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Album Review: SPEC – Vacancy

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Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O

The job of a producer/engineer is to work the magic in the creation phase of birthing music – to play the background that allows you to enjoy your favorite songs. It hasn’t been until the past 10-15 years that both the name and work of producers have came to the light of notoriety. One name that has risen up out of this newfound arena of noticeable producers is Spec aka Spechouse.

Initially known as the manager/producer for his protégée the then rookie V. Rose, his talent for pre and post production got him linked up with Clear Sight Music’s Flame right away. Ever since then, you can find his name on credits all over the gamut of CHH. The first time we heard Spec come out from behind the mixing board for his own music was in 2013 with the mixtape Trax, Christ & Videotape Vol. 1, where he sampled many notable movie soundtracks to tell a story of Christ’s affectation in our lives through those Hollywood themes.

Two years later, Spec steps out from behind the mixing board to bring us Vacancy. The project is set to be released May 19th. From Spec’s past work, we can surmise that the title has a deeper meaning than face value, and that he plans on intertwining that meaning through all of the tracks. This leaves us with one question…

What does “Vacancy” mean?

The album starts out with the sound of Spec checking into a hotel. Oh, ok, case closed. Spec made an album about staying at a Holiday Inn… nah. The allegory of the hotel reference is directly tied to the sin issue that lives in every person who hasn’t received Jesus Christ as Lord. We live, we do, we strive to fill that vacant spot in our souls that only Jesus can fill, and before we found that it was only Jesus who could fill it, we tried everything to make us whole. Much like the first song “Terms,” Spec raps from his old mindset of grinding to get ahead in life – the viewpoint of the world. He follows it up with “Terms & Conditions” – an explanation to where he used to be and where he is now with Christ.

Much of the album is spent speaking of how to fill the Jesus shaped vacancy in one’s soul. This narrative is told in a diverse range of songs from the west coast bounce track “Put Em On,” featuring J. Carter, 5ive, and Alex Faith, to “SMH” (featuring Flame) that has that trap music feel.

Sometimes when producers venture out beyond producing and begin rapping/singing, a critique that has been often given is that the music outshines the content of the songs. That’s one thing that you cannot say about Vacany. Listening through, I can’t say that the message gets lost in the music. Each song has a tie in to Jesus being the great comforter and Savior for us all from some angle – be it rhetorical in “Don’t You Know” (featuring V. Rose), or from the view of owing Christ our life because of His acquittal of our sin in “Johnny Cochran” (featuring Dre Murray, Young Lyfe, and J-Drastic), or even in comparing the various kings of this earth to the King of Heaven in “Game of Thrones.”

Now don’t think that every song was deep, brooding and introspective. A majority of these songs are levitous and fun. You can turn up to “SMH”, “Put Em On”, “Trusay” (featuring JG and Young Lyfe), and especially the song which features KJ-52, Beleaf, and Je’Kob called “Buckingham Palace.” This song in particular was made with the party in mind.

Producer’s Mind

Spec has made a name for himself in the production field for being consistent. Over the years, I can always think of his songs being current, cutting edge, and on the wave of music trends – not behind it. Being trendy doesn’t mean being cheesy either. Spec is a talented musician and this fact is displayed throughout his past project as well as this current project.

See, Vacancy has the usual turn up songs, the trap beats with the claps, snares, and bass hits that we know and love/hate in our hip hop these days. But there is a shift that takes place in the middle of the album and it sheds some light on Spec’s ability as a composer. In “Conditions,” Spec talks about some of the things he has been up to in the past five years, and one thing has been scoring movies (writing/composing music for movies). And right around “Game of Thrones,” the tracks shift focus to musicality over the drum programming.

“So Surreal” featuring ChrissyLane has a focus on orchestral instrumentation with a nice combination of piano and violin. You’ve got the track “Vacancy (Shine Down)” that sounds like an mid 90’s hip hop track, with it’s chopped vocal sample and smooth jazz instruments. “Love Me x Love Me Not” has a very similar feel to it too. This is such a drastic change from the previous sets of synthesized beeps and bloops in the other tracks, and when you disconnect from vibing with the music, you really notice how well done it is.

If you compare this album to his previous mixtape, I believe you see a higher level of diversity in Spec’s work. In his mixtape, much of his creativity was poured into flipping the movie samples to create a bunch of hot tracks. But we see in Vacancy, that Spec’s creativity was put into making tracks that show the full range of his abilities as a producer.

Overall

Vacancy is a good follow up to Spechouse’s previous body of work. He takes a few steps forward with his production, which gives this album distinction in his discography – disallowing the critique that it’s just like his earlier mixtape. Spec did a good job of track matching the featured artists on the project to styles that fit their natural bend. Lyrically, it’s not the most mind blowing thing you will ever hear, but the message of God being who we need to fulfill our lives from vacancy is clearly presented, so it’s palatable. And there is a bonus track at the end of this project that has the usual Spec flare of unusual sample flipping to it, which I’m sure fans of his are going to really enjoy.

Spec’s ‘Vacancy’ is available for pre-order on iTunes.

My First Experience
Testimony: A Musicia

Daniel Cody is the engineer for the Wade-O Radio podcast and producer of The Life Change radio program for 4th Generation Ministries. He has a Bachelors Degree in Music Production & Record Engineering. He has a passion for authentic rap about the Gospel and collaborates with all genres of Christian music with his production company - Man of God Productions. Follow him on Twitter @DRoyulMOG.

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