Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
The Dream Junkies have had an incredible run over the past two years. As soon as former members of theBREAX, Ruslan and Beleaf joined forces with John Givez (who was a relative unknown at the time), there has been no looking back on their way to the top of CHH. Their first record, NREM Edition, was largely slept on and highly underrated.
It was a clear picture of what this new super group was capable of. Then each member went off to release solo projects. Beleaf first dropped followed by Ruslan’s Do For One and lastly, John Givez with Soul Rebel. Each record was dope. It built up each member of the group and continued to build the groups following. There was success for the group while they were apart. Like any good group does, they have come back together to release their second album, Good Religion.
The climate is much different now for Good Religion than it was just two years ago when they released NREM Edition. Beleaf has grown a following as a solo artist. For a while, he was a member of theBREAX but after Red Pills + Black Sugar, Beleaf is now seen as one of the best the game has to offer. John Givez is a legitimate star in the making. These factors, coupled with a change in audience towards more artistic and soulful hip-hop, is the perfect climate for a Dream Junkies album to flourish.
If you are familiar with the work of Ruslan and Beleaf then there is one thing that you can expect on Good Religion, and that is good production. There is a solid, crisp sound carried throughout this entire record. It is well thought out and organized. Each track flows well into the other. This makes for a smooth listen throughout the entirety of Good Religion.
“Smooth” is also a good word to describe the tone of this record. To use some terminology from my high school days, Good Religion rides. You can just start this record and listen from start to finish. You vibe with this record. A song like “Left Coast” featuring Murs is something that you feel, as opposed to simply listening to. It flows through you and you feel like you are a part of the track. It is an easy listen and the type of music that you want to have on all the time.
The smooth theme continues into the actual sound of Good Religion. There aren’t really any songs that will overwhelm you with bass or drums; it’s heavy with rich melodies and solid kicks. This comes together beautifully on “Showbiz”. A rich melody is mixed with some solid drums and is finished with John’s soulful singing voice on the hook. Each member adds a quick and fluid flow to the track to bring it to life.
Another element that makes Good Religion so smooth is the group’s chemistry. This is a must if a group record is going to be put together by a group. That becomes increasingly harder with individual success outside of the group (which each member of Dream Junkies has done). That is no problem for these guys. The chemistry is excellent on Good Religion. Never once do they sound like individuals. It’s one sound moving forward with different elements.
On “Intro”, you get a mixture of different individual elements that are brought together perfectly to make a great song. Beleaf opens the track with a short-spoken word piece. That transitions into John singing the theme of the entire record. That is followed with Ruslan bringing the bars. He slows down and chops up his flow, bringing the whole song together. The slightly more hard-hitting “I Got The Juice”, has members elevating their lyrical game to match the feel of this track. Members speed up their flow to create a consistent theme on this track. Their chemistry creates a consistent and cohesive sound. Every good team has to have chemistry to be successful, and the Dream Junkies have mastered this area.
Whether they are together or apart, the Dream Junkies are known for their lyricism. Ruslan, Beleaf and John Givez are all great lyricists in their own right. They all deliver stellar lyrical performances on Good Religion. They display a level of lyricism that is virtually unmatched in CHH. On the playful “ShowBiz”, each member laments about the struggles of being an artist today. The playfulness is only found in the content of the record because the lyricism is outstanding. Whether its Ruslan’s clever storytelling or John’s quick tempo and wordplay or Beleaf’s effortless delivery, you get different elements of delivery done in perfection.
“Shoot Me” is the more aggressive side of the Junkies. Fans of theBREAX will remember this style and welcome it with open arms. “Shoot Me” has all three guys speaking their minds. This track may rub some people the wrong way, but it is a message that CHH needs and there is no better group to deliver that message than the Dream Junkies. They weave through this song masterfully, dropping numerous memorable lines:
“I might be your favorite rappers ghostwriter
You call him the best, but when he see’s me he calls me sire.” –Beleaf
“I’m only inspired when I’m tired
And I’m tired of suckers telling us they like us, then they bite us.” –Beleaf
“We all got a short memory don’t we/thinking High Society influenced us lowkey
And they the originators of this thing/don’t let the same team montra fool you
We are not the same thing.” –Ruslan
“I think my appetite to some of you is threatening
If you can’t beat em then you join em
Nah, you have never been squad.” –John Givez
This song is the Dream Junkies at their best and is it superb.
If you are coming to this album looking for a deep theological presence throughout this record, then you will be disappointed. That has never been the Junkies’ style (together or separately). Elements of the gospel can be found all throughout this record. Good Religion has more of a biblical worldview perspective. It gives a feel of what “good religion” looks like and a bit of commentary on how they are trying to achieve “good religion.” The record ends with the soulful “All’s I Need”. Here, the Junkies are sharing their hearts in a reflective fashion. We end up in a reflective environment and that brings us all closer to God. It is delivered in more of a cerebral fashion but it is a beautiful, thoughtful, and spiritual track.
Overall, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this record. It is fantastic from start to finish. It is beautiful hip-hop done with perfection. Good Religion sets a high bar for the rest of the year. Lyrically and musically, the Dream Junkies are operating on a higher level than most of CHH. This is a record that everyone should hear and could possibly be the best record of the year. It gets better with each listen and grows in a way that most records don’t. If you haven’t been paying attention to the Dream Junkies up to this point, you need to start, because you’re missing the best group in CHH and maybe in all of hip-hop.