Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
It has been almost a decade now since Thi’sl debuted in Christian Hip-hop. As of this writing, we are about 9 years since This House I Shall Live dropped. At that time, there was really nothing like Thi’sl out in CHH. His gritty delivery, passionate storytelling, and his grimy content were a perfect combination. His undeniable charisma and likeability made for a unique artist that was primed for success within a genre still trying to find an identity. To say that Thi’sl became a success would be an understatement.
Over the past 9 years Thi’sl has not just become one of the best artists in CHH but one of the best of all-time. He has charted on both iTunes and Billboard, he has started (and successfully sustained) his own label and has made some of the most memorable songs in CHH. Thi’sl has also made himself one of the most (if not the most) recognizable artists in his city. He has done great work in the community and has been one of the lead voices in CHH for equality. This became more than words in 2013 when he brought together some of the women in CHH to release Gurl Code. Whether it has been in the booth or outside of it, Thi’sl has made an impact on CHH unlike anyone else in its history.
The good news for CHH is that he isn’t done yet. In March Thi’sl released his 7th album entitled Against All Odds. To accompany the record, Thi’sl also released a self-published book with the same name. Both the book and the album take an autobiographical approach. Thi’sl really stretched his storytelling muscles on this record. Throughout his career he hasn’t been known for strong conceptual records. Against All Odds is just that; a conceptual record. Thi’sl tells his story on this record. He uses the intro, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” to lay the groundwork. There is a bit of foreshadowing used here and then he goes back to provide context.
The second track “Hindsight” is the first song and the record that Thi’sl gives more context. The upbeat production sets a strong tone. Thi’sl shines on this track with a bit of a faster tempo to his flow than usual. The next track, “Go Get It,” keeps the production tempo up and it offers a different sounding Thi’sl. On the verses, he slows down his tempo to more of what we are accustomed to. From there, we transition to the first of a couple of the slower tracks on Against All Odds. By slow I mean the melody and tempo is slower but there is still plenty of bass because Thi’sl never turns down the bass. Here we hear a different Thi’sl again. He slows himself down even further and softens up his voice a bit in an effort to reach the soul of the listener.
These are the two areas of Against All Odds that really shine. Thi’sl has always been very passionate but that seemed turned up a notch on this record. Also he brings a very versatile performance. He is constantly switching his flow, tone, and tempo. This is most evident in the transition from “Momma’s Strength” to “Money on My Head”. Both of these songs are complete juxtapositions in every way possible. The former is a slower more thoughtful track and the latter is a harder hitting turn up song. The transition is perfect because of the interlude in between the two. Both songs require a different performance from Thi’sl for it to work and he pulls this off masterfully. He has a more melodic flow on “Money on My Head,” which matches the banging production perfectly.
The transitions continue when we get to the softest of all of the songs on Against All Odds. Here we have a soulful Laquan Green, heavy bass and smooth a Thi’sl confessing his love to his wife. Undoubtedly a huge moment in his story and life, it fits right in the middle of the record and attempts to transition the entire story of the record. It ends up feeling a little misplaced because the interlude that follows the track and the next song “Real Live Forever” meshes better with “Money on My Head”. Either way the smooth, head-nodding production helps you to forget that. Thi’sl and Ricky Rock give charismatic performance explaining the mindset and struggles that coming with living in the hood.
“Help Me Find My Way” is a St. Louis reunion that brings Thi’sl, FLAME and Courtney Orlando back together. It is also the first time in the entire record that we start to hear about Jesus. It was added in an organic and seamless fashion. The back and forth between Thi’sl and FLAME was solid and it was a beautiful way to add the gospel into Against All Odds. This track also has Thi’sl spit the best line on the entire record, “these two clips are like Steph Curry/any night they could drop 40.”
The interlude that follows this track brings the story back to where Thi’sl started at on the intro and then moves us into the salvation part of the story. “Can You Hear Me” has Thi’sl venting his frustrations about his life and current situation, only to learn that God has been with him the whole time and was bringing him closer to Him. From here we go to the triumphant ending of the record with “Redemption”. This track has a gracious Thi’sl praising God for his forgiveness and grace. Which is the perfect way to end the album and the story.
Much like his story itself, Against All Odds is inspiring. Thi’sl has a fascinating story and his willingness to open himself up to audiences completely and without filter makes for an opportunity for dynamic storytelling. Whether you love his style of music or not, Against All Odds at it’s very least is interesting. This is a good record that has a lot to offer listeners. Thi’sl has become one of the greatest artists that CHH has ever seen and with this record he shows how he did it.
Against All Odds now available on iTunes.