Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
To say that shai linne has some controversy surrounding him and his newest release, “Lyrical Theology Pt. 1,” would be putting it lightly. shai captivated and stunned the Christian hip hop world with the release of his single “Fal$e Teacher$,” where he called out several of the Christian communities most popular “teachers.” The explanation video shai released shortly after the song took off didn’t help, but seemed to only make things worse. shai linne quickly became the talk of the CHH town. That talk wasn’t all positive. It seemingly drew a line and put Christians on both sides of the argument.
The aforementioned controversy isn’t ideal for shai to release a new album. That’s not the only challenge facing shai on this record though. shai is arguably coming off the release of his best album musically, and he’s had a stellar career that boasts at least one classic, if not more. With these things put into perspective, it raises the anticipation for the record and shines a bright light onto shai linne. This isn’t exactly the environment that an artist wants to face when releasing a new project. Nonetheless, the lower case MC is offering up his 5th solo project entitled “Lyrical Theology Pt. 1.” The title, and of course shai’s discography, tells us the direction he took on his latest project, but there are a lot of topics to cover in Theology.
So what exactly did shai talk about on this record? Does the controversy end with “Fal$e Teacher$?” Did shai continue to progress with his sound or did he take a step back? These are some of the questions shai linne fans had coming into this record, and these are the questions we’re going to answer in this review.
Throughout shai’s career, his music has always been talked about in two manners; one is about his content and the other is his music. The two have always been separated cause his music seemed to lag a little behind his talents as an MC and his content. Though it looked as if shai was able to shake this stigma with his last record, it was alive and well on “Lyrical Theology Pt. 1.” Musically, shai took a step back with this record.
You can’t talk about a shai linne album without talking about his lyricism. Usually that talk is a shower of praise for how great he did, and for the better part of “Lyrical Theology Pt.1“ that was the case. shai showed why he is a lyrical giant in the game. He showed off all of his lyrical talents throughout the record. There was storytelling, similes, metaphors and everything else that has made shai a special MC throughout his career. As great as it was to hear shai beautifully break down theological terms, doctrines and specific passages of the Bible, his lyrical performance wasn’t as crisp as it usually is.
Linne is far from a punchline rapper, but he has always had that in his arsenal. shai has given us some classic punchlines in his career, but this was one of the things that “Lyrical Theology Pt. 1 “was lacking. I may be nitpicking on this but it’s worth mentioning, because his punchlines weren’t always just lacking, there were times where they were flat out bad. One example is on the song “Active Obedience” featuring J.G. when shai spit this:
“We know today’s generation can’t stand lectures/that’s why we’re trying to get your
attention like hand gestures
the truth is close like London is to Manchester/to understand better consider our ancestors”
He makes a good and fair point here but these lines just didn’t hit very hard. This came off a little corny and forced, and put a damper on what was otherwise a pretty good song. I’m not accustomed to this from Shai because he is one of CHH’s best lyricists, but the truth is, he didn’t bring his best punchlines.
Music isn’t just about lyricism, there is a production side to it, and that is where shai took the step back. Even though he has never been known for having great production, the expectation was that he was growing in this area. There were moments where you could see some growth. Tracks like “Cosmic Powers”, ‘Exalted” and “The Holy Spirit” were really solid songs from beginning to end. These were just moments though and the overall sound of the record wasn’t that great. There was nothing consistent or jaw dropping on the production side. There were times where the production was pedestrian and it hindered the song rather than help it. The production overall was a let down, and left me wanting more.
As the father of the term “Lyrical Theology,” shai linne has been long praised for his content. It has been unwaveringly consistent and Christ centered all the way through his discography. There is no topic he won’t touch or Bible passage he won’t break down. shai is very rare in how he incorporates the Bible and theological topics in his music. His bravery, passion and zeal where shown again on this record, particularly on the single “Fal$e Teacher$” when he called out several pastors as “false teachers.” Never one to steer away from controversy, shai also called out the ‘Left Behind Series,” and touched on topics like “predestination” and the “end times.” Whether you call it being controversial or just honest, shai attacks touchy topics throughout “Lyrical Theology Pt. 1.”
One thing that was noticeable in this record’s content is something that has been noticeable in CHH for years, but is rarely talked about; reformed theology. It’s no secret that shai linne holds this doctrinal belief, and it has been present on his past records. “Lyrical Theology Pt. 1” was different than the others in the sense that shai seemed a bit more up front about it. It was mentioned throughout the record, but what made it so noticeable was in how aggressive he was when delivering it. Tracks like “Election” featuring Willie Will display this doctrine and even spend time disproving other doctrines. This can isolate and even turn off a listener. This isn’t necessarily a mistake by shai, because he can spit whatever he likes behind the mic. This is a doctrine that can be controversial and divisive at times, so at times, it was interesting to see it featured throughout the record.
As usual with shai, the content of his record is the real star of the album. Reformed Theology aside, shai uses this record to share the word of God as it is written. This is truly what makes shai special. He takes topics like the Holy Spirit, Regeneration and Satan, and puts it into terms that anyone can understand. “Lyrical Theology Pt. 1“ is basically a musical Bible study, that gives this record an element that most records don’t have.
Fans of Lamp Mode Records and shai linne will enjoy “Lyrical Theology Pt. 1“ because it is a lot of the same stuff they have grown accustomed to. Outside of that core fan base this record is just good. It lacks a lot of replay value, only a few tracks will get consistent spins. Its sound is average and the content, at times, leans to a specific doctrine. As great of an MC as shai linne is, and as great of a career as he’s had up to this point, this record just doesn’t live up to that.