Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Once I started gaining knowledge of music, and what makes each genre unique, I created my own personal belief that Hip Hop and Rap, while connected, should be considered two separate genres of their own. Those who rap also do hip hop, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who does hip hop can rap. And our brother JGivens stands strongly in the first category. The eloquent Beast on the Humble roster has crafted a mind blowing space to allow his talents to run wild all over the concept of his label – Humility. So as we take the Fly Exam, lets see what the dynamics of this album are.
The Fly Exam
From jump on this album, you can tell that JGivens is using this album to speak both to himself and speak to the outside world about the conflict of ego. “Ignorantro” is the embodiment of the current Hip Hop culture – I’m the greatest, none of you can rap better than me, I’m on top and I’m better than everyone else. These sayings could even be true, as J alludes to in a few songs, but as a Christ follower, how does this mindset keep one humble to be used by Christ in the most effective way?
JGivens hits on the multiple facets of being full of one’s self on each song in some way. You’ve got “Fahrenheit 99”, which lays the foundation of having personal idol worship because of one’s talents, followed by “So Fly”, featuring Beleaf, a tale of J’s own battle with self image, compliments from others, and the danger that comes from being fed by their words. One of my favorite lines from that shows this concept well, stating:
“And the riddle is why the fly so ignorant?”
All of these songs pick apart this thought in its own creative way. “Fly Exam” speaks from J’s perspective alone, and conversely, “Lost In Space” (featuring Marz) speaks of the ignorance to anyone’s belief that one doesn’t need community and accountability. This kind of thinking leads them to get lost in space, captain of their own ship with no one to help them find direction.
Once he tackles ego, he moves his sights on to greed. Our world pumps us consistently with the thoughts that money equals happiness, and “10, 2 Get In” is a smash reference to the death that the love of money brings – which the Bible states is the root of all evil. Both he and Odd Thomas speak about how the lie of “get money” has led many straight to the grave, and it will be the same for anyone else who follows this path – while pulling metaphors to life from the rules of a game of dominoes.
The list goes on and on of all the tracks that break down the daily struggle with self pride in ways that draw you in. And once you’re drawn in, JGivens teams up with Braille to give hope to those who may have fallen into any of these traps in their life with “March 10th and a 3rd”. Such a clear distinction that anyone can be freed from these types of bondages by falling back, figuratively, into Jesus’ hands, and allow Him to truly take control of the spaceship you were flying on your own. Its this hope that while you may have failed the Fly Exam at an earlier date, Jesus has grace for you to take it again, with His help this time.
Honestly, I can’t think of anyone who is rapping better than JGivens now.
I’m just going let that sit there.
By this statement, I’m not saying that Fly Exam is THEE top album of the year, but stay with me. There are MANY talented artists in CHH today whose albums are great, who can put together great songs, concepts, and the like, but particularly in the craft of rap as an artform:
I legitimately cannot think of anyone who has currently portrayed the skills that JGivens has shown in this album.
JGivens ability to string similie to metaphor to antonym to plain word and back to similie is astounding – and interestingly enough, these are the type of comments that he speaks about having to wrestle with his pride about. There are so many lines that he spits that have double, and even triple meanings, that you WILL miss some – emphasis on WILL. Don’t feel bad about it either, I had to listen to a few songs three times in a row to catch eveyrthing. He packs them so much that you are bugging out over a line, and you miss the next bars because of it.
Hearing this album took me back to the days of rap that made me want to rewind a song over and over until I got an entire stanza/verse memorized. It happens from time to time nowadays, but it hasn’t happened as much as it did as I was listening through this entire album. Spoken plainly, JGivens killed it on the execution end. His flow, his mindset behind how he approached each beat, the way he unpacks the concepts in the songs, the great features from Propaganda, John Givez, Jackie Hill-Perry, and more – all of these and more give this album a very high shelf life.
If you are a fan of rap, buy this album. If you are a fan of bars that make you think, buy this album. If you are a fan of dope lyricism, buy this album. If you are a fan of good music, buy this album. If you are a fan of tight flows, buy this album. If you are a fan of beats that make your head nod, buy this album. If you like concepts that make you challenge yourself and your worldview, buy this album. If you have liked any of JGivens’ past work, buy this album. If any of these describe you, then you will not be disappointed by Fly Exam.