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Album Review: Benjah – ‘Motives’

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

Motives – they are what drive us to do whatever we do. They can be positive, they can be negative, and they can even be neutral. Sometimes they can change over time, going to a place that no longer reflects the character of the person committing the actions. That’s why reflecting on one’s self from time to time is very important.

Benjah had a time when he self-reflected, and he found that he musically wasn’t in a place where he wanted to be. With a determined mind to change where he was, he did everything he could to return to his first love (music), and out of that repositioning came this album, Motives.

Which Motives Are Represented

As previously stated, Benjah had a period where he felt that he needed to get some redirection in his musical career. You can even hear him address this fact during a recent interview he had with DJ Wade-O. But with that being said, going through that process brings a more serious tone to this album.

It’s not a serious tone as in “dark and brooding,” but there is a legitimate contrast to some of his past work that was consciously on the lighter side. There are four specific motives that he addresses in this album as well:

  1. Industry
  2. Lifestyle
  3. Romantic relationships
  4. Spiritual

You can feel the shift right from the beginning of the album.

“Come Up,” featuring Thi’sl, sets the concept tone, as it talks about people Benjah has met in the music scene who have ulterior motives for building relationships with him, as well as artists who are in the music business for the wrong reasons. However, it’s quickly followed by an upbeat track featuring Pyrexx called “In The Building.” This song focuses on how Benjah’s desire to have fun and celebrate with friends, as it is questioned for being “Authentically-Christian.”

This is a very similar focus as “On My Momma,” which features Reconcile. Benjah wants the point to get across that just because he enjoys having fun with his friends, and they may not “look” like your “typical church group,” that they’re still saved and living for Jesus.

There are a significant amount of songs that deal with motives between two people who go in and out of a tumultuous relationship. This leads me to speculate that these songs come from personal experience, but that is just my idea because of how laced together these songs are throughout the album. They also span the entire spectrum of a relationship that began and ended.

The first song that mentions it is “We Will Rise,” featuring Derek Minor. It’s that amorous-but-nervous stage where the two are breaking the ice and opening up about how they feel. You have the “honeymoon” stage that every new relationship has in “Never Quit” – it’s all about happiness and joy, despite how they sort through their differences.

But then they hit a few road blocks and the guy doesn’t understand why she is “Fading” from the relationship. And right at the end, when the relationship is falling apart, the guy can’t let it go and admits how he “Don’t Wana Break Up,” despite how she’s treating him.

And of course there are songs focused on spiritual motives – motives based on a relationship with Christ. “Doin’ Life,” featuring Blake Whiteley, is about our life as Christians and the daily decisions we have to make to deny the flesh’s desire to sin. “Climbing” is all about working to reach the prize of Jesus, not the prize that this world says is the main goal – which has a surprising feature with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony member Krayzie Bone.

Both “On Dat” and “Gone Tomorrow” are about what the Christian life is all about – standing firm in our faith in the midst of all opposition because any day Jesus could return for us. And the title track of the album, “Motives” featuring Ron Kenoly Jr., has one of the more poignant lines that connected with the me on the whole album.

“Don’t let them hold you back/

Life done held me back/

You’ve got an audience of one, and that’s that.”

When we live with this in mind, our motives stay pure – untainted by the approval of others who are not contributors, but only spectators in our lives.

Overall, this album feels like a personal story from beginning to end. It feels like Benjah had a personal reflection time period that affected his musical-creative process, while he was entering a romantic relationship. And as the relationship went through its ups and downs, he came to terms with how his relationship with Christ was fairing.

So once he got his head together, he realigned all of the motives for all of his actions to truly benefit his future. Now if my speculation about this album being partly auto-biographical is not true, then he did a good job of presenting a narrative through the album’s progression.

Music

From beginning to end, this album is an easy listen – besides one spot. It’s a little jarring to go from track 1, “Come Up” to track 2, “In the Building” because there is such a huge style contrast between them. If you’re not ready, it can take you out of the mood set by the previous track. But besides that, a lot of the songs are alike. They don’t specifically sound like the same song, but they all have a similar vibe to them.

Benjah uses a similar style throughout all the songs, so they flow easily from one to the other. There are a few tracks that break the cycle, one of my favorites being “Never Quit,” which has more of a pop-trap feel to it. And there is a hidden track at the end of “Gone Tomorrow” that is all reggaeton and is completely in Spanish.

Benjah has a natural drawl that doesn’t always phonetically pronounce every word, so things can sometimes be hard to understand. On top of that, when he uses an audio effect, it can further blur the words that he is saying. I’m unsure if that’s because he’s from Florida, or just his style. Either way, don’t feel bad if you don’t understand what he says in a song sometimes right away.

Conclusion

This is a newer side of Benjah that we haven’t seen, but it’s familiar enough that it doesn’t feel like a completely different person. You still get the signature singing style that he has created over the past few years, and you still get the style in which he approaches music from a creative perspective, but there is more of a direction to what he is saying. Each song seems to be purposefully made to address this issue about doing things with the right motive in mind.

If you’ve never heard of this brother before and your interest has been peaked by a few tracks you’ve heard, the rest isn’t so heavy, that you’ll be left with your head spinning. It’s upbeat production can feel uplifting at times, and make the content feel less weighty. So, if you enjoyed the single “On My Momma,” I recommend you give this album a listen.

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Daniel Cody is the engineer for the Wade-O Radio podcast and producer of The Life Change radio program for 4th Generation Ministries. He has a Bachelors Degree in Music Production & Record Engineering. He has a passion for authentic rap about the Gospel and collaborates with all genres of Christian music with his production company - Man of God Productions. Follow him on Twitter @DRoyulMOG.

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