Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
When you hear the word initiation, what comes to mind? In the urban community, most would promptly think of gang life, violence and bad neighborhoods. I would then ask what kind of people do you think would participate in an initiation within the urban community? I can only assume that the majority of people would say something along the lines of “thugs” or “misguided young people”.
These assumptions occur because we’ve become desensitized to what we hear and see on the news, and through social media outlets. What if I told you that every form of initiation isn’t negative in the urban community, and everyone that participates in a gang is not looking to destroy families or neighborhoods? Through the album Initixtion, Surf Gvng challenges the minds of listeners to view gang life from a new perspective.
The dynamic duo follows up their self titled EP as well as Surf Gvng Over Everything. When I first read the title of the project, I wasn’t really sure on what to expect musically. But Surf Gvng gave a pretty clear message. In most cases, the process of initiation is seen as a rite of passage. After the process is completed, the individual is accepted and considered a member of the group they wanted to be a part of.
By definition, Merriam-Webster describes initiation as “the start of something,” which is exactly what I believe Surf Gvng intended the album title to depict. In an interview with Rapzilla, Surf Gvng described the concept of the album Initixtion, pronounced “Initiation,” as one being introduced into the “gang” of Christianity. The tracks on the album describe situations that one might go through as a Christian: whether you’re a new believer who’s at the start of their Christian walk or if you’ve been a Christian for several years. Surf Gvng also stated in the interview that the album is their personal interpretation of the Book of Romans.
Although a few of the songs are from the previous EP, #SGOET, the project still has something to offer listeners that are already familiar with their music. Personally, I think Surf Gvng showed a lot of maturity in their content on this album compared to their EPs. It’s very common in CHH today to focus on making hype tracks that catch the attention of listeners, but there’s no message in the tracks besides “turn up.” While there’s nothing wrong with making those types of tracks, there should be something that separates CHH from mainstream music, other than not using profanity. I believe that Surf Gvng balanced the ability to provide hype tracks, while delivering a message reflecting biblical living at the same time.
The recently signed Xist Music artists open the album by welcoming listeners to the gang of Christianity through an upbeat track, referencing the power and authority that God has above any gang we know of on Earth. This track is a great attention grabber to get you pumped up and ready for the rest of the album. The follow-up track, “Runnin,” still offers a lot of bass in the production, but it’s a tad bit slower-paced than the opening track. The duo alternate their delivery on the track by rapping with the beat and then occasionally rapping behind the beat. This offers a different feel to their music than most other CHH artists.
In a few of Surf Gvng’s songs, they reference street life that’s relatable to many listeners. On the track titled “Gvng Signs,” the duo discusses the same issue of street life but the perspective is different. After the chorus drops, the first verse opens with an honest point:
Everybody wanna be a gangsta til the gangstas here/
Surf Gvng in the buildin’, and everybody wanna be a Christian/
til the boys on the block here chilling.
When I first heard that line, it really made me think. Most people want to be a part of something because it seems cool, but if they’re not truly committed to it, they fall away from it eventually. On this track, Surf Gvng makes the impression to listeners that they aren’t going to back down spreading the Gospel because the people around them aren’t the typical church crowd. The delivery on this track is a lot quicker than the previous songs. It can come off as being difficult to understand at first, but once you listen to the song a few times, the message is clear.
The album takes a change of pace with the song “Down and Out,” which deals with the topic that so many people fall into – placing identity and value in life on the streets. This offers no substantial worth to anyone’s life. The production on the song is slowed down, and it makes it easier to understand the content of the song. I believe that this song is relatable to listeners because we’ve all placed value on something around us that ultimately wasn’t the best for us in the long run. A lot of the lyrical content from Surf Gvng contains references and lingo to street life and “Lawyer Fee” featuring Reconcile captures a lot of those references. This track discusses issues with the court system, family drama, friends not being around, and much more. This song will make you more sensitive to the issues that go on in the streets, if you’re not already familiar with it.
All of the songs prior to this point of the album lead to this moment where you forget about whatever obstacles you face in daily life, and remember that God is in control. Just like the book of Romans, the first portion deals with the basics of Christianity and salvation, the first portion of the album dealt with issues that newer believers often go through, as well as mature Christians. The second portion of Romans deals with the sovereignty of God – which is where tracks like “I’m God” and “Yeshua Christo” come into play to make the connection. The third portion of Romans talks about holy living and the tracks “Spark A Prayer” and “Raging Water” featuring Jasmine Le’Shea, address that portion of Romans.
“Low to the Ground,” “I’m God,” and “Spark A Prayer” were all featured on the EP #SGOET, but they still add a good blend with the rest of the album. The vibe of “I’m God” is smooth and slow paced, while giving you the perspective of God talking about Himself. The song “Spark A Prayer” holds a lot of meaning as it displays the importance of prayer and community, while also remembering those who are still lost from our past lifestyles.
The production on the song intertwines hip hop and a smooth mixture of R&B. It also has a catchy hook and the heart of Surf Gvng is heard throughout it. The closing track “Raging Water” deals with the topic of backsliding. A time when we may fall of course in our faith, but eventually get back to the place where God is the main focus again. The production on the track is very melodic and soft, which gives it a more emotional feel.
Overall, Initixtion gave a new perspective to the summary of the book of Romans. Surf Gvng delivered their vision through catchy hooks, a lot of hard-hitting tracks, while softening a few tracks that cause you to reflect upon your life. I believe this album will resonate well with listeners that have a story, where people have thrown you away because of their past. This album will give you hope that you’re not alone and you’re never too far away to get back on track.