One of my greatest joys as a teacher is when my personal interests cross with my student’s personal interests. I recently got to experience this joy because basketball season is starting at my school, and I’m one of the coaches. This was cool for the reason I stated earlier and it brought with it a fair bit of nostalgia. We recently had try outs and the students only had two days to set themselves apart from the other 70 or so students trying out.
This brought me back to every try out I’ve ever been to as a player. The pressure to do something to make yourself memorable is tough. You want to impress without messing up. You want to make a name for yourself without being too selfish. It’s a position that overcomes most people, but also pulls the best out of some. Ultimately, it separates the men from the boys.
As I was going through my nostalgic feelings, I was brought to CHH. It’s such a competitive sport right now. There are new artists breaking out constantly and the overall talent level has skyrocketed. This has made it much more difficult for artists to make a name for themselves. This isn’t just a problem for new artists. Even CHH vets have had to reestablish themselves in the genre, and Sivion is an artist that fits into this category.
Sivion has been blazing mics long before I was listening to Christian Hip-Hop. He has already developed a strong core fan base within the genre with his creativity and lyricism. He’s now back with his fourth studio album Group Therapy. Earlier in this year he released an album of remixes of a prior album (Butterfly Sessions), but Group Therapy will be the first time fans have heard all new music from Sivion in a few years. The challenge for Sivion, like every other artist, is to set him apart from other artists. To make an album that is memorable and almost forces people to get it and go back to it over and over again.
Going into Group Therapy, I was familiar with Sivion and some of his previous work. Most of my familiarity was based mostly around features and reputation. I didn’t know a lot about the artist Sivion. The one thing I did know, was that he was a great lyricist. So the only real expectation I had was great lyricism. Sivion delivered that in a big way.
From the opening track Sivion impressed with his lyrical ability, as he showcased fantastic wordplay and a great understanding of pacing with his flow. He would change and manipulate his pacing throughout individual tracks and throughout the album as a whole. He also showed a good understanding of tones and how that can affect songs. He would change his tone or the sound of his voice on some tracks to create more of an experience with what he was trying to communicate. Overall, Sivion was very polished lyrically. He knew what he was doing with his flow, how to present it, and he was great at communicating his message.
Sivion showed top of the line lyricism and this talent shined throughout all of Group Therapy.
This is one of the most delicate aspects of any album. Features are great for building anticipation and bringing in new fans. They are also tricky because if the artist isn’t careful, the features can become the star of the album, and the artist can get lost in the sauce. This is the problem that Sivion faced on Group Therapy because almost every track had someone featured on it in some capacity.
Outside of the interesting album artwork, the list of features was the first thing I noticed, mainly because it was such a long list. My attention was also peaked because of the names that were present on the record. Names like Propaganda and Ruslan jumps right out at you, but muzeONE, Shames Worthy and Zane One standout as well. Though some of the names were attention grabbers, that’s not what made the features so great. Sivion worked these features in beautifully. He added the vocalists for hooks (when needed) and he meshed the right type of lyricist with the music he was trying to create. Each feature complimented him nicely. Group Therapy was put together well and the features were used to add to the complete sound of the record.
I was impressed with a few elements on the record, but there wasn’t much to make it really standout from other records. Sivion’s lyricism was strong and his features were great but they weren’t very memorable. He didn’t do anything lyrically that made me stop and rewind a track, and none of the features created a memorable moment.
There were some other elements that were missing that would have helped this record stand out some. Though I do give credit for Sivion knowing his lane and staying true to it, there wasn’t much versatility in the production on the album, even though the production was fine on its own. A lot of the tracks sounded the same and that made it harder for individual tracks to stand out. The overall quality of the sound wasn’t great, and the beats themselves didn’t create a solid backdrop for Sivion to work. There also wasn’t much of a concept carried throughout the record, so it just sounded like a collection of tracks without a clear direction. These things would have helped set this record apart, but the absence of them hurt the record.
As great of a lyricist as Sivion is, did he make a memorable album that sets him apart from other artists in CHH? I don’t think he did. Overall, I think Group Therapy was just an average record. It had some good things and some bad but ultimately not enough to keep a listeners attention. The only exception to that is Sivion’s core fan base. Fans of Sivion will enjoy this record because it runs along the lines of his past work. Therefore, any fan of Sivion’s or any fan of the “boombap” style of hip-hop might enjoy this record.