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Album Review: Alex Faith & Dre Murray – Southern Lights: Overexposed

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Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O

For fans, collaborations are one of the most exciting parts of hip-hop. Fans will rush to websites to see the track listing of a record just to see what collaborations will take place. They’ll talk and debate about what possible collabs are out there and which ones will sound the best. Part of the excitement is the potential. Collaborations usually either excel or completely bottom out and disappoint. The anticipation lends to the excitement.

When the collaboration stretches past a song to an album, the excitement goes through the roof. Fans will speculate and make predictions about the record for months. The anticipation reaches an all time high and expectations sore. This is the situation that plenty of artists throughout hip-hop have faced. Some have lived up to the expectations to create great records and some didn’t live up to the high expectations.

Collision Records label mates Alex Faith and Dre Murray are next up to face these expectations. Since announcing that they would be releasing an album together, CHH has been buzzing with the possibilities. Even though they have worked together in the past, that has only seemed to add to the anticipation. Soon, the wait will be over, because Southern Lights: Overexposed is set to release on Tuesday, April 28. Will this record live up to the hype and the lofty expectations? Or will it be overshadowed by the anticipation?

In this review, we’ll discuss what you should expect from Southern Lights: Overexposed.

Southern Lights

Anybody familiar with Alex Faith or Dre Murray knows that they are from the South, and they are very proud of that. So if the title didn’t give it away, that should have. This is a very southern record. The “Dirty South” influence is very heavy throughout it, but it is done in the Collision way.

Collision has evolved the “Dirty South” sound and brought a level of sophistication to it. It’s a mixture of the heavy bass and gritty sound of the South, with beautiful musicality and instruments that has become synonymous with Collision Records. This is a prevalent sound throughout the entire record but it is mostly represented on the two solo offerings on the album; “I-285” and “I-610.”

The beautiful keys and strong horns dominate the sound on “I-285” and creates a beat where Alex’s delivery is a perfect juxtaposition. “I-610” brings more beautiful work on the keys and an interesting melody that flows opposite of Dre’s deep flow. Both tracks have an evolved southern sound that gives you different instruments that are usually void in traditional southern hip hop. But it’s still true to the dirty South because it flows out of the artist’s delivery.

Another Collision staple was embedded in the foundation of Southern Lights, and that is the layered production. The opening track “Overexposure” is a great example of what I mean. The production is layered when the elements of the track are presented at different times, as if they were unveiled on the listener. “Overexposure” is constantly switching up the main elements of the track and featuring different sounds. It brings another level of sophistication to the entirety of the record and elevates it a great deal.

Overexposed

The term “overexposed” brings up a couple of different thoughts. Pictures can be overexposed by light and it will ruin the picture. People can be overexposed also, or they can feel overexposed. Which means there is either too much-unwanted attention on them or there is too much of them being shown. The latter leads to another beautiful thing about Southern Lights, as it plays on the idea of being “overexposed.” Dre Murray is a pretty honest rapper and Alex Faith has essentially built his career on his transparency. So it’s no surprise that both artists poured their hearts out all over this record.

From the very opening of the record you get gut wrenching and straightforward honesty. They continued to keep a high level of candor throughout its entirety. They opened up about their desires, past struggles, and current fears. But they were most candid on the Swoope assisted “Wake Up Music.” All three artists shine a light on race relations in America and respond to the recent deaths of African Americans. Because of the dynamics of the trio, a wonderful perspective is brought to the discussion. Neither of the artists backed down and addressed the topic head on. This song sums up the album well. It’s uncomfortable at times, but it’s always genuine, relevant, and beautifully delivered.

Overall

Southern Lights: Overexposed is not a perfect album, but it does provide amazing music. It is an uplifting, inspiring and motivating album for the soul, spirit, and mind. It gives the listeners all they could ask for. There are great features with Swoope, Corey Paul, and Young Noah. There are memorable tracks with plenty of playback value (“Wake Up Music”, “All Around The World” and “Takin’ Time”). Southern Lights is high quality music and overall as a whole record, it is great.

Another delightful aspect of the record was the lyricism by both artists. Dre Murray is a lyrical giant within CHH and he brought his best on Southern Lights. He switched up his flow and delivery consistently throughout the record. He also gave some spectacular bars that shows why he’s one of the genre’s best, like the opening to his verse on “Wake Up Music”:

“I woke up black in America just trying find my way
No compass for the day
Beast roaming through the jungle on the prowl
Got me feeling like the prey
Can a congregation pray
Sly fox on the tube infuse what to think and what to say
That’s the games they play
Eastwood in the hood and he yelling out make my day
That’s why the sky so gray”

With bars like those it’s easy for an artist to get out shined, but Alex Faith definitely held his own. You can hear his growth lyrically. He seems more comfortable and confident with his flow and goes verse-for-verse with Dre the entire record. With Southern Lights, Alex has proven that he’s more than a “Southern trap rapper,” he is one of the emerging giants in Christian Hip-Hop.

The only real misstep on the whole record was the remaking of “Decatur Street Blues” featuring Corey Paul. It was originally released months ago with a tough beat and hard baseline, but on the record the production was completely different. It was a softer beat with a completely different feel. There was no real need for the change. Maybe they over thought it, but what was once a fantastic song was turned into the only skippable song on the whole record. However, this one misstep is easily overlooked because the rest of Southern Lights: Overexposed is flawless.

To answer my earlier question, this record definitely lived up to the lofty expectations. Every fan of hip-hop will love the heart of this record. It is a must own and a record that will only get better with time.

Southern Lights: Overexposed available for pre-order on iTunes.

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Aubrey McKay has a strong passion and love for CHH, and he uses that to write album reviews for Wadeoradio.com. He is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland Florida. He currently resides in Lakeland and teaches middle school. Twitter: @ajmckay24

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