Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Growing up I remember the Gatorade commercial that chanted, “If I could be like Mike,” because at that time, Michael Jordan was at the top of his game. He had quickly become everyone’s idol. During the 90’s and early 2000’s it was natural to pick a role model and do everything in your power to dress, sound, and act just like them. Even though there are still some elements like that in our culture today, the majority of people desire to express their individuality. Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and voice what makes them different from everyone else, but the challenge with that is, so many people still end up as an imitation of someone else. Artists in today’s culture lack originality that separates them from the pack.
Big Fil is an atypical rapper that is striving to fill the gap between mainstream hip hop music fans and Christian hip hop, hence the name Big Fil. The Jacksonville-based rapper strives to live by example so that his fans know that he lives for God alone and He is the influence behind his music. He’s not striving to sound like any other artist or to produce a certain type of sound that’s popular right now. Big Fil makes it clear that I’m Just Being Me is more than just an album title – but a warning to listeners not to expect anything more or less than Big Fil on this album.
Content + Production
As one of the first albums to drop in 2016, I would say the album is solid. What I mean by solid is that the album has good production – from the heavy bass and trap beats to the more soulful, slower paced songs, to the level of lyricism – it was a pretty straightforward and simple approach. Big Fil even managed to incorporate a worship style track on the album which I’ll elaborate on in a little bit. The content of the lyrics was not overly complex, which made for an easy listening experience. The previous album Stadium Status, which dropped in 2013, brought more of a northern feel to the instrumentation and lyricism. However, on his latest album I’m Just Being Me, which dropped Friday, January 15, Big Fil shows more of his southern upbringing, but he does not neglect the influence that uptown rappers have had on his life.
Big Fil has the swag of a southern rapper but a rap style that’s heavily influenced by northern rappers, as he pointed out in the song “Memoirs.” That influence is evident throughout the album. Showing more of the southern influence, at one point in the album, he reflected the rap style of Atlanta rapper B.O.B on the track “New Lights” from his delivery, sound and production of the track. You can hear the confidence in his voice that he believes everything he’s rapping about, and it motivates the listener to have that same kind of enthusiasm and conviction in their walk with Christ.
He gives a very bold, in your face, unashamed type of persona and you can tell by his lyrics that he is not pressured to water down his message or limit his mentioning of Jesus throughout the album. This is a positive attribute and will be respected by the listeners who feel as though CHH has watered down its content to fit into mainstream music. Big Fil takes a shot at the hip hop culture and its simple mindset of being impressed by materialistic possessions in the song “Basic,” saying it’s not worth to gain the world and lose your soul.
Big Fil’s experiences with mainstream record labels and now CHH labels has helped shape a lot of the perspectives he brings to this album. When an artist has experienced the other side of music that promotes self gratification and sin, and then encounters grace and the love of God, it’s bound to open your eyes to a few things. Big Fil expresses his heart about seeking worldly things and also emphasizes how much better it is to seek the things of God. On the song, “What We Talkin Bout,” he makes it clear that if it’s not about advancing the Kingdom of God then there’s no relevance in speaking on it. You may be new to the style of Big Fil but you have to respect his heart for ministry once you hear it.
The new album, in similar fashion to Stadium Status was filled with features from some veteran, heavy hitters in CHH including the likes of Dre Murray, D-Maub, and fellow Jacksonville rapper Brinson. Although much of the album consists of fast paced, hard hitting tracks, Big Fil had a variety of sounds on the project. The track “Memoirs” gives a Biggie-inspired feel from the opening words of the track to the pace and instrumentation throughout. Heavy keys and a simple drum pattern is laced on the production. As mentioned previously, Big Fil incorporated a worship style track entitled “Forever I Will” featuring Mario Bennett that puts me in the mind of Uncle Reece’s track “Can’t Help Myself,” in how it went from a turn up kind of vibe to worship at the very end of the song. This song is smooth and it will appeal to the listeners who appreciate a variety of sound on a CHH album.
One concept that was stressed consistently throughout the album is that material possessions mean nothing on their own. The songs “Gucci, Louis, Prada” and “Worship Over Swag” were two of the tracks that emphasized that point. He wasn’t knocking the idea that having nice things are bad, but he made it clear that if your focus is to obtain social status by acquiring things, you’ll be let down every time. Both tracks offered the sound and fast-paced melody that’s known in the South. Big Fil gave a visual illustration of the birth and life of Jesus in the song “Holy Night,” which had a smooth beat pattern that was not overly drowned out by bass or percussion, but it allowed you to take everything in that you were hearing and actually picture it.
If you’re into complex lyricism and metaphors, this album will not quench your thirst. However, if you’re intrigued by catchy punchlines and a heavy bass and trap beats, then this album will be up your alley. Tracks like “The Blood” fits into the description of a catchy hook and the content of the song is still solid. This is a pretty straight forward album and Big Fil makes it clear that God is better than basically anything we attempt to compare Him to. Big Fil remained consistent with the title of the album I’m Just Being Me. It is difficult to put him into a category because he brings a diverse mix of sound to CHH that is not too common. It’s not often that you can find an artist that can bring a northern and southern swag to a record at one time, but I think Big Fil did a decent job at bringing both of those styles together.
Big Fil delivered a clean and simple album, but I feel as if the project may get lost in the shuffle as the year continues. Due to the increased number of albums releasing and artists arriving to the scene in CHH within the past few years, it can be challenging to have an album that will resonate with listeners for long periods of time. I believe Big Fil has grown as an artist since his previous album and that is great progress, however, like many areas of life, there’s still room to grow in areas of deeper lyricism and to go beyond the surface of the issues he addressed in his music, and continuing to try new sounds and production.