Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
One of Christian Hip Hop’s main go-to websites, Rapzilla, have been putting out an artist list of the top 10-15 newcomers to CHH every year since 2010 – but this year, it’s a little extra special. This year, the “Freshman of 2015” list is accompanied with a full length compilation project featuring all of the artists on the list, which was produced by upcoming producer Wontel, aka Wontel Music. Now, to qualify for this list, you had to have had only 1 full length album available on the market, so even if you recognize any artist on the list as “not a newcomer” to you, based on this main qualification, they are eligible to be called a “Freshman.”
Now because this is a compilation, we’re not able to unpack this from a theme direction. All of the songs are original to this project, but there is no proof that the artists intermingled their songwriting direction toward one topic. So, each song is its own world and its own experience.
What to Expect
Each artist took their inclusion into this project as a means to convey whatever message they desired to. There are a few who, whether new to the scene or not, wrote songs that can be seen as introductory pieces on who they are – as an artist, what their past has to do with their worldview, and what drives them as a Christ follower. Some tracks are more of an interlude than a full song, but they still get the job done of giving you an idea of who these individuals are from an artistic perspective.
Joey Jewish spits a few 16’s straight through on “Mood Swing” and Sam Stan hits us with a pleasant happy rap on “Cookies & Tea.” They are solid interludes that let the brothers get creative over a beat, without having to overthink unpacking a heavy concept on it. Whereas, Lawren introduces us to who he is on “Ask Me Who I Am.”
Others wrote conceptual songs that make the listener reflect on the issues brought up in the song, as opposed to the artist performing. Tony Ri’chard painted a vivid picture of someone who is living wrong talking to God about their horrible ways with “Riddlers Nirvana” (featuring Precious Parks & Mikey Elizabeth). Tres Carter does a really nice job pulling us into the worldview of a couple in a relationship that is on the rocks with “Goodbye.”
And there were those who wrote songs about their interaction/relationship with God in various ways. Songbird Marz let it all be known that she desires to be 100% connected with the Father in “Take Me Away (Wontel Remix),” and HillaryJane lifted praise up to God through every step of her life in “Reign On Me.” Jericho has a jazzy tune with Danny Boone called “Fly Away,” where he talks about how his focus on heading to heaven with God keeps him elevated above worldly issues and troubles that want to weigh him down. And Oscar Urbina speaks about the need to go against the grain, against lusts of the flesh, against desires to give in to temptation, or the things that come to distract/deter your productivity in Christ, by labeling these things as “Michael Myers.” And of course, you’re supposed to run away from Michael Myers, as the scriptures tell us that we are to flee temptation.
As all of these artists have done a great job of representing themselves on this project, there were 5 in particular, whose songs particularly stood out to me as I listened through:
Levi Hinson‘s “Wake Up – The beat is hot and Levi’s rap cadence is nice to listen to. The song is about him being slept on through his life – another introduction-to-the-world type of track. It’s good music and something you can really bop to.
Davis Absolute‘s “Glorify” – From the beginning of the track, you can tell Davis is about real issues when he’s rapping. This song has depth of scripture references in the lyrics and garners a high replay value. His rap style is so fluent and it rides the beat well. The artist approach draws you in as well, with the chorus being about glorifying the Lord.
Sam Ock‘s “Hypocrite” – This track is a sleeper in my opinion. First off, Sam can sing. So the track starts real mellow, then the beat drops and the other Sam comes out. Dealing with the battle every Christian fights daily with of being a hypocrite by their words vs actions, the song is a conversation Sam is having with God. And overall, Sam can rap, so you’re going to enjoy that.
J. Monty‘s “Seasons Change” – This track is fire. J’s style is refreshing, his lyrics are fun and can be convicting, and with such a unique rap style, he always keeps you guessing on how he’s going to flow on a beat. This song is about life’s constant changes and how you’ve gotta be able to move along with all of them. Seasons will change and you can’t stop living for Christ just because of transition.
nobigdyl.‘s “Tint” – This song was a great choice to start off the album with because it does a few things:
1. It gets you ready for the project, by hitting you with a talented artist who can get your attention.
2. It makes you pay attention and ask, “Yo, who is this?”
3. It builds intrigue for the rest of the album.
nobigdyl. does a great job of elaborating on Christian transparency with a cool illustration of tinted windows. The beat is hot, his flow fits great with the track, and the chorus melody is very catchy. It’s a good attention grabber of a song, because after I heard it, I was intrigued to hear what other artists were bringing to the table if THIS was what started off the album.
I recommend this album if you’re into discovering new talent, scoping out who is “next,” and trying new things. Many of these artists you may have heard before, but they very well may be on a new level from the last time you’ve heard them. This project allows an entirely new audience to hear up-and-comers who have polished their skills and talents for such a time as this. And if you enjoy an artist on the project, check them out personally to catch up on any previous work they may have done. After all, Rapzilla put this together to give exposure to artists that they deemed were worthy of their visibility.