Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
Christian hip hop is tricky because similar to church culture, people often assume you have to act a certain way. If you are rugged or too honest, you may be ridiculed for lacking grace and love. Sometimes God wires people differently and while there is always room for us to grow in love and grace, there’s also room for people to accept differences.
Japhia Life has always been a different type of artist in the CHH community. He was one of the early artists that did not want to be labeled a “Christian Rapper.” His content is often very real and transparent. His music is not what you turn to in order to get a musical synopsis on the book of Romans. He’s unique and he always has a story to tell.
Japhia’s latest album, The Profit, compliments the unique style that he brings to the game. In this review, we will highlight what Life was aiming to do.
The Profit is different because instead of trying to keep up with what’s hot right now, it seems to pay homage to what was poppin’ in the past. The album is flooded with Japhia’s life story. It sounds like music from the 80’s and 90’s but any listener can tell that it’s intentional. It’s as if he was taking us back in time to tell a story and decided to give us songs that matched the time frame he was referencing.
Listeners will also hear a lot about Japhia’s upbringing in Philly and his interactions with both the church and the hood. You will be able to see how God’s hand has been over him despite some of the activity and friends that he has encountered. It also helps listeners see why he has such a heart for people in the hood. It is because it’s a part of his story.
This album helps his fans understand how he’s been so consistent with his personal sound. It’s because Japhia has a passion for where he came from. It’s engraved in his music, delivery and content. Most people have thrown out the “east coast” sound to keep up with the music that is currently making it big, but Japhia sticks to his Philly roots.
Highlight Track: “The Black Out”
As stated before, this album has a strong 80’s and 90’s east coast rap feel to it. This isn’t an album where you will find the new techno/dubstep sound filtered in it. This is an album for the classic hip hop lovers. The boom bap carries the beat and Japhia carries the flow. He has a song called “Real Love” and it has the feel of 50 cent’s “21 Questions.” The beat is very simplistic and makes you want to reflect. In regards to sound, it just screams classic east coast rap. At one point, you will even hear sirens in the background, as if they were passing the house that the song was recorded.
The entire album has this vintage feel. That may take away from the listener looking for something to compete with what’s on their radio. Capturing this sound makes it sound like production was not as crisp. It’s assumed that it was intentional, but while capturing the sound is great, it can also make the music feel old. Some people may not want to hear a full album that takes them back to the 90’s. Older individuals will probably love this album, whereas some newer listeners may not vibe with what he was doing with it.
Highlight Track: “Kings (feat. Rob Hodge)
Japhia has a straight forward delivery that can make some feel uncomfortable but he’s great at what he does. He doesn’t try to sound “Christian.” He references things in mainstream culture when making his points instead of Bible characters. In “Kings” he references Fresh Prince, Bill Cosby, Kevin Hart and more. Some Christian artists shy from mentioning celebrities so that it doesn’t look like they support or listen to them, but Japhia is secure enough to do it. That’s what makes him special to CHH. He’s not afraid to let people in on his influences.
And while he may not be afraid to say things that are taboo in Christian culture, he doesn’t hide his love for God. On “Flashlight,” he lets us in on a story about his block where he used to be involved with selling drugs and different activities. However, the song is really about how he recognizes how dark the hood is and how he needs to be a flashlight amidst the what goes on. The song is his story but it points to how we all need to bring our lights to similar places.
People love authenticity and Japhia keeps it 100 in all that he does. Many artists wish they had that kind of security and they can learn a lot by listening to Japhia, as he sticks to who he is. Mainstream culture doesn’t define his craft and many listeners will hear that on this project.
Highlight Track: “Fatal Cassette 1995”
The Profit is a great album to get to know Japhia as an artist. This isn’t an album that will catch the ears of people looking for what’s current, but it is an album for people that love the underground hip hop sound. Japhia tells his story and not only will listeners hear his love for God, they will also hear his love for his family and his city. If people listen closely, they may finish the album inspired and encouraged to do more in their own cities, and to love people outside of the Christian circles they may live in.
This isn’t a project that you will go to for banging beats, but it is flooded with great story telling and lyricism. Fans of Japhia will appreciate this project and the story that it tells about his life.
Japhia Life’s The Profit is now available for purchase on iTunes.