Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Andy Mineo did what many artists wish they could do. No, I am not talking about his debut album or getting signed to Reach Records. He was able to grow his fan base at a ridiculously fast rate with little content out.
From one simple hook on Lecrae’s “Background,” ‘C-Lite’s’ name began to hit Google search engines all over the world. If you were like me, you quickly realized that he was not a singer, but an exceptionally gifted MC. You may have also downloaded his Sin Is Wack mixtape. He was later featured on tracks with Flame, Tedashii and others, but all we heard were hooks. This had the fans that knew he could rap, anxious for him to get a chance on the mic.
Fast forward to getting signed to Reach Records and changing his stage name. By this time, he was the hook master and people caught glimpses of his rhyme skills on tracks like “In His Image,” off of Derek Minor‘s PSA Vol. 2 and “Kindness” off of the B3ar Fruit Fruit Cocktail project. Aside from being signed to Reach, people were fans of all the music that he was featured on. He released Formerly Known as a free project under Reach Records and simply put, I do not know many that disliked that project. He toured with Reach and dropped a mini webisode series called Saturday Morning Car-Tunez. Each step of the way, Andy’s following was growing larger and larger.
Why am I saying all of this? I say this because Andy’s debut album, Heroes For Sale had a great deal of expectation behind it. I stated in January that I had high hopes for it, and his record sales proved that I was not the only one. In the first week, the album peaked on the iTunes charts at #2 overall and #1 (in 5 different countries) in the hip hop category. The release date was pushed back from an original date in January, but I think Andy put together an album worth waiting for. Heroes For Sale had many memorable moments and I want to start off this album review by addressing the good.
Areas That Andy Did Not Disappoint
Reach Records does an amazing job at recognizing their strengths and re-setting the standard. With that said, they did not fall short when it came to the production on this album. Andy worked with an all star cast of producers and they all delivered some of their best work. Joseph Prielozny and Dirty Rice set the tone from the beginning on “Superhuman.” The hymn in the beginning of it has a strangely eerie, yet epic sound to it. I heard the chains dragging and pictured a slow-motion scene from Gladiator or something like that. The intricate details made the production stand out to me. A lot of times the intricacy even helped bring lines to life. For instance, on “You Will” Andy says, “Ya’ll got jokes like Bart Simpson on Bart phones” then you hear a clip, “Moe’s Tavern.” This simple clip made that entire line make sense. Bart used to prank call Moe’s tavern all the time and disrupt service in the bar. Also, on “The Saints” featuring KB and Trip Lee, Andy says, “please don’t sleep on the beat, I … (punch sound effects) beat up these.” Then, “Bitter” starts with a chilling voicemail from his dad to set the mood of the entire song. There were many more moments like this, and altogether, each minor detail on the track played a major role for the listener.
If you did not notice the small details, you may have noticed the big production that could blow your speakers. Songs like “Ayo,” “The Saints,” “Wild Things,” “Take Me Alive,” and “Uno Uno Seis” were all songs that will make you want to roll your windows down and blast through the neighborhood. “Wild Things” has a rock/screamo feel on the chorus, but the overall production fit the dark theme of going “where the wild things are.” These songs get your adrenaline going and could easily be used as workout music. I am not sure how many of these songs have been performed at concerts, but I do believe that all of them have the potential to cause instant crowd-chaos.
From the tiniest detail, to the largest bass hit, Heroes For Sale oozed of hard work and effort from everyone involved.
We cannot say that Christian hip hop has not seen more transparency in the past years. However, Heroes For Sale may have contained some of the most transparent songs from an artist with a platform as large as Andy’s. Before the Christian hip hop historians whip out their book of lyrics, I want to explain why I say this. Andy Mineo was one of the first artists to admit where he fell. In the past, we’ve heard artists be honest with struggles or repentant for falls, but on this album, we hear where he’s lost the battle and is still growing through it.
He starts off the album admitting how he gets “captivated by the brown skin mocha divas” and that sometimes he “be lookin’ for them sun dresses instead of the Son, I confess it.” He admits where he’s at and points the listener to Jesus while doing so. Songs like “Bitter,” “Shallow,” “Curious” and “Still Bleeding” are open book moments where Andy lets us in on his relational struggles. He leaves it all on the tracks. Where some artists may refrain to speak on their love lives, Andy lets us in on some of the pains dating has brought him. On “Shallow” he says,
“God loves me despite of how much a mess I’m is/ and I’m writing off shortys whose bodies is less impressive, dang!”
Many people would love to set him apart as a super-righteous, single man, but he lets everyone know that he wrestles with the same stuff, and is in need of the same grace. I was honestly blown away by how honest the lyrics were. People with platforms sometimes struggle with being too honest because they do not know how what they say will effect their audience’s view of them. Andy held nothing back on “Tug Of War” when he said:
“So I stay away from Jesus completely til I’m ready to give Him everything, but that seems like it’ll neva happen/ My girl comin’ over later, you know what’s about to happen/then after sm-smashin’, I’m sittin’ there ah-askin’ if eternity in Hell is worth some moments of your satisfaction.”
I do not want to belabor my point and I do not want it to seem as if I’m applauding his falls. I do, however, love how he used extremely transparent moments to take the focus from him and unto Jesus. He says this line on “Still Bleeding”:
“And I ain’t even got it inside me to give forgiveness/ I gotta find it at the place where He said it is finished!”
The transparency displayed on this project allowed the listener to hear the raw emotion and showed us Andy Mineo the person, not the artist.
Andy told Wade-O Radio that he set out to deal with Christian hip hop’s “hero problem.” He feels that Christian rappers have, for far too long, been synonymous with pastor and it causes us to look up to them like heroes. Debunking that whole thought was one of his main aims, and I think Heroes For Sale succeeded in this area. In fact, the chorus of “Superhuman” lets everyone know from jump, “I am not a super-human, I am just a man.” He does not have a mask or cape and he cannot solve your problems. Instead of giving a long list of songs, I’ll say that the majority of tracks point the listener to Jesus, as Andy deals with everyday issues. After hearing him wrestle in his walk, the album ends with a beautiful and timely song, “Death Has Died.” This track focused on our ultimate hope and conqueror.
From the promo videos, artwork, and lyrics, Andy executed the idea that there are no real heroes outside of Jesus.
For The Critics
Andy Mineo is no stranger to the Drake comparisons in his music. Back in 2011, he admitted that they sound alike (Starting at 11:41) but feels that he’s not trying to do it. Songs like “Caught Dreaming,” “Shallow,” “Curious,” and “Death Has Died” had moments where you could hear the Drake-like similarities. It wasn’t the “simple melodies” that did it every time for me. Sometimes it was the ambient sound of the music coupled with the singing that added the Drake effect.
Some do not notice it. Some get distracted by it. I think that it will be to his best benefit to get rid of it as much as he can, because it can cause people to look down on his artistry. Not everyone follows Christian hip hop, so someone may pass on him simply because they hear one of the “Drake-ish” songs. They may think that he’s biting from another artist and miss out on a powerful album. Andy is too talented to allow something like an artist comparison distract listeners. It’s not worth it in my opinion.
When you hear a project from a Reach Records artist, you are guaranteed at least one “unashamed” record. They’re great for concerts and strengthen their brand like no other. The problem comes in when the anthems do not fit on the album. I really enjoyed songs like “Ayo”, “The Saints”, and “Uno Uno Seis” individually, but they did not fit with the theme of this album. Andy was extremely personal and took the listener on an emotional journey. The album was conceptually on point, but the placing of these tracks disrupted the flow at times. I am not saying that these were bad tracks. They just felt out of place. While listening to mainstream artists, you can sometimes hear the “singles” (or radio hits) right away. They don’t always fit into the album, but they go hard! That’s how I felt about the unashamed anthems on this CD.
When I first looked at the track listing, I had to look into Krizz Kaliko. The name was familiar, but I did not remember him being saved. I still do not know if he is saved, but I do know that he has worked with many artists in the mainstream world. Reach is very intentional about all the moves they make, so I did not see it as a big deal. Some may have a problem with it, but I think it’s best if we remember how intentional relationships with non-believers can bear fruit. Look at Reach Record’s A&R, Street Symphony. Andy said it best in regards to walking with people that are not saved on “Wild Things”:
“(When) I talk like Jesus, all the Christians love me/ I walk like Jesus, now they wanna judge me, ain’t it funny.”
Heroes For Sale exceeded my expectations. It was challenging and motivational all at the same time. The features were great and Andy killed it lyrically. “Cocky” may have been the best song, lyrically, on the album; however, the “freestyle” version was so clear (and smooth) that the album version felt a tad over produced. I still enjoyed it, I just found the contrast hard to get by.
I felt Andy also let people see the real him and it was for the benefit of others. Transparency often begets transparency, and I would not be surprised if many walk away from this album wanting to be more honest about their lives. This is an album that many will not want to miss out on.
You can grab Heroes for Sale Here!
Do you think this was the best debut album from a Reach Records artist? Did you agree with this album review?
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