Concert Recap: Da’ T.R.U.T.H. Unplugged – A Break From The 808’s
Photo Credits by Brandon “B-Luv” Johnson
It was a Monday night at Musically Speaking Studios in Blackwood, NJ, and the stage was set for something unique. As you walked up the steps to the venue, you could hear the musicians getting ready; The bass player warming up, walking up down the frets of his guitar. The keyboard player was getting his volume levels just right on all four of the keyboards at his station. The electric guitar player was tuning his instrument of choice, making sure that it met the effects of his desire. The horns section (trumpet and trombone) were getting in sync, blending their volume for balance. And the drummer’s well adjusted eight piece drum set was set right in the middle, with all nine cymbals strategically placed to his liking.
As you reach the top of the stairs and turn the corner, you enter the room – the ceiling cascaded with the colors of the Northern Lights, shimmering off of the chrome highlights of the drum set and onto the three rows of seats opposite the instruments. With such an intimate setting, you know that you are in for something special. And that is exactly what it was.
Sponsored by Music Makes Me Happy, the night, aptly titled “Da’ T.R.U.T.H. Unplugged: A Break From The 808’s”, was a night for the music lover who has grown up with hip hop. Besides a backing track that utilized a minimal amount of synths to help the band cue their song intros, the entire concert was played by live instruments. The whole reason that this event came to be the brainchild of Mixed Bag Entertainment’s Da’ T.R.U.T.H. and Ladesha Albury of PyroArt Solutions, was to give those specific listeners something they can enjoy.
“We wanted to provide that moment for people to take a break from the ‘turn up’ and just enjoy quality musicianship in Christian Hip Hop,” said Da’ T.R.U.T.H.. “We’re in an era where everything is arena-ish, big crowds, and turnt up, and I love that myself, but there is a large contingent of hip hop listeners, especially the late 20’s, 30’s, and even 40 somethings that just want a break; where they can take it all in and absorb all the lyrics. So I took all the “B Side” songs; songs I wouldn’t normally do because they’d be boring in a concert context, and give those songs an opportunity to speak.”
And speak they did. Held in a 1,200 square foot room, the songs of Da’ T.R.U.T.H.’s album’s past grooved like never before with his band “No Name Necessary.” The limited space created a very comfortable environment as I sat almost to the back wall, approximately 15 feet away from him. You could see that Da’ T.R.U.T.H. was in his element, as his background comes from being a musician. (He grew up and excelled in playing drums). The event jumped off with a raucous, drum driven version of “Bully”, followed by a “grown & holy” version of “Do It For You,” perfect for the skate parks. Horn stabs and added musical arrangements peppered songs throughout the night, giving a new flare to tracks that had been released three to six years prior.
Old songs took new life, as some were stripped down to a minimalist-style of production for the concert. Some replaced soft keyboard pads for the normal intense synthesizer rhythms, while others were embellished with new chord movements that allowed for some spectacular guitar and drum solos. When they played “J.I.F.E” and “Peace Talks,” the bass player and horn section were just going in.
Since Da’ T.R.U.T.H. was “diggin in the crates” from his past records, many songs had features from artists who could not attend, so T.R.U.T.H. brought in others to fill their spots. Mixed Bag member Prayz1 stood in on “Bully”, “Do It For You”, “Standing Ovation”, “Fantasy”, and he accompanied Da Truth on “Forgiveness.” The evening’s standout performance has to go to Thomas Clay, who sung “Change The World,” but absolutely killed the hooks for “Great Wall” and “Ugly Love.” With the power of what the lyrics mean in these songs, combined with the unique way they were played that evening, these two songs brought pure and powerful moments of worship, something that Da’ T.R.U.T.H. is all about. As Da’ T.R.U.T.H. did “Ugly Love” specifically, with the soft playing of synth pads, a strumming background guitar, and Thomas Clay’s vocals, in which everyone had to pause and give reverence to the Spirit of God that was in the room.
It was during these times that opened up the space for Da’ T.R.U.T.H. to share his heart; where at a regular concert may not be able to create a receptive space for what he wanted to say. He was able to give biblical expansion to topics of songs, even so as to compactly exegete a text that drove him to write certain songs. Most turn-up-concert atmospheres don’t have the space, or time, to give that biblical reasoning for why the artists do what they do. There was even space for us to just cry out to God as the music played.
I looked around the room multiple times during the evening, scanning the rows of adults who love quality music, as they nodded their heads in appreciation for what was taking place. There wasn’t one person in the room who wasn’t totally engaged with what Da’ T.R.U.T.H. was displaying that night.
To cap the night off, Da’ T.R.U.T.H. had to do one hype joint. So we all stood, turned to our neighbor, and said “Stop Playing With It!” A fitting end to a very special night of music, transparency, and worship. I personally have been desiring events like this one for many years now, and it is encouraging to know that there are others who feel the same way. And with Da’ T.R.U.T.H. being the pioneer that he is, I can say with much certainty that this will not be the last of the “Break From the 808’s” concerts. Look for this series to continue soon in the future.