Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
I’m a big sports fan. One thing that I always look forward to is seeing which players make the All-Star team. Not necessarily because I want to hear who made it, but because I want to see all of these great players get together and play the game at it’s highest level. There is nothing like seeing the people that do something great, do it great together.
This seems to be the new trend in Christian Hip-Hop. Artists all across CHH are coming together to make projects. It has brought a true (and new) excitement to CHH. Fans are seeing some of their favorite artists, that they would only see work together in their dreams, join forces. We’ve seen groups like High Society form just to release a project. Labels like Collision Records stack their roster like the Miami Heat, and then release a collective project. There has even been rapper and producer collaborations. It’s not just dream collaborations that fans can hope for. But they can also hope for dream albums.
The next group of highly skilled MC’s to come together is The Collective. The group consists of Lamp Mode’s own Timothy Brindle and Stephen the Levite, and they brought with them, relative newcomer to some, Zae da Blacksmith. These three lyrical giants came together to create a group and self-titled album, The Collective. When this was announced last year, hip-hop heads all across CHH eagerly awaited its arrival. For good reason too. Stephen the Levite and Timothy Brindle have well-respected resumes, and Zae da Blacksmith has made a name for himself with his recent mixtape release, The Mosaic Mixtape with Average Joe, and solid features with Lamp Mode Recordings.
The question is, could this talented trio continue the trend and put together a stellar group album? Or was their new project missing some things that would take it over the top? We take a look in at it in this album review.
Three things that The Collective was missing:
It’s important to note that I see cohesiveness different from chemistry. The Collective had chemistry. The artists worked well with each other and had some good back and forth moments. But the project as a whole just didn’t come together. There was no clear direction for the album, so the topics and themes of the songs seemed a bit scattered.
The lack of an overall concept hurt the album, but the lack of cohesiveness didn’t end there. The production was scattered as well. It was definitely versatile in sound, but in this case, it wasn’t a good thing. The beat is supposed to be the canvas for the artist, a beautiful sound that the artist can paint over. That wasn’t the case throughout this record. There were times when the direction of the beat didn’t match the direction of the song.
Cohesiveness is important. This record showed that importance, because without it, the listening experience is hindered. Unfortunately, that is what happened on The Collective.
Consistency is a funny thing. When something is consistently happening, it usually goes unnoticed or put in the category of what is supposed to happen. But when the consistency fades, it is very noticeable. This is especially true in music. If a record doesn’t have consistency it takes away from the listening experience. Slight inconsistencies are to be expected, but when the album turns into an up and down experience, the record is hard to enjoy.
The Collective was definitely an up and down experience. Some tracks were good, but those were followed by some tracks that weren’t so good. Songs like “Blood Bath,” “Heart Broken” and “4 My Ninja’s” were everything that you expected and hope for from The Collective. They were strong lyrically, the production complemented the artists beautifully, and they were just well put together tracks. On the flip side, tracks like “Assemblers…,” “Bad Good Works” and “Joshua & Jesus” just didn’t come together and seemed a little pedestrian. The beat seemed to outshine the artists on these tracks. It took away from what the group was trying to do. These songs just didn’t fit into the project.
From the production to the artists, and even the song making in general, it just lacked the overall consistency that the record needed for it all to come together.
Somethings that always defines a record are its memorable moments. Those moments are what bring listeners back to the album and give them something to talk about. Albums that have several memorable moments are usually the ones that last and have playback value for long periods of time. Memorable moments are usually classified as great songs, or songs that connect to you on a personal level. Basically, they are just anything that leaves you thinking about the album after you listen to it.
The Collective didn’t have any memorable moments for me. It had some good moments, but nothing that stuck with me. There were times when I was impressed and enjoyed listening to the record, but by the time I was finished with the record, there wasn’t one point in the record that I could look back on and pinpoint as a great moment. Not having these moments took away from the record because there wasn’t anything to bring me back to the album.
Playback value and memorable moments are necessary for an album to be great and the lack of both of those kept this album from that.
This album wasn’t all bad, not at all. There were some things that were very enjoyable about this record. If you are a fan of Lamp Mode and what they do, then there are definitely parts of this album that you will like. The lyricism is superb, and this is where The Collective really shines. If you look at just the verses on this record, then you will be thoroughly impressed. The Collective also was very deep in theology. This is a record that is very edifying to the spirit because of the theological depth and biblical truths that are blatantly shared throughout.
Those things are great. I don’t want to take away from the importance of them, but they get lost in the album because of the things that were missing. The lyricism and the gospel are the stars (mainly the gospel), but that didn’t happen on this record, and it was disappointing. Despite the talent that each of these artists possess, they were not able to put it all together on this record. That doesn’t mean that The Collective is a failed experiment. This record just wasn’t a good representation of what they are capable of. Stephen, Timothy and Zae are fantastic MC’s who have proven that they are capable of making outstanding music. Even though The Collective was missing some elements, there is no doubt in my mind that they will come back strong with another record. I for one cannot wait for that.
The Collective’s self-titled project will be released under Lamp Mode Recordings. The project drops March 19th.