All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
In life, pain has the ability to completely shift the direction of our life. Whether it is physical or emotional, pain has a way of sticking with us as we navigate through life. Some people use it as a defense mechanism and run from anything that looks familiar to an experience, event or relationship that caused them pain. Others may use pain to motivate them and help them grow.
For the believer, verses like Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4 help us to endure suffering and pain with an attitude that this world cannot understand. When our foundation is Christ, pain and suffering have the ability to produce something amazing.
That is what I feel happened to Tedashii when he lost his son. As a parent with one son and a daughter on the way, I cannot imagine the type of pain that Tedashii has felt. However, I do know one thing; I would have to choose Jesus while dealing with the many emotions that come with that kind of pain. Tedashii’s latest album Below Paradise serves as a musical diary of him choosing Jesus while dealing with the hand life dealt him and his family.
In this album review, we will look at what was birthed through the pain that life can bring.
As a Christian, it is tempting to downplay our pain so that people know that we still love Jesus. If we show signs of struggle, others may believe that we aren’t trusting in Jesus. Of course that isn’t true, but it is a lie that many people are enticed by. Throughout Below Paradise, you hear an honest person dealing with a variety of emotions. He doesn’t hide what he was going through and it may liberate some people that are trapped into thinking that as Christians, we are supposed to ignore emotions that God created us to feel. Songs like “Below Paradise,” “Dark Days, Darker Nights,” “Chase” and “Love Never Leaves” are a few where Tedashii keeps it 100 about where he is at emotionally.
On “Fire Away” ft. SPZRKT he says
“They say you actin’ like he aint saved you/saying it’s love ’cause they claim to, but be careful dog ’cause they’ll play you…You don’t know how bad it hurts when nobody tries to say his name”
This entire song is about what he dealt with from people that didn’t really know the situation or felt the need to share their advice with him. It is one thing to have to deal with your son dying. It is a whole different beast to deal with that on top of random people flooding your inbox or mentions with how advice on how you should handle it. This song lets the listener know what he was thinking in a very straight forward manner.
In many Christian circles, the term transparency refers to how honest you are being about your struggles with sin. On this album, Tedashii’s transparency lets the listener hear his human side. The side that doesn’t always quote a Bible verse when trials come. This added an element to the album that made the listening experience more intimate.
Production & Song Composition
Tedashii has been flooding his album with musical bangers all the way back to Kingdom People. On Below Paradise, it is no different. He didn’t allow the content of the album push him towards a dark, depressing theme. Matter of fact, the entire first half of the album is full of songs that make you want to get up and dance. The content is still heavy but many of the tracks have that unique element to them that cause the head-snap (That moment you aren’t paying attention and hear a beat that makes your head snap back to see what you’re listening to). Some of the best production that reflects this concept is found on “Perfect,” “Nothing I Can’t Do,” “Fire Away, and “My God.”
If you love music that gets you up and moving then you will definitely enjoy Below Paradise. Another thing that stood out is the composition of the songs. This album was the by product of a difficult time in Tedashii’s life and he did not make all the songs sound the same. They were composed in a way that pulls different emotional strings. Songs like “Be With You,” “Love Never Leaves,” “Complicated,” and “Chase” are some of the more mellow tracks on the project that tug on the emotions of the listener.
For instance, “Chase” is a simple song with the piano as the main instrument that you hear. The song is about memories that Tedashii has of his kid that passed. You can imagine him sitting on the piano writing as the song plays out. It is a very emotional ride that may even move listeners to tears. This song was composed wonderfully. The “less is more” idea worked for them on this track. There are few distractions in the beat and it allows the listener to feel the weight behind each lyric. This song is a picture of the beauty that pain can produce in our lives.
At first glance of the track listing, you may expect to hear a lot of people on this album. There are plenty of people featured on this project, but the majority of the features participate on the chorus of the songs. This wasn’t a bad thing, as it allowed Tedashii to present a multitude of sounds while staying in control of the projects direction. For instance, he was able to use people like Britt Nicole, Tauren Wells, Crowder, and Tim Halperin. They add a completely different element because they are usually found in the CCM/Pop market. Their presence on the song alone gives Tedashii a free pass to try a new sound.
Some of the other notable features are label mates Lecrae, Andy Mineo, and Trip Lee (KB and former label mate Derek Minor if you buy the deluxe edition), along with SPZRKT, Natalie Lauren and Christon Gray. Again, everyone was used for the chorus except for Trip Lee and Lecrae, but they definitely added to the music. Many people will probably be wishing Andy Mineo would have rapped, but when they hear the song (“Catch Me If You Can”), it is a song that works best with him just doing the hook. SPZRKT, Natalie Lauren and Christon Gray are all phenomenal singers with their own, unique styles. Tedashii did a great job using the people that joined him on this project.
Last but not least were the people that were less recognized. Tedashii has no problem sharing his platform with artists that may not be as popular. On this project, you will hear Kam Parker and Lester L2 Shaw. You may not know of them now, but after you hear their voices, they will definitely be people that you will want to hear more music from. Also, Transparent is on the deluxe edition. He holds his own on a song with Tedashii and Derek Minor. His fan base is growing and this was a great opportunity for new listeners to find out about him.
Below Paradise was a great listen. The theme was consistent all throughout and the music allowed you to experience a variety of feelings. He did a great job unpacking the not-so-fun side of being a Christian who lives in a fallen world. Listeners will walk away with plenty of songs that will leave them encouraged or sober minded at the least.
If you are a fan of lyricism, this may not be the album for you. Tedashii articulates his message clearly, but the songs are not flooded with complex rhyme schemes, allegories and more. Tedashii delivers passionately and that is what people love about him.
Also, if you are expecting the classic Tedashii anthem, you won’t find many of those. “Nothing I Can’t Do” is definitely a song that fits the concert setting, but that’s about it. There are songs that you will want to bump in your car; they just aren’t chant worthy. Since Kingdom People, he’s made songs like “Off The Hook,” “Make War,” “Dum Dum,” and plenty more. On this project, you wont find as much. Tedashii said in an interview with DJ Wade-O that he wanted to share something in a different direction with this project. The content and lack of anthems is definitely different from what you may be used to from him.
With that being said, there are still many songs that have the potential to make Wade’s top 10 countdown and light up a party. The replay value is high and people will probably stick with this project for quite a while.