that no matter how often we fall, God is ready to pick us up.
“My Angel,” featuring previous band mates Group 1 Crew, serves as another head scratcher. Coming as someone’s personal cry for help to stay true to their faith, once again, your left unsure if the song is addressed to God or a person, but still, sends a great message that we were never meant to walk this walk alone. “Read Me” reminisces bad choices and painful mistakes, but encourages the listener that with Christ, all things are made new.
“C.N.L.Y.G” a.k.a. Cannot Let You Go, talks facing battles with Christ by our side, while “Orphan” comes as the most painful and honest cut on the record. It’s sung from the perspective of a child who’s parents have been murdered, leaving him orphaned, but ends with the child turning to Jesus for comfort, and asking Him to help forgive the killer. It’s an incredibly moving song to say the very least.
The smooth title track, “The Break Up,” comes as conversation to one’s self, again related to a woman who is being broken up with of because she doesn’t fulfill him the way another can. It’s an unusual depiction of what happens when we give our lives to Christ, but an accurate one. While “The Break Up” serves as the last song on the record, skip ahead a few minutes and you’ll find a hidden track tacked onto the end. Serving as a high energy epilogue, it finds the main character in this break-up story wondering why it took him so long to make the decision to move on. As fun as hidden tracks can be, this would have been a great stand alone song, and one that’ll most likely be overlooked by those who are unwilling to listen to four minutes of silence before it starts.
While this album produces a lot of lyrical depth, somewhere in there, it loses a lot of spiritual clarity. For an artist of any genre, that can be the trickiest thing to achieve. At times, you can't help but wonder if the song speaks of divorce of self, or if you’re hearing about the end of an actual relationship. All confusions aside though, The Break Up, for what it is, is an outstanding piece of musicianship from an artist who is undoubtedly going to become one of the front runners in the urban Gospel community. Rastafarian inspired music in CCM hasn't gained the popularity as other genres, but I highly commend Benjah for not only doing it, but doing it well.
This is a perfect album for those who are into a different kind of gospel music, and especially for those looking to reach out to unsaved friends. It’s not for the faint of heart. It asks tough questions and offers harsh answers, but in the end, ultimately leaves you with the stark reminder that life is about much more than “us,” and in my opinion, that’s a reminder we need to all hear far more often.
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