Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
A lot of artists are emerging in the CHH genre but I think the anticipation for Christon Gray‘s debut album with Collision Records is unmatched. I remember searching for his music when I heard him all over Swoope’s classic Wake Up project.
Christon Gray was a part of the Elevationists and also has a solo album that played a role in getting him signed to Collision. If you have heard any of his past music, you would agree that he is full of talent, but it seems like when he joined with Collision, all the pieces came together.
He’s been able to land multiple features with the top artists in the genre and everyone is waiting to hear what his album will sound like. He isn’t a singer that has some rap talent and he’s not a rapper that can sing. He can sing. He can rap. He can do both very well.
Christon’s new project is titled School of Roses and from the name alone, I expected an R&B feel. But will he still rap? In this review, I will share my experience with Christon Gray’s album.
As soon as the first track came on, I knew I was in for an experience. As odd as it sounds, the opening track reminded me of the intro music for a Disney movie (or when the logo comes up). Christon sings a simple, yet challenging question, “When’s the last time you said I’m sorry, when’s the last time you said I love you.”
It didn’t feel like the lovey-dovey, feel good R&B. It felt serious, but it sounded amazing.
However, there was an amazing progression to this album. Christon definitely tackles tough relational topics with songs like “Wanna,” “Windchaser,” “Hello or Goodbye” and “Ghost.” But then the songs shift towards the end of the album. Songs like “Burning House,” “Lady Gray,” and “Arena” are songs that still have the serious feel, but lean towards fighting for more in a relationship.
After my first listen, I was blown away. It was a relational album, but he handled it with ease that the songs were creatively and musically executed well.
What About Christon The Rapper
Christon is such a good rapper that he has almost created two camps of fans. Those that love him as a singer, and those that want him to just rap. If you’re looking for a rap album, you won’t find that on School Of Roses, but you will catch many moments where he taps into Christon the rapper.
On “Windchaser” he mixes his singing while partially rapping in verses and he raps full verses on “Moving On” and “Convenient.” “Nostalgia” is very Fugee-esque with Christon rapping his whole verse while having his brother Taelor Gray and B. Reith on the track.
One thing I noticed about Christon that does not change, is his artistry. He may not have rapped every song, but his writing style is full of metaphors, allegories and more. He may have been singing on “Wanna,” but his delivery still had a dash of rap flavor. You can hear the artistry and intentionality in his lyrics throughout the entire album. For that, I think fans will be grateful.
No Jesus? Is Christon Selling Out?
In both interviews with Rapzilla and Wade-O Radio, Christon warns people that the album does not mention Jesus a whole lot. He wasn’t lying. Verbally, you wont hear the name Jesus, but it’d be hard to walk away and not hear a Christian album. Christon has explained the title of this album, School Of Roses, to mean the learning or growing process (school) of relationships (roses). The songs deal with a lot of human feelings and emotions, but the outcome of the songs reflect Jesus.
For example, on his single “Vanish” featuring Swoope, Christon is speaking from the perspective of someone that has tried to do the right things, but continues to cause more tension in the relationship. Due to not being able to make it better, he’d rather vanish. That is normal. Being Christian is not synonymous with not having emotions. The song doesn’t stay there. Swoope touches on the idea of vanishing, but ends it with how he’s entered in a covenant relationship and will not leave her. Was Jesus in that song? I would say yes.
That is one example. There are many different relational examples throughout this album and I would argue that the world has not heard R&B like this. It’s because he offers new solutions to the same hard tensions that all humans deal with in relationships. He offers the biblical way to stay committed and bear with one another.
Sonically, I can press play and let this album play out. As a married man, I could relate to a lot of what is on School of Roses. If you are single, I think you will still be able to relate to a degree because the term relationship does not equate to a romantic one. He highlights many different facets of relational conflict.
I have mentioned a lot about human relationships because that was flooded throughout this album, but I did want to highlight that songs like “Burning House,” “Ghost,” and “Arena” (The Final Hour). They all speak to our relationship with God. “Burning House” refers to how serious we must be about getting closure in our lives and to deal with baggage, unforgiveness, etc. “Ghost” deals with an absent father and points us to our heavenly Father. And “Arena” is basically a worship song and additional spin to the original “Arena” from WLAK.
I wanted to share that because again, this is definitely a Christian album. I do not think CHH has heard anything like this at all. I also believe that there are many songs on this album that will be able to be played on mainstream radio.
Be sure to check this album out when it drops on Tuesday, March 25. It is definitely capable of making noise in circles beyond the CHH bubble.
School of Roses is now available for pre-order on iTunes.