Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
Why The Zoo?
With all the buzz about W.L.A.K and it’s charting success, we decided to take it back to the beginning.
Swoope’s The Zoo is the classic album that got the ball rolling for the entire Collision Records camp. This project dropped October 12, 2009 and I’m sure it was being passed around prior to this date. The Zoo is a classic album because it contained the right ingredients to catch ears of some of the most influential people in our genre. Based on Collision’s story, Yaves, Kareem Manuel, DJ Official, and Sho Baraka all listened and heard someone that they knew was destined to blow up. Even Da’ T.R.U.T.H. mentioned (38:03) that he was blown away when he first heard of Swoope and later put him on his album, The Big Picture. Not only were heavy hitters impressed by this album, the album’s content was amazing. The Zoo is a classic album and there are many things that make it great. In this album review, I will discuss some of the reasons The Zoo got in the hands of so many people.
3 Reasons The Zoo Caused Such A Buzz
Zeal can be a wonderful thing or it can be a terrible thing. Proverbs 19:2 says “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way (NIV).” Swoope displayed how zeal paired with knowledge can be an amazing thing. He displayed the type of zeal for our Lord that Paul tells us not to lose in Romans 12:11. Songs like “The Apostle Peter Pan’s Lament”, “Look and Live”, and “1 Peter 5:8” showed off Swoope’s passion to see believers reach others, live a Christ-centered lifestyle, and be focused on mission. He coupled passion with accurate knowledge of the Bible and brilliantly urged listeners to fight for righteousness.
His passion probably caused a buzz because it was balanced. Sometimes an artist will get saved and they will immediately begin to judge the world that they were just apart of. Where there is passion that lacks love and maturity, the music can come off as foolish. On the other hand, Swoope challenged believers to obey and commit to our Lord without sounding like a pharisee. In songs like “The Pledge”, “Time”, “Addicting” and “Resist,” the listener was compelled to do something. Those songs contained a peculiar element that moved the listener to either submit to, fight for or cling to Christ. Swoope’s passion and biblical accuracy made for great music that could easily take a listener from head-nodding to worship.
Now that Swoope has established himself as a passionate believer, lets take a look at how this album established him as a stand-out artist.
While listening, I had to keep remembering that this was his first album and that he did not have any major funding behind him. I think that is what made this album a classic. He did not have a label behind him, but his lyrical artistry was phenomenal. Swoope is one of very few artists that know how to blatantly talk about the Word, and subtly talk about the Word at the same time. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
“Though I’m living in hell, I’m living to tell/that my, living’s compelled by the living Propel.”
Swoope is able to blatantly say that the world we live in is far from heaven, but he is sustained by Jesus (living water). He words things in a way that if you do not know your Bible, you may not catch just how rich some of his rhymes are.
His rhyme style is rather unique as well. He emphasizes abnormal fragments of sentences to complete rhymes and somehow he makes it sound smooth rather than corny. Some rappers try to make words rhyme or phrases fit that shouldn’t, and it’s just all bad. I loved how he broke down Christ’s deity on “Above All.”
“From the time he was a youngster to one-man-grown/Jesus, getting his of son, man on, Son of Man on, son of man born (pronounced bone)/ to be Son of Man lone-ly.”
The way that Swoope crafted his bars on The Zoo set him apart. It was different. It didn’t sound bad. It was refreshing.
Aside from his lyrics, the production was nice as well. Again, this was 2009 and he put together a great sounding album without a team. It wasn’t just his lyrics that made him stand out. He didn’t have to kill it over a bad beat in order to prove how good he was. The music kept up with him.
3. Song Creativity
From the title of the first song “The Apostle Peter Pan’s Lament”, you could tell Swoope was going to be a creative artist. It’s easy to think of a fun name for a song. It’s extremely difficult to weave the theme of the title through the entire song. On this song, Swoope blends the ideas behind the story of Peter Pan and the Apostle Peter. When doing a song like this, the artist has to pay close attention to detail. Both stories have to be referred to accurately or else the overall message can lose its potency. He referred to Tinker Bell calling Peter Pan back to Never Land where the lost boys needed him. This Paralleled the Apostle Peter when the Holy Spirit led him back to speak to the lost post-Christ’s death and resurrection. It truly takes creative genius to do something like this as accurately as he did.
Next, the title song, “The Zoo” is another amazing display of Swoope’s skill. I cannot reference every animal that he used but it was ridiculous. The concept was a play on humanity’s sinfulness. He references our selfishness, maliciousness, and wild behavior all using different animals. He mentions how we cannot get out the zoo ourselves. He says how we need to trust in the zoo keeper and trust that he will care for us while in the zoo. This is obviously referring to how we are to trust in our Lord and his protection while living in this sin-filled world. If you listen to this and do not see yourself, I’ll go ahead and say it, you’re crazy.
So far Swoope told us a Bible story using Disney characters and broke down the sinfulness of man using imagery from a zoo. Well on “Addicting,” he personifies a computer to break down lust. He skillfully used word play to give the listener a vivid picture of what many people deal with.
“No family around no kinfolk/she says close them blinds and open up my Windows/ his windows to his soul wide shut/his eyes lust for her nice touch.”
If you are just reading the lyrics, you may think it was a woman. Nope. That’s just how well he depicted the computer and the tug of lust that preys on so many minds. This song is one of the best songs I’ve heard tackle this issue. There are many songs that deal with the topic of lust. The way he broke down how people fall, along with the word play and personification made it better than the others I’ve heard.
The immense amount of creativity poured into each lyric on The Zoo truly tipped the scales and confirmed why this album was classic and caused so much buzz.
After finishing this album, I can see why so many artists helped get Swoope’s name out. The Zoo was a thought provoking, creative monster. This project is definitely a classic and when you listen to it, you’ll see. From the first song to the end, Swoope showed off his creative muscle and took the listener on a journey. He pulled at the listener’s emotions with a variety of songs. Some songs made you excited to stand for Christ, some made you evaluate your own faith. There wasn’t a moment on this album where the listener was not being challenged or edified. Swoope beautifully married what giving the truth in love sounds like.
I personally enjoyed his lyrical artistry. He tactfully packs so much in his verses that you can re-listen multiple times and keep getting more out of it. I also enjoyed hearing what I call the ‘pit-bull flow.’ When I say that, I mean I enjoy hearing when an artist is on the come-up and they are giving it all they have.
It’s the same way I compare NCAA Football vs. the NFL. College players give it their all every chance they get because each great performance is one step closer to making it to the League. When players and artists are in this phase, you get some of their best work. Swoope gave us a great album despite not having a huge following or a label behind him. The Zoo is what introduced the world to one of the best artists in the entire genre. If you are a fan of Swoope and Collision Records, this album is a must have.
Have you listened to Swoope’s The Zoo? Would you consider it a classic album?