I’m not sure if I can remember hearing a “new sound” in Christian hip hop like I did when I heard Rhema Soul’s Dope Beats, Good News Vol. 1 in 2008. I remember being blown away by the energy each track brought. It was Christian, but it was definitely different than anything I was previously exposed to.
Their unique sound would soon be heard by many outside of the sunny state of Florida and they would gain a rather large following. It was so refreshing to see this crew of two guys and a lady kill it the way they did. They also had a gem producing for them by the name of G-styles, who now goes by Gawvi (and recently joined Reach Records). Combined, these four individuals created heat in the studio that no one could prepare for.
After Rhema Soul released their album Fingerprints in 2010, they were respected by many and left everyone excited, waiting for what was next. I think what they did left everyone surprised. They released their album RED in March, 2012, and it was different. It didn’t sound like the crew that people fell in love with. I personally didn’t feel that it was bad, it was just different. Some people wondered if they had changed styles and were pursuing Christian contemporary music. It was apparent that things were different and I think Rhema Soul felt the push back.
Early this year, Rhema Soul talked about doing a Dope Beats Good News Vol. 2 and I immediately got excited. I was hoping that it would be like the first installation. I was hoping I’d hear them melting mics again. This is what Butta P says on the intro track of the album:
“I just wanted to go back to the hip hop format of things, not that we have anything to prove but … I just wanted to remind people.”
With that being said, I had no choice but to expect the crew that everyone fell in love with. In this album review of DBGN Vol. 2, we’ll check out how well they did.
First Thing I Noticed
Ever since I first heard G-Styles on DBGN Vol. 1, I was a fan. I began to notice that on most Reach Records albums, some of the hottest beats were produced by him. Seeing his progression has been amazing. That was the first thing I noticed on DBGN Vol. 2. The first installment had some crazy beats, but this was on another level. The production definitely covered the “Dope Beats” portion of the album title.
Gawvi truly has a gift and he poured it out over each track on this project. I think of a song like “Greatest Memories.” This song is full of stories about people that have passed away, but the music and feel of the track was so happy. As you listen, the song is really about celebrating the lives of those that they have lost. The way this track was produced really helps the listener not focus on the sadness, but the good of each story. I thought that was one example of the great production.
Another song was “Punch You In The Face.” When the beat dropped, all I could do was think about a cypher. Luckily, that’s exactly how the track panned out. The whole South Florida family (Rhema Soul, Gawvi, Social Club, SPZRKT (Spazzy Rocket), and Rey King) were on the track killing it.
Track after track, the music and production continued to impress. You could almost feel the chemistry that Rhema Soul has with Gawvi. As stated before, when they all get together, it’s special.
Two More Things I Noticed
One thing that can always add value to a project is how well each song is placed. The sequencing of songs can be the difference between a good album and a great album. On Dope Beats, Good News Vol. 1, I expected it to be scattered because it was a mixtape. For Dope Beats, Good News Vol. 2, I was expecting a little more cohesiveness. It was a fun listening experience, but I cannot say that the tracks gelled well together. There were a wide range of sounds and I loved that, but it didn’t have the feel of an album. This is an area where I felt DBGN Vol. 2 could have done better.
Also, I mentioned that when RED received mixed reviews, it seemed that Rhema Soul felt the push back. On DBGN Vol. 2 they definitely let the fans know that they have not changed who they are. It felt like on each song they let you know that they are still the hard rapping, confident, Jesus loving crew that they were in the beginning. Some may feel that they overdo it when they listen to this project, but I personally loved it. It helped remind all the people that were shaken by the sound of RED that the hot bars and beats are sticking around. Their confidence and willingness to speak about it was great.
Lyrics & Content
This was an area that I was most curious about because Rhema Soul is truly a collective of lyrical monsters. The second track of the album is what they released as their first single, “Party Sleep Repeat.” On this track, I could tell that they were back to their old ways. This served as just a warm up for tracks like “Here We Go Again,” “Keep You Around,” and “Malibongwe.”
Rhema Soul has a special thing going for them because they’re all gifted in their own ways. Butta P brings this up north, rugged confidence and blends it with lady like gentleness all at the same time. K-Nuff can ride beats like Shawn White rides snowboards, effortless. And Juan Love is a lyrical poet. This blend of talent made for some great music on DBGN Vol. 2.
As much as I love their rapping ability, I do wish there was more content on this project. I love party songs, but I also like the songs that impart something more to the listener. I felt that “Greatest Memories” and “Keep You Around” were the only tracks that had a strong message in them. The other songs were good and definitely fun, I just felt they lacked content that the listener could benefit from.
I think that one of the downsides to this album was that it was technically only eight tracks (if you remove the intro and outro). I know they can put out some great music and I was left wanting more. Some people may enjoy the party feel of the overall album while others may be looking for more of a message. I think that overall, Dope Beats, Good News Vol. 2 was very enjoyable. The beats, the feel of the songs, and the smooth hooks all captivate the listener. You could tell how much they have grown as artists since the first installment and Gawvi showed us why Reach Records wanted him to join them.
I hope that this album is a statement and a preview of what we can expect from them in the future.