Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
A lot can be said about KB from Reach Records. He’s one of the few rappers who have mastered the “twisted” style of rapping fast. His music has always been able to move with the waves of hip hop without throwing away his desire to have Christ focused content, and from what I’ve heard, his live show is something to experience.
And with two full length albums in the bag, as well as consistent talk of Reach Records’ direction as a label, there was much anticipation towards KB’s 3rd full length album “Today We Rebel”. From the cover art and packaging, we can see that this album is going to be something to behold, so let’s cut all the pretense and dig right into this album.
Rebel – a person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler. Since Jesus doesn’t call us to take up physical arms against the ruler of this world, we are called to SPIRITUAL arms. Much like the Reach Records of old, KB starts off this proclamation to Rebel with a rally cry for the masses – “DNOU”.
This phrase, Don’t Nobody Own Us, refers to artists who have to listen to record labels, workers who have to listen to their managers, and even Christians who have to obey the leaders of this world. It says that even though we will follow the directions of our savior Jesus, to adhere to those placed in power on this earth, it doesn’t mean that you own who I am. I’m going to do what I desire to do, and if any of your orders as a leader step outside of the guidelines my Lord Jesus has set, I will stand against them.
The next song, “Tempo” follows. This is another song that has a foundation on standing out, rebelling, and being about things related to Christ more than the world. To pile on top of the energy from the previous song, it gets the listeners ready for what’s to come on this album. See, after this song, KB takes you on a journey of what is possible with Jesus.
There is the reflection on who KB once was, a “Monster”, and how after coming to Jesus, he learned that having a “Primetime” mindset helps to see taking losses as lessons to grow from. You learn from them because if you don’t, they will keep coming and life will seem harder and harder. He knows what it’s like to do everything to just “Get Through”, and it’s dangerous to give up when times get a little hard.
He paints the picture of what can happen when you give up under the heaviness of everyday life, especially as a Christian artist – showing the “Art of Drifting” away from Jesus and the pain it causes for you and anyone else connected to you. But because of Jesus always being there, there is an “Art of Hope” that gives redemption to all who humble themselves before the Lord.
He will renew their strength to mount up on wings like eagles, and once that strength is made new, when those same evils that made you fall before come back around, you can stand up straight against them and boldy proclaim “Not Today Satan”. And when he inevitably asks you why, you will need to let him know that because of what Jesus has done in you “I Am Not The One”.
This is the usual Christian story cycle of fall to redemption and the lyrical presentation is very powerful. As the songs string together, you feel like you are following along someone’s personal journey put to music. Personally, even though I have never been in any of the specific situations that the songs speak of, the transition of “Art of Drifting” to”Art of Hope” hit me deeply like it was about me – like I needed to repent! That’s the mark of a well crafter soundscape. The music captures the emotion of the story that KB is trying to tell, and when you listen to what he is saying, the music draws you in on an emotional level.
There is an interesting juxtaposition with using the word Rebel in connection to Reach Records. It’s been some 10 years since Lecrae released “Rebel” and in the CHH world, that word will elicit a wide variety of reactions. For some, it’s a hurtful reminder of what once was in this record label, and to others, it’s still the encouraging war cry of a plethora of believers ready to die for the cause of Christ because of said record label.
However, this is important because of how this album has been constructed. KB has created an album that speaks to the present with things from the past. You see, there are many parts of this album that are directly drawn from poignant parts of CHH culture – ideas presented through music that were used to charge the body of Christ as rally cries. Those ideas are repackaged for the current audience – both so that they can digest meaty content in their context, but to also show how the truths of standing for Christ in your daily life are just like it was back then.
Take “New Portrait” for example. “Portrait” is a classic track from Da’ T.R.U.T.H.‘s second album “The Faith”, which was released in 2005. KB’s “New Portrait” uses the cadence of the first song – which brings familiarity to anyone who knows the original. He takes lyrics directly from the older song, while adding new ones that contextualize the message to the issues that modern Christianity faces opposition about (i.e European Christianity, slavery from church founders, etc).
The closing track of the album is “Rebel Rebel 88”, a fitting ending to this topic of rebelling. The 88 is for KB’s year of birth, and the song is about how he was born to be a rebel. Though he was first misplacing this natural ability by rebelling against God, now he is using it to properly rebel against the world and the sinful desires that comes with it.
But the real connection comes from the “Rebel Rebel 88 Intro”. This song is almost an exact bar for bar recreation of the hook for “Battle Song” from Lecrae’s “Rehab: The Overdose” album – arguably one of Lecrae’s most “Rebel”- like projects, besides the album itself.
See, KB purposely connected “old” CHH ideologies that were heavily biblical with the new style of music to show that they both can work together within this context of Christian rap, or whatever it wants to be called. KB has successfully shown that to forsake the Gospel for the sake of music that sounds good is a complete waste of an argument. He has done both incredibly well with “Today We Rebel”, and if anyone tries to do one without the other and tries to use this excuse, they can’t anymore.
KB is a really talented guy, and this album is really good. Anyone who believes that all of Reach Records is going “off the rails”, should stop believing that now.
While this diverse group of brothers are showing just how wide the range of music can be that comes from this label, there are still those who are going to be pushing the envelope artistically, while staying true to the overt message that endeared so many to the label in the first place. KB is one of those mainstays, as his approach to music is refreshing and familiar.
“Today We Rebel” is a really encouraging project. It’s encouraging to hear someone who can make the current style of music not sound like a hot garbled mess. It’s encouraging to hear lyrics that are packed so heavily with biblical ideas that you can miss them if you blink. And it’s encouraging to see that there are artists who think so heavily into what goes into their projects from a big picture standpoint.
Like I said, from the cover art and packaging, we could see that this album was going to be something to behold, and it is. If you haven’t heard this entire project from start to finish, you need to do so right now. You will not regret it. Just be prepared – after one good listen, you might come out ready to “Bring You War” to anything that tries to stand against you!