Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Ohio has consistently had a CHH scene that, at face value, is under appreciated. There are a handful of talented members of our society, gifted lyrically and musically, who herald from O-H. Many know of Christon Gray, but with the debut album The Mocker and The Monarch, his brother Taelor is making a very strong claim, that anyone coming from this area garners their own mandatory respect. For a multitude of reasons, this project is both simple and intricate. Allow me to break it down.
Whether you are one who goes straight for the beats, or if it’s the lyrics that are what catch your ear first, this album has an immediate feeling that it’s deeper than both. I found one line in the intro song that is a very clever summation of what the album is about overall.
“This is just reflection. This is just perspective. This is just me working through the wreckage.”
This project is Taelor Gray’s brain on wax. It’s all the things he has gone through as a Christian, as an artist, as an inhabitor of this sinful world, what he thinks about his community as a Christ follower, and his attempt to make some sort of sense with the destruction that sin has caused to us all.
In artistry, we talk about the need of telling ones story without watering down the Gospel – but is it possible to be focused on the artistry without having your Christ centered focus take a hit? This is one of the few albums I have felt right from the beginning nails the balance with complete accuracy. The imagery that is presented makes perfect sense to the story of a sinful human (Mocker), the sinful world around him, and the God (Monarch) that he is trying to serve.
Taylor looks at the sinful nature not just of self, but of the sin in society. Songs like “Vogue” (which speaks about the fakeness of people’s personas to the public, as to hide their frailties and struggles), “Famous” (a song about the false perceptions of what being famous is), and the overall sinfulness of this world, like in “Cold,” are frank depictions on what we are facing every day we wake up.
The topics that are in society, as well as CHH, aren’t off limits either. It is a breath of fresh air to hear someone address the concepts of false humility, fakeness, idolatry of artists, and “judgement because of differences,” with a tone of desire for understanding rather than anger. This was like having the cherry on top of a dessert that you have desired to eat all day. Whether Taelor is displeased by these issues or not, his delivery made all of the tough topics feel like they can be well received.
Taelor is super talented with metaphors and similies (etc.) that the lyricism went over my head on my first listen. I’ll admit, I caught most of what he was speaking of the second go-around. But when I finally caught it, I could really appreciate how the songs on this album were crafted. I don’t consider this a negative though, as in its entirety, the album is enjoyable to listen to. The enjoyment of the record increases the more you go through the project.
Music of the Mocker
With any artist related to Christon Gray, you already know you are getting some of the highest quality production in the genre. Production credits range from the likes of Humble Beast’s Daniel Steele, Peace 586, Wit, Wes Pendleton, 42North, and Swoope. There’s nothing but head nodders and smooth records throughout this album.
When listening to #MOCXMON, you won’t get anything “turn up” or “trap,” as those don’t compliment Taelor’s heavy lyrical content. The record is crafted more to accompany what Taelor is saying. He wants you to groove, but he also wants you to pay attention to his lyrics.
It’s very difficult to pick which of these songs are my favorite because each song has a vibe that creates its own world. My personal top three picks would have to be “Gorgeous” featuring B. Reith & Tragic Hero, “In.Secure”, and “Scapegoats.” There is clever sampling going on on these tracks, with a melodic chord progression that moves the spirit, and some break beats that are from such a golden era of music.
Taelor Gray has put together a project that shows the world that he deserves to be in the conversation with the ilk of Christ centered rappers who have lyrical ability baked into their being. The authenticity of his wordplay is evident in every song. It doesn’t feel like “hipster rap” – rap that’s intellectual/wordy for the sake of, but it’s partially simplistic and intricate at the same time. That type of diversity gives this project a high shelf life.
As the shift of content in the genre seems to be moving back to transparency of one’s walk with Christ and the daily battle we face, an album like this is a great example for future artists who want to do the same. Overall, this record speaks clearly about Christian living, while also being real about what things you can face when you declare to live a Christian life. It’s unashamedly speaking against the things that this world tells us to do everyday, but it is very much filled with high lyrical skill.
Taelor Gray’s The Mocker and The Monarch is set to be released Friday, September 4.