Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
The sophomore slump is a thing. It may not be as well known as the freshman fifteen or senioritis, but to music fans, the sophomore slump is very real. Whether it be from an artist getting too comfortable, not being able to handle expectations, not fully understanding their sound or experimenting with a new sound, plenty of artists have fallen into this trap. It’s so hard not to. Those are all valid and understandable reasons for a let down. Especially with today’s music, as there is so much music and diversity, it’s hard to hold a fan’s attention.
Most people wouldn’t imagine a sophomore slump is even possible for Andy Mineo, mainly because I don’t know if anyone has risen as far and as fast in CHH as he has. Since signing to Reach Records, Andy has shot straight to the top of the genre, and for good reason. Andy has achieved things that most thought only Lecrae could do. He has sold a crazy amount of records, sold out his own shows and has made numerous mainstream hip-hop appearances. All of that has come on the heels of his debut record and a short EP. Now with all of the attention on him and a level of anticipation that few artists can relate to, he is set to release his sophomore album, Uncomfortable, on September 18.
This review will tell you if he avoided the slump and took his music to new heights, or if he should go back to the drawing board.
If you are going into this record expecting to hear the typical Andy Mineo or Reach Records content, then think again. The content on Uncomfortable is unlike anything that you have ever heard from Andy. There is a lot less of blatant Jesus talk on this record, as there is more raw and biblical worldview based themes. The intention of the content seemed to be to reach far outside the church and pull in a new audience.
That is a tricky thing to do and very hard to maintain your core audience with doing so, however, Andy’s core is so strong and the music is so good that I think that he can really reach a lot of people with this record. A song like “Vendetta” can stretch far outside his core because it’s a real song that is very relevant. Even though this may not be the typical content you would expect from Andy, it is worth the listen because of its relevancy.
Along with Andy’s growth as an artist being stretched, his content has shown considerable growth as well. Andy used this record to get something off of his chest, as there is a depth on it that could make you uncomfortable because of what Andy addresses. “Now You Know” was a journey through how idealistic about life Andy once was and how he has moved on and grown from that. The title track gave you his personal struggles and “Ghost” talks about losing a friend. While “Hear My Heart” deals with his sister Grace being deaf, and how he lacked understanding and compassion about how to communicate with her. This is not your typical Andy Mineo record. It is a more serious and mature album.
CHH has become much more transparent over the years, but Uncomfortable takes that up another notch. There isn’t a track on this record where Andy isn’t bearing his soul. This is the most personal that he has ever been, and that can create a record that could be uncomfortable to listen to at times, but more than that, it creates a record that is very memorable.
The replay value is high because the listener feels a personal connection with the artist. When a listener can feel as though they share a struggle with the artist or can see the personal side of an artist, that’s where that connection is built. So when you listen to a track like “Uncomfortable” there is a connection created that will bring you back to the record time and time again. That connection on Uncomfortable is one of the things that will separate this record from others for a long time to come.
Andy has had three releases so far in his career. He had the Formerly Known mixtape which introduced him to the CHH world, and then his debut Heroes for Sale, and most recently the Never Land EP. Each of these records all possessed different sounds. It seemed as if Andy was trying to find himself as an artist. So as he would grow as an artist, his sound would grow too. Most artists go through this process (few are as successful as Andy through this process). With Uncomfortable, it sounds like Andy has found his sound. The music on this record is great.
Andy is a bit different from your average artist. He has a very eclectic sound and style. He truly cannot be put into any one musical box. Uncomfortable is a reflection of that because there is a large variety in the sound throughout this record. From the hard bass of the title track to the more worship CCM of “Make Me a Believer” to the more sultry, almost Gatsby like of “Strange Motions,” to the more upbeat summer track of “Love.” The variety of music is never ending on Uncomfortable.
A large variety in sound could really hurt a record. It could provide an unbalanced listening experience where the listener has no idea what to expect. It could also turn off a lot of listeners who already have high expectations going in to a project. However, Andy navigated through this with grace. The listener may never know what to expect but the quality of the production is so good, and the production choices were so good, that each track turned into a pleasant surprise. Even if this record doesn’t fit into your musical preference, you can’t help but enjoy listening to Uncomfortable, because the sound is so exceptional.
Andy has never been considered one of the best lyricists in CHH, but he is also far from a bad lyricist. That is about how you could sum up the lyricism on Uncomfortable. Overall it’s good, but sometimes it’s real good (“Desparado”) and sometimes it’s not so good (“Now I Know”). This record will not give you that classic backpack conscious type lyricism that most hip hop heads love. It is more of a commercial lyricism, a lot like the lane Lecrae has been able to carve out for himself. Strong lyricism that won’t loose the casual fan.
Andy has always been more than lyricism because he has so much charisma. He can take what may look like average bars on paper and turn them into memorable tracks because of his delivery. “Desparados” featuring Mali Music is probably the best example of this. For most of his verses he has a quick tempo in his delivery but not so quick that you don’t understand what he is saying. So the listener will catch every bar, but because of the quicker cadence, it sounds great to the ear.
On Uncomfortable his charisma shined through more than ever before. His bars came across with more confidence, as he has found his style as an artist. This was evident on the track “Vendetta,” as he switched his delivery up a few times and rapped with authority. By authority, I mean that Andy has a strong conviction that drives each bar home. This song has a strong message with a very memorable hook (“cause Pac did a lot more for me than Barack”), that there is only one way to rap on this track, and that’s with authority. This track showed an overall growth of Andy the emcee, as he is molding his sound to mesh with the production and made a memorable track.
Overall, his individual performance on Uncomfortable was great. The overall performance from Andy is what brings you back to this album. His charisma and personality just bleeds through the speakers and connects the listener to the record more than anything else. On this record there is true visible growth from Andy as an artist, and that growth has made him a great artist.
It’s hard to make music today, especially Christian hip-hop music. There are just so many things to balance and people to please. If you’re too good, people don’t like you. If they feel you don’t deserve praise, you’re overrated. If your record isn’t as good as your last, your career is over. And there is so much noise in the world today because an artist can hear everyone’s opinion, that it’s hard to block all of that out. However, that is exactly what makes this record so special. This is a record Andy wanted to make. You can tell because, despite the title, Andy himself was so comfortable on this record.
This is a very well done album. It had all the elements that great records need. It had real clean, crisp production that hooks the listener in with honest lyricism. It also had a charismatic artist at his best. Listeners will connect with this record. Listeners will get uncomfortable with this record. But most importantly, listeners will leave this record satisfied. There is no sophomore slump at all with Uncomfortable, instead, this record shows CHH that Andy is here to stay and that the sky is the limit.