Disclaimer: All views presented in this review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
For as long as I’ve loved hip-hop, I have always had a partiality to the underground. That doesn’t mean that I dislike the mainstream but there is something about the underground that calls out to me. I love the passion, the rap wit, and the chip on their shoulder. Underground emcees have an edge to them that you don’t always see from mainstream artist. That was one of the many things that drew me to CHH; the whole genre felt like it was underground, and it was for a long time. The popularity and mainstream attention wasn’t there for CHH. But now the genre has boomed over the past several years and now the genre is rich with an abundance of talent. With this popularity creates a “mainstream” crop of talent that gets a lion’s share of the attention and several other artists that fly under the radar.
One of those artists has been Tragic Hero. Since coming onto the scene a few years back Tragic Hero has consistently flown under the radar. He’s done some great work this far in his career including his debut album “Going Home”, “The Resistance” EP that followed and his never ending list of features. Even with that resume most CHH fans aren’t that familiar with Tragic Hero. Tragic Hero is one of the best-kept secrets in all of CHH. He is a rappers rapper, an emcee in every sense of the word. He’s a tremendous lyricist, insanely creative and beautifully artistic. Now he is back with his second album entitled “My Own Worst Enemy”. Fans familiar with his resume are on the edge of their seats in anticipation for this record. Hopefully after this releases he won’t fly under the radar any longer.
Tragic Hero is as creative an emcee as there is in CHH and the sound of “My Own Worst Enemy” reflects that creativity. It’s not just heavy drums and bass throughout this record. Tragic Hero infuses different sounds and instruments all throughout and that gives this record a unique sound tailored specifically to Tragic Hero. The sound of this record has a lot of versatility and constantly gives the listener a different feel and vibe. That helps keep the record fresh and provides a lot of playback value because there are different types of sounds. This versatility was displayed beautifully at the beginning of the record when he opens with a softer and slower paced intro that the listener can just fall into. Tragic Hero then transitions into the tougher and faster paced “1984” featuring Dre Murray. It’s a stark transition but is done beautifully. This is what the listener can expect from this record- different sounds and feels from track to track.
For the long time fans of Tragic Hero this record will be about what they expect musically. For the newcomers you should expect a sound similar that which you would hear from Collision Records. A lot of instruments and different sounds, not relying heavily on bass or drums. It has a bit of an epic feel to it (like Collision). The production builds and is layered. A great example of this is the track “Winter” produced by Wit. It’s a slow paced track that has more of a worship feel than anything else. It sounds like what Hillsongs interpretation of hip-hop would be. There is acoustic guitar, drums that build towards the hook, and Tragic Hero himself singing through a good part of the track. This song gives a different sound with an epic feel. If this is the type of music you like, if you’re a fan of the Collision sound, then “My Own Worst Enemy” is a record you will love.
One of (if not the biggest) reasons why Tragic Hero is one of the best-kept secrets in CHH is because of his lyricism. He is a wizard lyrically. He uses words in a way that is only matched by few. He’s shown throughout his career that he can go bar for bar with almost anyone. He has command of his flow and his tone. He can switch pace and feel to match different tracks. Most importantly he is comfortable. He knows who he is as an emcee and he knows what he’s capable of. So, every time you hear Tragic Hero he has a smooth confidence about him that draws listeners in.
All of those aforementioned qualities shine on “My Own Worst Enemy”. It is lyrical artwork from start to finish. He switches his tempo and tone throughout. His wordplay is impeccable. Lyrically it’s just a great record. His lyricism really stands out on tracks like “Determination” featuring John Givez, “1984” featuring Dre Murray and “Nothing You Can Do”. These are a few tracks were Tragic Hero shows that he’s as lyrically talented as anyone. He has great feel for what each track needs him to do vocally. He rides his production with great harmony, which makes for great songs and easy listens. Overall it is lyrically one of the best albums you’ll hear.
The overall conclusion of this record is that it is a great record. However great music and great lyricism are not the only things that makes this record great. The content and features also provide a great deal in making this record great. It’s not an overly “Christian” record but the content is still very rich. Tragic Hero is a very honest emcee, and throughout this record he is very honest. He gives and insight into his life and struggles and that provides great, soul-enriching content. It does also carry a Christian theme throughout. He makes biblical references several times and always keeps God as the main focus. It’s good positive “Christian” music, which all Christian music fans want and need, and that makes it great.
There are only 10 tracks on the record, and on albums this short it’s hard to enlist a strong support cast. Tragic Hero gets an amazing supporting cast. He had Christon Gray for the soulful and elegant sounding “Try Again”. Dre Murray enlisted his expertise for the gritty “1984”. And John Givez hopped on the smooth “Determination”. Taleor Gray and David James also lended their talents. Each of these features shows how important features can be. All of these features elevated the record and provided very memorable tracks that can be played for a long time to come.
There are so many great elements to this record. Tragic Hero was able to craft some of his best work yet and the type of record that his fans will remember and listen to for a long time. I don’t know if this will be the record that brings Tragic Hero to the forefront of the genre because it lacks that special hit song. Nonetheless this is still a great record that showcases just how special Tragic Hero really is.