Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
If you’re reading this album review, one of two things are probably going through your mind right now. Either you’re hype because you are already a fan of Alert312, or you have no idea who or what Alert312 is. If you fall in the category of the latter, then you are exactly where I was about a week ago. If that is you, I’m glad you’re reading because it’s time that you meet Humble Beasts’ best kept secret.
The duo from Chicago have been with Humble Beast for a few years now and they already have a release on the label. Alert312 (fka Alert) have been grinding long before that. Known mainly as more of a band that makes music than a traditional hip-hop group, they dropped down to just two members for their new release Of Vice and Virtue.
Whether you’re a long time fan or a new comer to the group, their new album gives a good picture of what the group is about. You will be challenged, enlightened, encouraged and entertained.
Best part of the Album
Of Vice and Virtue is a very “Humble Beast” record. It falls perfectly in line with what Humble Beast has been doing over the past few years. Its sound is a little different from the mainstream and there is a strong focus on lyricism. Boogalu, the voice of the group, took that Humble Beast mold and added their own flavor to it on Of Vice and Virtue.
The lyricism on this record was beautiful. From the opening track, my jaw dropped at what Alert was doing lyrically. It was intellectual, theological and witty. Even with all of those things, the most impressive part was the word play. Each track had a dazzling display of word play and word usage. A skill that is not easy to master. I can only assume it is God given and is made to look simple at times by Boogalu. It was beautiful artistry.
The lyricism was by far and away the best part of this record. It showed Boogalu’s talent and skill level, and it made Of Vice and Virtue a fun listen.
Another thing that impressed me
Generally I’m not easily impressed. It usually takes a high level of surprise or some mastery of something before I start throwing that word around. With that being said, Alert312 definitely left me impressed. But it wasn’t the production or lyricism, like it is in most cases, but it was the depth of the music.
Of Vice and Virtue is incredibly deep both theologically and intellectually. That was a little surprising to me. I mean, I did expect to get a little of both the intellectual and theological, they are on Humble Beast, but I just didn’t expect it to be as deep as it was. Tracks like “Babbel” featuring Odd Thomas, “Supreme” and “Ceasar” provide deep theological truths entwined with beautiful lyricism. There are heavy thoughts put on the listener’s mind and strong theology in every track.
This isn’t a Christo-centric record in the same way Lampmode does it, but this record is very Christ centered. Of Vice and Virtue will feed your soul and your mind in a deep and fulfilling way.
Areas of Growth
As much as I enjoyed this record, it wasn’t perfect. It’s easy to get caught up and lost in the lyricism, but lyricism isn’t everything. There were some areas where the record could have been better.
First was in the production. The production was pretty good, and it suited what Alert312 was doing. That wasn’t my issue. My issue was in the lack of versatility. Each track seemed to sound similar. This can be a good thing if the record has a strong concept and tone to keep pace with, but Of Vice and Virtue didn’t seem to have that. So it ended up just sounding the same.
I’ll stay with the lack of versatility for the second area of growth. I didn’t hear a lot of versatility from Alert312. Flow and tone sounded similar all the way through the record. This isn’t a terrible thing, and it doesn’t take away from the talent displayed throughout the record, but it could have been better with a little versatility from the artist.
Did he just say “Damn?”
Yes he did. Not just one time, but Boogalu said it several times throughout the track, that is bluntly titled “Damn.” Wait, before you right off Alert312 for saying it, Humble Beast for co-signing it, and us for writing about it, lets talk about this.
At the beginning of the track Boogalu says that he is using satire. So naturally, because I am a words person, I looked up what exactly satire means so I can fully understand the context and purpose of the song. According to Dictionary.com satire means:
a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
After listening to the song, Boogalu nailed his goal head on. He used the word “damn” in pretty much every way I’ve heard it used in order to expose the ‘vice’ (evil habit or depraved behavior) and denounce it. When I got passed the fact that he used the word openly throughout the song, I could really see what he was trying to do and I think that he succeeded. The word seemed a bit more hollow and silly after Boogalu breaks it down.
The track is very deep and has a lot of intellectual and biblical truths weaved throughout. It has some great perspectives in it that listeners can take with them. With that being said, it does raise the question; is there a proper context when a Christian artist should or can curse? I personally think that question can only be answered by the individual themselves. Were there positive things someone (including a Christian) can take away from the track; yes. Could this be a stumbling block for some Christians; yes. There are arguments that can be made on both sides.
The point I am trying to make, is that you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Alert312 are talented artists and they put together a solid record, with plenty of biblical truths throughout the record. We can’t judge an artists salvation or heart based on our opinions of what is acceptable or not.
Controversy aside, Of Vice and Virtue is a great record for any hip-hop fan. If you are looking for a record that you can just ride to and not have to think, then this is not the record for you. Its strong lyricism and lack of fear in addressing tough topics, makes this record food for thought. That is exactly what Christian hip hop and it’s listeners need. Food for thought.