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Confidence Transformed into Excellence
Posted April 10, 2020
By JoshuaGalla_NRT, Staff Reviewer


What You Need To Know
GAWVI, born Gabriel Alberto Azucena, has been connected to Reach Records since 2008. He signed on as a producer; His most notable work with the label is Trip Lee’s Rise and Lecrae’s Anomaly. Then, in early 2016, he extended his presence at Reach Records as an artist to handcraft beautiful projects of his own. To date, he has released three EPs; Heathen will mark his third full-length album ahead of Panorama and We Belong.
 
The progression throughout his full-length projects leading up to Heathen’s release has been personal and transparent. Each track on each album standout. GAWVI keeps featuring artists to a minimum. Who he chooses are either close friends or iconic figures who have greatly impacted his life. Handling both sides of the art through production and artistry highlights his immense talent.
 
GAWVI has received a number of accolades since joining Reach Records. He's won six Dove Awards, including Hip-Hop song of the Year for his single, "Fight For Me" feat. Lecrae, and Hip-Hop Album of the Year for his production work on Lecrae's Anomaly. Moreover, GAWVI's music has achieved success on the charts: his 
Lost In Hue EP peaked at number two on Billboard's Electronic/Dance chart and his single "In the Water" hit the top spot on the Christian CHR Songs chart. Also, Andy Mineo’s single, "You Can't Stop Me," which GAWVI produced, received an RIAA Certified Gold certification. GAWVI strives to push limits regardless of the numerous often-faced obstacles.
 
For Heathen, GAWVI enlisted a few friends to join his story in album form. Five tracks contain featured artists ranging from music legend Israel Houghton, label mate Trip Lee, long-time friends Aklesso and Tommy Royale, among others.  If you listen closely, you’ll hear a few other recognizable voices on track adlibs and supporting vocals.
 
Standout tracks include “Vanity,” “I’m Fine,” “Jesus You Are,” the lead single “Not Too Far,” and “Who You Gon’ Be” featuring Israel Houghton, and Trip Lee.
 
For our current exposure to a global pandemic, “Not Too Far” was quite timely as GAWVI reminds us that we’re never too far away from God and His love. Regardless of our struggles and our faith, He’s always present. The whole feel of “Vanity” just puts you in a good mood while simultaneously juggling some heavy topics, such as divorce and idolizing money. “Jesus You Are” blends worship and hip-hop, two of my favorite genres. Also, GAWVI puts his spin on a worship track over beautiful piano chords with "Jesus You Are." I’ll get to my infatuation with “Who You Gon’ Be” shortly.
 
Sonically, the entire album is pleasing to the soul and mind. A barrage of sounds exists, escaping the typical electronic dance music (EDM) model. Listeners' ears will be perked by the guitars, piano, and choir. The music makes it nearly impossible to keep the body from moving.

Spiritual Highlights
The content on Heathen speaks to GAWVI’s secure and longstanding faith in God. Between the worship feel of “Not Too Far” and “Jesus You Are” to the transparency shown on “Sin” and “I’m Fine,” listeners don't have to wait long to be exposed to God’s presence in GAWVI’s life. Even though some tracks hit the topic of faith harder than others, the entire album centers around God’s mark on GAWVI. Heathen is based around being different. Standing out in confidence. Affirming self in Christ. Once you listen to the album, you'll feel encouraged to strive for excellence.
 
Best Song on the Record
“Who You Gon’ Be” is the album's standout track. This isn’t solely due to the fact that a legend is featured. Honestly, Israel Houghton’s contribution to the song is small in comparison, yet profound. Houghton’s addition to the track was due to GAWVI’s appreciation for the icon. Trip Lee was the other featured artist on the song. What's great is that GAWVI, Trip, and Isreal mesh well together. I believe fans are going to love this track just as much as I do. I keep on repeat most days.  

For Fans Of
Angie Rose   |     WHATUPRG     |     DJ Mykael V      

Final Word
Any project over 12 tracks is unheard of anymore, especially one with 17 tracks. At first listen, you may think a state of repetitive sounds may follow such a tracklist. However, the opposite applies. Listeners will feel more of a sense of completion. Although a few tracks have similar components, the content renews between tracks. A buffet of sounds appeases the ears. Finding his true sound along with strengthened confidence, the end product is one most listeners will enjoy. Heathen is one of GAWVI's best full-length projects. The album sets itself apart from the mundane, recycled sound too many artists tap into. Well done.

Stream Heathen on Spotify or purchase on iTunes.

View All Music And Book Reviews By JoshuaGalla_NRT | View JoshuaGalla_NRT's Profile

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