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A journey seldom taken in the Christian arena
Posted March 26, 2014
By DwayneLacy_NRT, Staff Reviewer

Christon Gray is one of those rare artists (not just Christian artists) who can rap just as well as they can sing. He released Even With Evil With Me independently and then he signs with Collision Records. He was prominently featured on Swoope's critically acclaimed album, Wake Up.

The buzz around him is starting to build. Then he released a dope free, album, Body Art, which was received very well. He did more rapping than singing and people were starting to realize what an amazing gift that he had. When the We Live As Kings album dropped, it solidified the genius that is Christon Gray. That is a word that he would probably be uncomfortable with because he is not one to "toot his own horn," but he is just that. He did, however, get help from Wit, Swoope, B. Reith, Tragic Hero and more in terms of songwriting and production for this new album. 

He releases one of the most highly anticipated albums in Christian hip-hop, but the funny part is he does not do much rapping. School of Roses is an authentic look at life as a married man dealing with temptations, marital matters with a determination to keep rely on Christ through it all. Christon wants people to listen to the whole album to get it. 

The album starts off with "The Last Time," an acapella interlude asking when is the last time one has apologized or said, "I love you." "Wanna" is very honest look at the tempation that Gray has faced on the road. It is basically his inner thought process and grappling wrapped up in a retro late '90s R&B jam. Gray has perfected the art of going from falsetto to full voice like a champ! The icing on the cake is the crazy bars that come via J. Givens. He then deals with a struggle of husband/wife who "miss" one another and are not on the same page with their desires.

The lead single "Vanish" has Gray mulling over the thought of leaving. Why? Because he feels he's done too much damage in the relationship. He realizes that is not the way to go and he will not take that route. 

"Roses 101" is the first of three "Roses" tracks. This song could be a great single for mainstream and it would do well. It is Gray singing and playing the piano and the song sounds happy. The key word is "sounds," because the two verses are both about disappointment. The first verse is about a conceited woman who basically settles for a man who is "no good" for her. The second verse is about Gray wanting to sing on a big stage like his mother, but due to his doing Christian music, it may not happen. Really Christon?! You draw us in to make us put our head down.

"Convenient" has Wes Pendleton on the hook with a deep tone backed by the vocoder. This gives this song a more haunting sound to go along with the meaning. The second verse is a highlight as Gray raps about some of the painful things his father (as a pastor) went through from church members who seek him for counsel and even money. They would up and leave when they did not agree with decisions he would make. Check the chorus: "You only keep me around when it's convenient / Now you got me hanging on when you all alone and cheated."

In the umbrella of urban and R&B music, there are the pseudo artists and the authentic/organic artists. Gray definitely fits the latter. Check "Moving On" featuring smooth drumming (with the brushes) and synths giving it a fresh groove. Gray speaks on moving on in spite of his own hangups and shortcomings. Gray enlists the help of his brother Taelor and fellow rapper/singer (and co-writer on this album), B. Reith to breath life into "Nostalgious." This banger is about going back to their First Love, Jesus Christ after realizing that they started to chase after the wrong things. 

As the album closes, Gray pays homage to his wife and how easy it really is to love her
 on "Lady Gray." He also speaks on her hardships with the death of her mother and the absence of her father on "Roses 103: Ghost." So the album culminates with "Arena (The Final Hour)," which is a play off of "Arena" from the We Live As Kings album. He basically takes all of his disappointments, inner turmoil, temptations, etc and gives it to God. 

Closing Thoughts:
This is a very heavy album that would have to be "digested" a few times. You will actually have to take a few listens to get it. It is not some cheap way of bursting into the secular arena. It is a journey into the life of an honest Christian who faces everyday battles. It will cause you to look inwardly and see what is going on in your own life. Great album musically and powerful album as far as substance. The question is: Will people be patient enough to listen to the whole album to get it? Only time will tell. 

Songs to Download Now (Sorry, I couldn't just pick one):
"Vanish" featuring Swoope" (Get it on iTunes here.)
"Moving On" (Get it on iTunes here.)
"Arena (The Final Hour)" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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