Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
It’s not uncommon for artists to do small clips of their process of creating a new album or mixtape. They may give you a clip of a song while in the studio or maybe even a shot of the music video that goes with that song. The artist will go on in an interview to say how long they’ve been working on the project and it’s coming along well, but they need to finish some final editing, etc.
These are all of the things we’re used to hearing when it’s time for an artist to present new music to the masses, but what if an artist challenges everything you think about when it comes to producing a full album? What if the album isn’t mixed and mastered, and what if it wasn’t all recorded in a studio? Although the album isn’t as “polished” as most listeners and fellow artists would like, the message from the Spec’s Vacancy 2: Back of the Bus was heard loud and clear.
On the project, he mentions the album is a Rosa Parks metaphor that he explains throughout the whole project. The album title, along with the album cover, prepares you to expect to hear something political and relevant to the situation going on in the country today. I appreciate the fact that Spec and V. Rose took a chance to do something different with his album, without sacrificing the overall quality of the project.
On the opening track of the album, you hear them discussing how the production of the album came about. V. Rose states that his project would “show the roughness of ministry” because it was done on a tour bus without any editing to the music. As a listener, you have to respect the risk that Spec is taking with this project, because most people would not give an artist the time of day if the sound quality was not perfect. The freestyle that Spec dropped contained so much lyricism that you have to listen to it twice, just to catch it all. As a matter of fact, you’ll be so caught up in the words that Spec is delivering, that you won’t give much attention to the sounds of the bus rolling or random voices in the background.
The track titled, “Cali Taught Me” reminds you that the California-based artist loves where he’s from and but also recognizes some of the negative influences he learned throughout his life. The track offers a rough, laid-back Cali-style beat that allows you to feel everything Spec is saying. The track starts with Spec reminiscing on various things he’s learned throughout his life – from the streets of Cali to the point that he would give everything he had to live by that standard, until he encountered something better.
“I would die for Cali but would Cali die for me, never.”
Spec flips the second half of the track, focusing on how God changed what he was living for and how he learned forgiveness and many other lessons after that encounter with God. On his Youtube channel Spec tell us that the energetic track, “One More Song” means having another chance with his music career. The song incorporates an audience chanting “One More Song” on the chorus with a West Coast influenced sound, and a lot of bass. The song tells a story that Spec was making music with a mainstream record label but he didn’t find peace while he was there. After a brief intermission from the music industry, Spec received confirmation from God to go back to the music, and it’s been history ever since.
The album takes a different sound with the track “Ballot” featuring MikeREAL. This track takes on a trap style sound production, with a lot of hard-hitting aspects that catch your attention and make you nod your head without thought. I believe it was by no accident that MikeREAL was featured on this track, due to the fact that Mike is from Ferguson, Missouri and we’ve all seen and read the headlines about the events which took place in his hometown.
Also with the recent elections finally coming to an end, many have found themselves disheartened and frustrated with the outcome. Overall, I think this track is brilliant; based on its boldness and directing the frustration not on one another but on themselves to campaign for the kingdom of God. In a time period where many are hiding in the shadows in fear, Spec and Mike are boldly declaring their desire to continue the mission of the Gospel regardless of who’s in office.
Alongside the idea of being front runners on this journey, Spec encourages listeners to be good to all people with the song “Good Samaritan”. He references many of the leaders that have made significant contribution to the world including Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon and Billy Graham, asking the listeners what would these leaders say about us today. The music production takes a smooth hip-hop style with a melodic piano sample throughout the chorus. It challenges the listener to be an example of Christ and if we don’t think, we might as well just fade to the “back of the bus”, referencing his Rosa Parks metaphor once again.
Spec mentions the persecution of believers and signs of the times changing with the song “Lord Have Mercy” with the West Coast style that he delivers so well. On his follow up track, Spec uses the metaphor of a lobby stating that he will not “come down” to the temptations or desires of the world with the track, “Lobby Level” featuring ChrissyLane. The track “Banner” is filled with so many features, which he calls them “The Bus”, including Dillon Chase, A-Ron, 5ive, DJ Overcomer, J. Monty and others. This song is a hype track that would make for an awesome live performance. The featured artists bring the energy with a chant on the chorus and motivating lyrics.
There’s a lot of adversity that comes with touring on the road, including being away from your family, fatigue, and not being able to connect with fans as much as one would like to. Spec reflects on all of that with the song “Long Road Home.” The closing song on the album, “Second Chance” featuring Tal sums up the underlying purpose for this album,
“To speak to the people that the city forgot and tell them it’s a second chance season for all.”
The creativity and metaphors used throughout the album are thought provoking and refreshing. I believe that the listeners will appreciate Spec’s realness to show them what music sounds like without the polished aspects. He brings a real and raw album, combined with a real and raw message that is worth listening to.