Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Alex Faith is creating quite the resume. Since joining Collision Records in 2012 everything Alex has touched has turned to gold. He has been creating great music. Whether it has been on his own, as a part of a group or even as a duo, Alex Faith has consistently been apart of creating some very good music. His debut solo album ATLast garnered a lot of positive reaction, as did the W.L.A.K. album that he was a part of with his label mates.
Alex has been a huge part of Collision Records rising to the prominent space it is currently occupying in CHH. After not putting out any music last year, 2015 looked to be a more promising year for the Atlanta emcee. Alex dropped an album with label mate Dre Murray titled Southern Lights: Overexposed, at the beginning of the year. And now Alex is set to drop his sophomore solo album Bloodlines on October 30.
Alex Faith has been one of the more aggressively transparent artists in CHH. By that I mean that Alex seems to embrace all aspects of his life good and bad. Rather than simply mentioning them, he seems to craft his music around the tough spots in life. That’s not to say that others aren’t transparent, but Alex seems most comfortable in the midst of some uncomfortable topics.
Whether it is about race relations, relationships or personal failures and fears, Alex addresses it. He confronts these topics with the grace, humility or aggression that is needed. Tone is so amazingly important in Alex’s music, because it’s all about how you say something. Conveying a difficult message or addressing a controversial topic is much more palatable when the tone is right. Alex has excelled in this area in the past and on Bloodlines, he mastered this skill.
The overall feel of Bloodlines is pretty intense. By intense, I mean it’s heavy. There are a lot of very serious topics weaved all throughout this record. So the way in which Alex delivers his bars is even more important. We get good examples of this early on in the record. On “Freedom” featuring singer Courtney Orlando formerly known as J.R., Alex inspires people to trust in God and know that he is the answer to any situation, no matter how hopeless it may feel.
By sharing his own personal struggles and feelings from living in the inner city, the message comes off more genuine. Courtney’s amazing voice helps to relay the hope that bleeds from this song. From there, Alex shifts the tone and gets even more serious on “Dark Matters” featuring spoken word poet Adán Bean. You can feel his restrained anger come through as Alex laments about the fact that he has to keep talking about race relations in this country.
“They sick of hearing me talk about this, damn it man/I’m sick of having to talk about this.”
This is a tone setter and creates the feel of this song. His passion, frustration, and anger are all present in this quote. For the rest of “Dark Matters,” those attributes only grow as he details his frustrations with the way minorities are treated in America by the police and others. By the end of the awe-inspiring spoken word piece delivered at the end of the track, the listener is left to digest a very serious topic that was told oh so beautifully.
The tone switches again on the Joseph Solomon assisted “Never Let Me Down.” The raspy yet smooth delivery of Solomon helps lighten the mood a bit. Then when Alex spits about how God has been with him, even in the midst of mistakes, it creates a worship and self-reflective like environment. By the end of the track, you’re either crying, grateful, worshipping or all of the above. Because of how truthful and heartfelt Alex is on this track, it draws out of you the same feelings that Alex has.
Bloodlines then moves back into a more serious tone with “Stillborn.” It’s a sad and very serious topic that Alex addresses here (the death of his baby), but it never creates a depressing tone. With Courtney Orlando’s beautiful voice opening the track and Alex’s softer flow, it doesn’t feel like he’s mourning. It feels more like the listener is just privy to a conversation Alex is having with his child. It is truly a beautiful track that pulls at the listener in a very honest way.
If you have ever lost anyone near to you, than “Stillborn” will pull at you in a place that most songs can’t. Bloodlines ends with “Sins of my Youth,” which feels the way a heavy record like this should feel at the end – triumphant. The production lifts your spirits and the tone in Alex’s voice leaves you inspired knowing that God has forgiven and redeemed us.
Bloodlines isn’t all heavy topics and transparency – it has some incredible music as well. Alex Faith has carved out his own lane musically. There aren’t a lot of other artists in hip-hop that has the sound that Alex does. There is no doubt that this is a very southern record. “95 Atlanta” featuring Corey Paul is a throwback to the classic southern hip-hop sound. Heavy bass, that promises to ruin plenty of speakers, and the very familiar clap that accompanies many of classic southern records.
The cherry on this southern sundae is the smooth flow that just rides the beat perfectly and sends chills down the spine of anybody raised in the south. Then with his ode to Clayton County, “Clayco” featuring J. Monty, captures the feel and vibe of the area in a way that is very unique. It is a smoother, more soulful track but still doesn’t shy away from the 808’s that southerners love so much.
One of the many things that makes Alex Faith so special is how he weaves more into his tracks than just a southern sound. A traditional southern sound is very distinct and up front. Heavy bass and soulful melodies is what I grew up on. Mix in a few hype records and you have the blueprint for the South. Alex has never subscribed to that idea. I like to call it a sophisticated southern sound. Instead, he weaves in a lot of elements and layered production. This is where Collision has separated itself from the rest of hip-hop, and this has been apart of what makes Alex Faith a superstar.
On the opening track “Lost” with Christian Lewis, the production unfolds beautifully. You get an epic feeling from the intro, and then Christian comes in with his distinct but incredible voice. Christian drops, then you get some keys and a little over a minute in, and the beat drops hard along with an equally as hard Alex Faith. Throughout the rest of the track you are getting a mixture of drums, high hats and a strong melody. It is nothing short of an incredible way to open a record.
“Dark Matters” is another example of great layering in the production. It opens with the keys and presenting an almost film score like melody while the track intros. Alex comes in with those keys, melody, and a subtle but very necessary addition of some drums. The production here works just like a score to a movie; it creates a feeling to support the topic. As Alex gains steam, the production picks up as well and when the spoken word piece hits, everything drops but the melody. That also picks up, as Adan picks up steam but it never overpowers him.
Collision Records once again proves they’re musical genius, with this record. The music is so beautifully versatile and true to the artist. There is no way that you can just sit through this record; you will constantly nod your head in approval because the music is just so good on Bloodlines.
All in all, Alex Faith has a fantastic album on his hands. It sounds as if he has found his sound. He seems so comfortable with what he is doing on this record. His flow on songs like “Pressure” with Justword was so smooth and strong. He’s not a puncher with his rhymes but he has a very unique way that he connects with the listener. This is a very strong record lyrically and Alex has shown some growth.
Bloodlines also has a very strong flow to it from track to track. This is a record that could be continually listened to from start to finish. As a whole, this is one of the better records of 2015 because it has all the elements of a great record. It connects with listeners, it’s lyrically strong, the music is excellent and has tons of playback value. Even bigger than that, Bloodlines shows just how great of an artist Alex Faith has become.