Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Back in 2015, the Middle Tennessee-based rapper dropped his debut album Smoke Signal as a Rapzilla Exclusive, and made a noticeable ripple in the industry for himself and the Indie Tribe. Last year he graced us with a few mixtapes that kept the wave rolling, and prepped our palettes for Canopy.
We all have experienced that anticlimactic moment when a new, unique artist releases another project, completely abandoning everything that peaked our interest about them, and joins the ocean of mainstream gimmicks.
Fortunately, nobigdyl. does no such thing with Canopy. Instead it demonstrates that he has found his own voice and matured as an artist. Fans of nobigdyl. will find that each track processes a fresh familiarity that embodies an impressive newness, while retaining the youthful individuality that they love about him.
From the beginning “Tree Tops” apprehends the listener’s attention and intrigue with an unforgettable hook over a smooth synthetic beat. In addition to being extremely catchy, this track introduces us to the heartbeat of the album and begins to unfold the meaning of the cover art: “Pride got me feelin’ like a leaf fallin’ down; Canopy catchin’ me ‘fore I’m meetin’ the ground.” The overall sound of the album is cheerfully melodic despite the fact that the lyrics tackle tough topics such as pride and lust, political and religious discord, depression and suicide.
The first half of the album portrays the sickness and is comparatively heavier in tone than the latter half of the project. nobigdyl. discusses the vanity of chasing worldly treasures and significance, confessing that he’s “covered in coveting and drowning in jealousy.” On the contrary, “Video” follows up with an upbeat ode to his wife and features Indie Tribe member Jarry Manna on the hook. This track at first glance seems misplaced within the albums concept, but functions as a perfect contrast and back drop for “Doors”.
In “Video”, nobigdyl. says “when it rains I’ll be your umbrella man,” and then begins “Doors” with windshield wipers which suggest rain. This track depicts the image of broken relationships and confusion, and the entire track is disturbed by talks of suicide and other negative influences in the background.
After discussing the possibility of choosing the wrong doors—namely suicide—“Suicide Nets” masterfully speaks of the symptoms of suicide and matches them with hope and redemption. The track is appropriately titled with ‘Nets’ in the plural, because not only is God the ultimate net, but nobigdyl. strongly articulates that he will also be a net for his brothers and sisters. This seems to be an important theme for nobigdyl. throughout the album that becomes all the more evident in the latter half of the project. Still, the unapologetic references to the Gospel and the power of God are the fundamental sources of hope he offers to the weary because—“Even the demons are scared, they shiver whenever they speak to the heir; Even the demons are scared, they shiver whenever they speak to the beacon cause they know that He got the peace that you seekin’!”
The last five tracks, which seem to function as a side-B, considering the fact that “Purple Dinosaur” begins with nobigdyl.’s signature “tribe on the move” introduction, possess a much brighter vibe than the first half of the album. “Purple Dinosaur”, which is a homage to every 90’s baby’s childhood, is characteristic of childlike faith and genuine love for God and others despite the evil in the world.
nobigdyl. follows that high, colorful track with some nice 808s in “Venus”. For all the athletes and gym rats, this is the track you’ll put on repeat while you are working up a sweat. Not only is this track a banger, but it also is a reminder of the victory that every believer has in Christ. In “Siblings” we meet Jarry Manna again, except this time he gets a verse and bolsters the vibe of the track with his raspy, suave delivery. Angie Rose represents for the sisters in the third verse and drops a memorable closing bar: “And even though the paths look different, if you really good at math you ain’t addin’ in division.” The track brings to the forefront the beauty and unity of genuine Christian fellowship as was mentioned before.
“Shade Tree” adds an interesting dynamic to the album as it nears its close, and begins to tie the loose strands of the concept together. There seems to be three ways of interpreting what nobigdyl. meant by ‘shade tree’ in the song.
- Option one, a shade tree could be any false covering that someone tries to hide underneath for shelter, but ultimately can never satisfy as explained by the preacher on the track.
- Option two, a shade tree could be the true covering that can only be found in God when we submit to him and cry out “Shade Tree save me from myself” as the female vocalist echoes.
- Option three, a shade tree could be a general representation of covering.
The question that nobigdyl. seems to lay out in front of the listener, no matter which interpretation they choose is this: Are you seeking your refuge in God or in fig leaves? Finally, in “Morning” nobigdyl. summarizes the project and provides the hope of the Gospel through personal testimony. The first half of the track is a confession of sins and reckless living, all the while wondering “Is there forgiveness for such as I?” In the second half of the track we find the yes to his questions; everything changed when he “saw the sunlight through the trees.” He allegorizes the Kraken sinking a ship at sea as the enemy seizing command of his soul, and layers a deep eerie voice over his own. But once he declares his freedom in Christ, the voice vanishes from the track.
Overall, nobigdyl. has offered an all-around solid album that, if it has any lack, wants for more than ten songs to enjoy. The concept is coherent with the sound and design of the entire project, and does not contain unnecessary features that may have detracted from the intimate feel of the album. He held back no punches with in regards to lyricism, leaving us with some Twitter worthy material:
- “Tree Tops! Tree Tops! Last year went on tour with T-Dot; He make Civic look like Fiat; I want him to think that me hot.” (“Tree Tops)
- “Emmanuel; catch you when you fall, He’s the hand you held. Like even if you went and made your bed in hell, he’d be knockin’ at the door like ‘House-keeping!’” (“Shade Trees)
- “They gone say that I went soft on this one, but man, I already counting’ the cost on this one!” (“Purple Dinosaur”)
- “Made in the image of Dad, I feel like hitting my dab!” (“Venus”)
- “God He lift me from the ashes I give Christ my all my passion though my sin radioactive just imagine all the dragons he be slaying for my soul on my behalf he get it crackin’, he be slaying for my soul on my behalf he get it crackin’!” (“Morning”)
Canopy is a refreshing addition to CHH and a millennial outcry for the culture at large. The sound is relevant with a message to match. It is apparent that nobigdyl. does not just know his audience, but sympathizes with them. You don’t find him attacking anything but darkness throughout the entire album, nor is he uncovering anyone’s sin issue except his own. Canopy is a humble display of one man’s walk with God, who’s genuine prayer is:
Lord your kingdom come, and
Lord your will be done, and
Lord I pray my tongue encourages your little ones.