Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Is he bringing back real hip-hop?
Since hip-hop started, there has been one thing that is true about it, and that is that it is always changing. My mom knows a different hip-hop than I do and I know a different hip-hop than my students. It seems as if hip-hop changes with each new generation of fan. That is one thing that has made it so special, it has been able to evolve and grow.
Some would argue that it has changed too much. That hip-hop, this thing we all love so much, has turned away from its roots. It’s turned from being the voice for the voiceless to four minutes of boasting about everything you have. It’s turned from an honest expression of an artists’ heart to elaborate lies from a rappers mind. It’s turned from real hip-hop to a complete misuse of a beautiful art.
That leads us to the obvious question; with a wide variety of people and taste, and with a long and distinguished history, what exactly is “real hip-hop?” The definition of what “real hip-hop” is comes back to the age old argument of: is rap different from hip-hop? Rap is just something that you do, hip-hop is real. It has emotion, life and feeling. Hip-hop is the artistic expression of the artist creating it. It is a reflection of that person. It’s often times political, intellectual or spiritual. Hip-hop has meaning.
Sho Baraka was able to encompass this idea of “real hip-hop” on his new album Talented Xth. Here are two ways in which he accomplished it:
Anybody can rhyme words. I mean, if hip-hop was all about rhyming, then Dr. Seuss would be the G.O.A.T.. Hip-hop, and lyricism to be specific, is so much more than just rhyming some words. It’s flow, tone, rhyme scheme, word usage and the ability to put all of those things together to communicate something to the listener. On Talented Xth Sho mastered the art of lyricism.
Sho has long been known as a lyricist, but on Talented Xth he took it to a whole new level. He maneuvered through some touchy topics with a smooth delicacy and a intellect that any hip-hop fan would love and any hip-hop artist would respect. He also gave us the clever wordplay and witty punchlines that we have come accustom to from him. And he flashed a strong storytelling muscle.
What made this record so special lyrically was that Sho was able to mix so many different lyrical abilities into an individual song. “Cliff and Claire” (Co-authored by Christon Gray) is a perfect example of this. Sho told a beautiful story of a relationship from it’s inception, through it’s rough patches and all the way through to its story book ending. In the midst of it, he dropped some lyrical gems:
“they both are stressing cause their marriage is quite depressing
they’ve given up on the portrait and now it’s back to the drawing board
they need the right frame of reference so they can paint some more”
This clever lyrical display fit perfectly into the story, while still pleasing the real lyrical fans.
This is one of the strongest lyrical performances I’ve heard from him. It was strong and consistent throughout the whole project, while still being versatile at the same time. Sho brought us all back to the “art” behind lyricism, and it was a beautiful display.
Over the past few years Sho has turned some heads. Whether it be his musical decisions, certain things he’s said off the mic, or even his lyrical content, Sho has been labeled controversial. Whatever you label him or think of his outspoken nature, there is one thing you have to say about Sho; he’s honest. That honesty and outspoken nature was very prevalent on this album.
Sho used Talented Xth as a platform to share the injustices that he saw. He was honest about topics that most rappers don’t ever come close to. He shined his talented light on race, politics, government, money and this world’s idea of success. Sho doesn’t just touch on these topics with a bar here and there, he completely dives into them, often times dedicating entire songs to a topic. By diving completely into a topic or issue, there are some very controversial moments on Talented Xth.
Anytime politics, race and government comes into play…it is inevitable that someone will get offended. I don’t get the impression that Sho’s intention is to offend anyone with this record, but in true Sho fashion he does not shy away from any topic. He shares his opinions very openly and honestly. Songs like “Jim Crow,” “Madoff” and “Bethesda” (Co-authored by JK and L.I.B.E.R.T.Y.), are standouts as far as content. You may or may not disagree with Sho’s stance on these records, but you have to respect his boldness to even speak openly on the topics of race and unequal distribution of wealth.
That should be the point. Not that you agree or disagree with his politics but that this artist decided to use his 1st amendment right to address injustice, in his eyes, in the hopes to spark change. You have to appreciate the music and the boldness to create this type of art. Sho is intelligent, political, spiritual, and some what of an activist. His music should represent who he is. Sho shares his heart and opinion to empower and educate people. He uses his platform and talent to share what’s on his heart. That is what hip-hop is supposed to be, isn’t it? That is hip-hop.
Talented Xth is a huge record for CHH. Sho is doing something different and daring. He’s giving a voice to people who don’t have the voice to speak. That is what hip-hop is supposed to be about, even Christian hip-hop. The climate in CHH is open and ready for this. There has been a premium on lyricism lately, and Sho just takes it to another level.
Don’t let the politics scare you. This record has a lot of value for the Christian. This is not just a record for political and social activists. Every rhyme Sho spits in from a biblical worldview. There is a lot of meat for believers and it empowers Christians to attack social and political injustices with boldness and love. The song “Nicodemus” (Co-authored by Diamone) is a track that is more traditional CHH. It is a beautiful track about our God and how to serve and love Him.
All in all Talented Xth is a one of a kind experience. There is really no other record out there like this one. That is often said in hip-hop, but is never more applicable than now. When listening to this record, listen with an open mind and you will be satisfied. It is phenomenal music with an even better message. This is Sho Baraka at his best in every way possible. Talented Xth is challenging, empowering, political, social, theological and lyrical. It is truly great. It is hip-hop.
Do you agree with this album review? Do you think Sho brought back ‘real hip-hop?’