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Album Review: K. Sparks – Self Portrait

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Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.

Who is K. Sparks? Where did he come from? These were the questions that ran through my head when I was introduced to his music. They weren’t stated negatively, but shockingly. I hadn’t heard much about him, nor did I see many “big names” co-sign him, but I sure am happy that I stumbled upon K. Sparks and his music.

I found myself looking up more of his music and I found that he was formerly involved with a lot of mainstream music prior to releasing Christian hip-hop. According to his story, he was involved in the secular hip-hop scene in New York from 2007 to 2012 and began to get quite a bit of recognition. Unfulfilled by material things and partial fame, he decided to change the direction of his music. He now wanted to create art that was fueled from positivity and faith.

On July 2, 2013 K. Sparks released Self Portrait. In reference to the album title, he states, “Life is a journey, and while on that journey we’re all painting a portrait of what our lives will be for other people that observe. Regardless of what takes place we all strive to paint a portrait that will leave a lasting impression once we leave this earth.” I thought this was an interesting concept and this album review will serve as a reflection of what I uncovered while listening.

A Couple Of Things That Caught My Ear

When I hit play on the first track, I did not know what to expect. There was no music in the beginning, just him spitting rhymes. His flow caught my ears immediately. It was clear, crisp and clever. As I listened to more of the album, I had to respect him as a lyricist. His clean flow did not fade away. He lyrically danced over the beats so gracefully. I was so bothered that I had not heard of him prior to my first listen. His lyrical talent was impressive.

Good lyrics are a plus, but some lyricists are so focused on their rhymes that they pay less attention to the production. I did not feel that this happened on Self Portrait. Actually, it was quite the opposite. The production was clean and added to each track. I was also encouraged to hear a diverse range of music from an artist out of New York. Sometimes east coast rappers stick to one sound. On this album, I felt that he tackled west coast, dirty south, and east coast beats. No matter the beat, the production stayed consistent. This was truly music to my ears (pun intended).

Another Unique Observation

About half way through the album, I was thoroughly impressed by K. Sparks rapping ability and production team. As I listened more, I was impressed by something a little different. I noticed that I had not heard of any of the features on this project. It was not a bad thing, just different. It subliminally communicated something that encouraged me.

It showed me that he is content and confident in the lane that he is running in. He did not have any “big names” in the CHH scene on this project. A lot of the featured artists on this album were featured on the music he’s put out prior to this. I thought that was special because it is so easy to try and chase big name talent. He did not have that, and still made solid songs.

Areas That May Be Tough For Christians

The Christian hip-hop genre has not been so warm to the idea of “positive” music that lacks Christ-centeredness. I like to look at the music from a slightly different vantage point. With grace.

K. Sparks recently began to center his music around his faith and positivity and I believe this is phenomenal. I checked out some of his music prior to the new direction and I can say that there is tremendous growth and maturity woven into his lyrics. Does it preach? Not as much. Does it communicate truths that Christians live by? Absolutely.  For that, I think we should be encouraged, before we cast a judgmental stone.

He has a song entitled “Special” that is probably best for mature or married believers. There is nothing wrong with the song, but it is about he and his wife. The “What is Love Interlude” does the groundwork for the song. If you can understand that the song is celebrating marital love, it may not take you aback as fast.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this project. I love when great music busts into the Christian hip-hop scene. That is truly how I felt when I listened to this. His story reminds me of Gemstones and I appreciate that K. Sparks changed the message in his music.

I do think that he could have stuck to the concept a little better. The songs were good to listen to, but the titles and content did not compliment the overall theme of the project in my opinion.

I think that K. Sparks has a great deal of talent and that his music will continually get more mature and beneficial to everyone. This was a very encouraging album to listen to. I love when God takes an artist like K. Sparks just to show off his redemptive qualities. Now we have another artist in the Kingdom that can rap with the best of them.

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Branden Murphy has served as a Campus Missionary. He loves Christian hip hop and uses it within his ministry to reach and converse with many different students. He plans to use his heart for music and ministry to write album reviews on Wadeoradio.com. Branden is also married with two children. You can follow Branden on Twitter: @Bmurph633.

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