Hip-Hop Reviews – M to N (20 reviews, February 2019)
Please note that the reviews are ordered by Artist first name..
Please note if you see any of these reviews elsewhere, it is because I have done the reviews for others (Cross Rhythms). The reviews on these pages are my full reviews.
maCmoses – ‘From Israel To DC’
maCmoses delivers a solid hip-hop CD. Lyrically, maCmoses is clear without being overly complex. Throughout the album maCmoses has a simple old skool feel, from the starter, “The Way” in which he gives his life into the hand of God, with everything from God, asking and trusting God to lead him. This old skool vibe is reflected on the beats, which mostly have a bassy, rolling and pulsating vibe across the album. maCmoses gives a testimony to God being there when you’re going through in “The Rulez” and “Endure”. maCmoses encourages us to keep going and that we are valuable to God in “God Is Your Help”, pointing us to help others not just focus on self. “Being Led” brings the main variation on the album – a slower track with maCmoses singing on the vocal hook. “Accept His Truth” sees maCmoses rolling with a syncopated, almost military track as he trusts in God and his Word. maCmoses has been through and come through a lot in the last 4 years and his testimony on his website is humbling as he reveals that this experience has drawn him closer to God and to his family. With any album, we have to look beyond the music to see the heart of the artist – and macMoses really does have a heart that beats for God and for God’s glory.
MadeSacred – “Seventeen”
Coming out of Atlanta, Georgia, MadeSacred (Steven Williams) starts this project with a powerful declaration of the Lordship of Christ and that as God’s people we will not live according to the world’s principles and will not bow down. Determined to walk like the Messiah did, the album spans across the hip-hop spectrum – from down-tempo minimalist (“Without You”) to furious double-timing southern beasts (“Go Hard”) to southern tracks (“Grateful Conqueror”) to east coast rolling breaks with more of an old skool flow (“Exstatic” and “Shine On You”). Production slightly rolls back through the project and perhaps the 14 ytracks could have been shortened. More importantly though, Steven Williams has since morphed his solo hip-hop artistry to include many others after a call by God – setting up a collective called OnmiGod – musicians dedicated to creating good music. Through this he has been able to release a number of other artists – a legacy that does MadeSacred credit, heeding and foillowing God’s call.
Manafest – ‘The Chase’
Manafest is back with another blistering mix of hip hop and rock. In “No Plan B”, Manafest affirms his passion to stick to his destiny and fulfil God’s purposes, over crunching guitar and driving rhythm. Truly an anthemic and uplifting start, prefacing an album laced with catchy hooks, huge energy and rap-rock. “Supernatural” is a song of praise back up to God expressing how God takes our lives from despair and saves us – “you showed me the light when I was blind.” Standout tracks race past as the album accelerates you through huge tracks. “Fire In The Kitchen” has another catchy feel with guest Trevor McNevan from Thousand Foot Krutch. The accompanying video found online is equally intriguing. There’s fighting talk in the excellently aggressive “Bring The Ruckus” as Manafest declares his intent to stand ground and to fight. Manafest takes us through his struggles and journey of faith in tracks like “Renegade” and “Avalanche” where once again production and track mirrors the subject perfectly. “The Chase” also reveals Manfest’s journey, fight with pride and being caught up in the chase. But each time he returns to God. Many songs have instant lyrical and almost pop appeal, and would easily grace secular charts – “Married In Vegas”. Other striking tunes like “Breaking Down The Walls” express Manafest’s heart to be free, to find God’s road and stay on it. We end on a drum’n’bass tip in “Impossible.” The overall feel of the album is rapcore in tone, with more of a hint of ‘Green Day’ about it. Lyrically it’s quite challenging as it exposes an angst, plus quite a raw and vulnerable faith that I can see many teens relating to.
Mars Ill – Backbreakanomics
Another dope release – it’s Mars Ill ! Slightly different to Raw Material. I’d have to say that this is an even more underground release than Raw Material (as is the CD inlay!). Like a good book, needs to be studied and listened to for its full and profound impact. Unlike some reviews I’m not going to go deep into the lyrics – you have to hear them yourself. After the shout out from Blackalicious, the album starts up with the anthemic catchy sung hook of ‘If you know, like we know, breathe slow, breathe slow..’ A fusion of samples intro lead into Pigeon John’s, Manchild’s and Blueprint’s vocals riding one of the dopest hip hop beats and guitar riffs on the album. Mars Ill describe this as being about the fact that everyone is trying to get somewhere. ‘Afterlife’ has a deep feel, in varied cuts and samples, beats and lyrics, Mars Ill again showing the way to create head nodding beats and cyphers. The boom bap styled ‘Black Box Artist’ again demonstrates a Mars Ill theme beat under guitar / bass / trombone or tuba sample.. ‘I like to scramble words around until I make them sensible..’ Next up is ‘Inside Out’ which is again full of varied samples, instrumentation, scratches and a vocal sample laid on top of snares in the verse. Clever tune about ‘loss and redemption’ as we journey with someone trying to find their way in life.. ‘he knows that he was broken so that he could find Christ.. used to hit the bottle but know he fights for God..’ In ‘Enterchange’ Manchild issues a rallying call to make a break from the commercial and false tunes pushed at people that mean nothing. In ‘Alpha Male’ Mars Ill take a clever look and challenge to blokes who consider themselves the man, the dog – the faults of thug men, selfish men, abusive men becoming self-evident through Manchild’s observations of them – while pointing them to Jesus, the perfect real man. In PSA #428, Mars Ill are humble about their own emceeing and writing gifts – but take a pop at fake hip hop and those claiming to be everything in hip hop but not excellent at anything. Both ‘Freeze Framework’ and ‘Sideline Speech’ continue the deep, underground and lyrical eloquence of the whole album. My favourite track is ‘Next Door’ which fuses a seriously dope beat, a descending bassline, haunting female vocal sample, organ and a beautiful chorus and a distorted guitar riff. ‘We dedicate this now.. it’s dedicated to you.. wanna bring my people closer to God.. be careful when you listen cos it just might change your life..’ talking about being accessible as an artist to fans and people. One of the most perfect hip hop songs. ‘Piecemeal’ demonstrates a rolling break, guitar riffs and the hook rolls, ‘If you know the words you can sing along..’ Another deep and creative track is ‘Sunstep’ with double-time lyrics on the chorus. In ‘Lump Sum’ you get another chunky guitar riff with lyrics rolling over a nice break that submits to a bigger break which kicks in over it. Mix all this in with cuts, samples and breaks from the man Dust and you get a great album. Not for the commercial heads – but you need to check it to learn and grow. Run Time – 64.44.
Mars Ill – Blue Collar Sessions (vinyl)
Some underground beats and flows from the Mars Ill crew.
Mars Ill – Raw Material
What can I say? I’m late to the Christian hip hop scene but picked this up in the Christian bookshop in Birmingham for just £7. Man, was that the best buy. Absolute classic, no doubt, for real. This is ill – as in Mars Ill. This cuts it with any secular rappers and beat makers. This dopest of dope album mixes intelligent rhymes with intelligent, complex, yet deftly simple beats. I have learnt so much from this piece of ‘gold’. It’s the kind of album you seriously need to hear to get knowledge. Hard to know where to start in reviewing this, phat scratching and sampling and rhymes that leave you feeling enriched and desperate to get into the studio to sample, cut and mix the latest beats and vocals. Lots of issues covered – from Sphere of Hip Hop, to Black Market, to Love’s Not, Monotone, Compound Fractures, Fade to Black to the end track, Abolition of manCHILD – I love it. This is one of the defining holy hip hop albums out there. You are a poorer person without this. Get it and get true knowledge. Just get it. No doubt. Run Time – 71.18.
Mel Monroe – ‘The Human Xperience’
Mel Monroe’s free album download lets us know in no uncertain terms that, “Jesus Christ equals life, no apology” – from the “Human Xperience Intro”. Mel Monroe brings a mix of rap and r&b vocals, with a beautifully unique voice as she teaches and speaks, only caring about God’s truth (“Heaven”). The Greensboro, North Carolina native recorded the whole project on computer software. Musically, the tracks are synthesized and full, as Mel brings an easy-going and pretty basic flow. A standout track is “Get Up Remix” – “now that you’re been blessed, go be a blessing…” as she encourages us to get up and get out for God. We’re encouraged to dream, to step up and out in Christ in the inspiring “Odds Are.” A hugely standout track is the groovalicious, “Just Human” (and therefore need Jesus) as Mel Monroe’s effortless rhythmic flow rolls along with the beat. “Who You Are” brings a creative approach with rap top and tailed by r&b. Other standouts include “Millennial Generation” as Mel Monroe assesses the Millennial Generation (Generation Y) in relation to Christ, and “War Of The Mind (Letter 2 Atheist)” as Mel powerfully presents Biblical truth and evidence of God. We drop downtempo briefly in “In The End” before stepping back up to end with “Melbot”.
MIA3 – ‘Living Words’
This is a very tight sophomore EP hip-hop CD with a clear gospel message, and challenges to those of us who are Christians. MIA3 grew up on the south side of Chicago and has carried a love of hip-hop through his life and longs to see Christian MCs stand against other MCs while speaking the gospel of Jesus. As he rightly points out, “God doesn’t have a problem with the culture of hip-hop any more than he does with any other culture.. He just wants the culture to know, love and glorify Him..” Amen! Right from the off, over piano riff MIA3 points people to the life found in Jesus who, ‘Carried the weight of sin like a strong man contest so we could live to get into this world that God blessed..’ In “Wisdom”, over guitar riff and rolling beats, we’re encouraged to get wisdom and go all out for Christ instead of worldly things. “Never Be The Same” brings a soulful vocal hook and backing track. MIA3 encourages us to give your life to the Lord and never be the same. Other tracks follow the same encouragement such as “Rockin Wit The Best” talking about following Jesus, “Do You Know” (Jesus) and “The Way, Truth & Life” which flows smoothly about loving Jesus. We’re also challenged in our Christian life such as “Lay It All Down”, a gentle roller over trumpet and Spanish guitar riff. Overall a great independent project.
Michaelis Constant – ‘Naked Brain Remix’
Remix of ‘Naked Brain’ from the crew’s second album, Gondwanaland.. A trip down memory lane, remembering the crew that was Michaelis Constant. With their usual quirky underground prose and indie eclectic-ness, the “Naked Brain remix” mixes speech, crafted breaks, quips, quirks, drum’n’bass, humour and a depth of profound and sometimes bewildering intelligent rap.
Missionary Men – ‘Homesick’
Another mix and blend of east coast, mid-west and some dirty south from this rap duo. Missionary Men, aka Mr Monk and Jahdiel, are from The Body hip-hop crew, representing New York. Mr Monk is the grand nephew of Thelonious Monk brings an urban/soul/hip-hop vibe. Jahdiel comes out of South Bronx and brings elements of humour and clever wordplay. With this effective duo working in tandem, it’s not surprising that the penultimate track, “Heaven” is featuring in top 10 airplays across Christian radio. “Keep Talking” fires off this tight album as it means to go on – lively beats, catchy hooks and a laid-back east coast flow (think 50 Cent influence). Beats are minimal (electro at times), contemporary and off the hook at times, sure to get your head-nodding and hitting rewind. Again, we find a number of Korg Triton sounds, but it is less obvious than the sister album, ‘The Body’ – which is good thing, though still noticeable enough. High levels of production bring the album up even further. We mix in serious life elements (“Girlfriend” and “Father Forgive”), God-centred works such as “The Scriptures” and “Home Sick”. There are times of real humour too, “I got 99 problems but the pastor ain’t one..” and interludes such as “Crazy Fan” and “The Interview”. Delivery moves around the spectrum, with “Like A Soldier” seeing serious lyricism. As we move on through the album, we find an increased soulful vibe, with some beautiful hooks and harmonies (“Happiness”). We end our spiritual hip-hop journey with the powerful “Heaven” and challenging “We Pray”. Run Time – 59.18.
Mista & Mrs Taylor – Set The Atmosphere
This tasty album carries on Mista & Mrs Taylor’s honest and clear presentation of the Gospel, with a mainly east coast and smooth street edge, “10,000” for example. The couple produced 80% of this album as they seek to present and write practical, easy to understand songs. This aim, like their production skills, is something they accomplish with aplomb. “I Tried It All” is an honest journey as Mista Taylor takes us through his life journey of trying everything before finding that Christ “is better” as Mrs Taylor brings the hook (on occasions, just slightly out of tune unless my ears are playing up!) In other tracks, Mrs Taylor joins Mista Taylor to emcee, such as the banging “Brand New”. Deep, challenging tracks like “At A Distance” looks at Christ’s life from a distance, and then seeks to apply it practically, over a piano hook. There are more than a few hints of rhythm and praise, such as the grooving “Crossover” and the soulful sounding, “Run” as Mrs Taylor honestly shares her journey of stepping up and passionately running her race – encouraging us to do same. “Christlike” drops a minimalist slow dirty south flow as Christ and the Word is rep’d over a deep 303 styled beat. There is a range of fresh beats through the project, with “Throw Ya Hands Up”, as we look forward to Christ’s coming. The end comes with a time of reflection and praise – giving it up to the Lord, his Word and who he is – as our hearts worship – responding to Jesus.
Mpfree – ‘Battle’
More UK hip-hop to brighten up your every day. This time it’s the turn of Scottish emcee, Mpfree bringing his passion, lyrics and energy to inspire. Mpfree throws lyrical punches throughout the guitar heavy, “Second Round”, fighting for God against the flow and praying for those in the world, “Let his word stain on your flesh like a tattoo.” In the awesome and breathless “Fly Away” Mpfree takes it up a notch, blazing lyrically over serious distorted guitar – God will hold us tight and never let us go. Mpfree has a smooth, careful flow that is showcased on the EP as in the “Intro” and the slower “Battle Cry”, with Bible references, cultural references sprinkled in with his humility as the truth of God pervades the project as Mpfree raises up God’s banner like a true soldier. “Forever Love” sees Mpfree flow effortlessly over the breaks that fuse uplifting vocals and a bass heavy verse. Pointing to God’s love, Mpfree brings tasty lines like, “If I was a record label, I know that He would sign me.” A downtempo tune that perfectly closes out a great EP that really takes you on a quality and God-filled hip-hop journey.
Mr Del – ‘Hope Dealer’
Mr Del, hip-hop artist and producer out of Memphis, Tennessee delivers his latest project, “Hope Dealer 2”, a follow-up to his 2007 album “Hope Dealer”. The 14 tracks maybe reflect the fact this is Mr Del’s fourteenth album. Regardless, the album stays true to a powerful Southern rap vibe with a guest list including renowned artists like Pettidee, Gospel Gangstaz and Canton Jones. The standout “J-E-S-U-S” sees an epic and killer backing track as Mr Del shares duties with female MC Murk as they shake the devil off and fight him through the power of Jesus! The project is filled with big banging basslines like the rolling kicks in “Itchin”. A tasty sample over the southern break sets apart “Nu Creature” feat Murk and Rod G. Newman, in which Mr Del expresses his passion that in Christ he is a new creature, “a Holy Ghost preacher”. A break from the relentless southern blasting is “Let It Go’ with D. McGhee’s sweet vocals infusing the laid back track as Mr Del expresses those times many Christians go through, when things become too much and he lets go and lets God. Southern worship breaks out in another standout, “When Men Don’t Worship” with Canton Jones and Uncle Reece, before we break out in the same way the album broke out with the passionate message of the power of Christ in “Game Over” – “send a message to the devil, tell him, ‘game’s over’”. And that’s a word.
Mr Del – Thrilla
Mr Del’s latest release, ‘Thrilla’ is an acronym for ‘The Real Anointing’ and sees Mr Del expressing, in his words, “a deeper, more transparent side of me” allowing the listener to journey with Mr Del through the project and to see how God has enabled him to grow and become stronger in Christ. The CD is intended to break Mr Del out of the ‘Christian rap’ box to engage with the world further afield. Yet the album comes with strong Godly messages like “More Than A Conqueror’ over Lord of the Rings style choral sounds, “Rock It Out” and “Spread The Gospel” (with a reggae feel). The project is Mr Del’s most musically diverse project to date, intending to break down barriers within the Christian community. The focus is dirty south over a range of creative sounds, perhaps more down-tempo overall, with a laid back flow on most tracks after the opening and expressive delivery on “Want It”. Yet a number of banging, crunk tunes give the album some real kick like “Crunk Az Me” and “U Can Do It”. There are some guitar-laden tracks, like the Beastie Boys-esque shouts in “Panic Room”. Mr Del opens up in tracks like “Reverse The Curse” where he speaks openly about not knowing his dad and even abuse. The personal flow continues in the final tracks of the project, arguably the strongest tracks on the album.
MYNISTA – Da Ghetto Shepherd
MYNISTA a.k.a. DOCTA WUZDEAD brings us an album of dirty south hotness..
The testimony of Mynista out of Tampa, FL shows the demonic forces behind some of secular hip hop. Mynista reveals how some artists were asked to give their soul to the devil. God revealed himself to Mynista and delivered him out of this. Mynista describes his style as a “..simplistic, universal message of what’s real, marinated in dirty south slang.” Lyrically this album contains easy and accessible rhymes with an easygoing flow and delivery. Musically the album has mostly dirty south beats and rolling hi-hats underpinned by guitar and synth sounds.
Tracks include Put Ya Fist Up – a bangin crunk party track encouraging the people to put their fists up and to get their faith up. I can see hyped clubs with crowds going mad to this one. Give It To Me – another catchy party tune, this time about giving all of yourself to God. Supah Kat – slightly downtempo song with rolling beat and hi-hats, repping Jesus and his power in us, with a nice easy hook. Rule Wit Me (my best friend)– a track with a buzzing bassline taking a look at Proverbs 31 about a Godly wife. Yo Handz – with an eastern flava / synth riff about trusting in and looking for God, with a hook, ‘Bless God, praise God..’ Luvv Me – guitar riff back into a more traditional dirty south style. Mynista confronts those who would only love him if he was still a thug, into his old life. How Long – confronting both ‘the thugs and the women’ who think God is a cissy or a punk – challenging them asking, “how long are you gonna run from God.” Ask God for new life, freedom, don’t want to run from God any more.. Beauty Queen – aimed at the ladies, with a guitar riff (reminiscent of a cross between guitaring on Rocky and Da Matrix by Corey Red / Precise) under pulsating beat and hi hats, Mynista spits about women who just want more in life – he encourages them walk into God’s future and leave their past behind. Shake Down – a track about getting shake down by God. I Got High – a more downtempo hip hop beat – looking at gang life, street life – these things aren’t real but only temporary feel-goods – only God is eternal.
The actual album contains 18 tracks, for review I only checked out the promotional CD which has 10 tracks.
NazB – ‘Thank You God’
NazB, born in Nigeria but now based in Switzerland brings an uplifting rap worship project, fusing his influences of African inspired hip-hop and RnB as he raps and sings his praise to God. The track is like a testimony to the King of kings and Lord of lords, testifying to how God loved him, died for him, saved him, led him and always shows his goodness.
Nehemiah – ‘The Building Block’
Nehemiah hails from Germantown, Maryland and brings a solid hip-hop project testifying to the grace of God bringing him out of life on the streets to bring about a difference in the community for Christ through Bible study, motivational speaking and inspirational rap. The project mixes accapella (“Testimony Freestyle”) and rap with a real East Coast flavour. Nehemiah also throws in an instrumental for good measure (“Way Back”). There are some powerful messages as Nehemiah testifies and speaks Christ. The album does have a few inconsistent moments – the volume of “Testimony Freestyle” compared to the following track “White As Snow” – itself a very powerful track as Nehemiah takes us through life situations and shows God washing our sins away. The album then gets louder again into the excellent “The Building Block”. Varied beats (such as minimalist ones “Kingdom” and the bouncier more south-styled “FIG”) compliment Nehemiah’s flow – such as “Prison Without Walls”. Nehemiah has a very refreshingly honest and open feel and flow. For me the standout track is “The Building Block”, showing Nehemiah’s potential.
Nehemiah – ‘The Building Block 1.5’
The Building Block is a solid effort from Nehemiah, born in Germantown, Maryland. We kick off with the uplifting “Coming Home” featuring the sweet vocals of Jen, as Nehemiah brings us back to God. Through the project Nehemiah spits some tight lyrics such as “I’m craving the blood of Christ like I’m a vampire, so now my spirit’s burning in me like a camp fire…” (“Forever Remix”) – a top tune which sees Nehemiah on fire lyrically despite some slightly out of tune hook vocals! More explosive emceeing comes in the bouncy “Father Son Holy Spirit”. Other tracks bring some powerful testimony such as the smooth rolling personal story of God’s work in “Look At Me Know”, naturally leading into the slow-dance “Romance”, an ode to lovers and romance, keeping God first. The furious instrumentals in “Drop The World” bring a change of pace bringing the revelation to the world that “Jesus is the truth, and this world is false…” We close out with a prayer as Nehemiah prays that the Spirit would open the ears of those who don’t know and a prayer to stand on God’s word, to be role models and help each other as Christian family in the name of Jesus – the name above all names.
NevaHurd – ‘Unseen Proof’
Ryan ‘Nevahurd’ Daley is from Toronto, Canada and brings a project that showcases an artist with a seriously slick and smooth delivery. Through the project, NevaHurd drops some accapellas starting with the “Faith Intro”. But things explode into life with the synth-laden, “Unseen Proof” where NevaHurd expounds the Hebrews 11.1 about faith. There are a few standout beats and tunes through the album – definitely feeling the jump up vibe in “You” where the sung “duh,duh-duh…” gives the track a serious freshness where NevHaurd even praises God in his “ad-libs”. “Do It” ft Tyshan Knight is another standout track where beat and delivery flow, with NevaHurd’s focus on doing what he does not because he love Jesus. “Won’t Break” has a sweet old skool bouncing feel to it, with NevaHurd dropping some niceness while dropping artist’s names in his flow. NevHaurd drops a tasty piece on “Your Word” – “Word became flesh, you overcame death, one day you’re coming back to take all the saints back.” NevaHurd gets up close and honest in the testimonial styled “NevaHurd Pt. 1” NevaHurd has a great flow. Expect a God-filled rap future for him.
NF – ‘Mansion’
Let’s just get this out of the way from near the start. This album is an absolute epic and explosive in every sense. This is a project of killer lines (“the least I can do if I murder a beat is take off time to go to its funeral” off the ferocious “Intro”), wide open instrumentals (“Face It”) and a God-fire and honesty. NF is 23 year-old Gladwin, Michigan native, Nate Feuerstein. He draws from real life struggles, including being abused as a kid, anger issues, and losing his mother to a drug overdose. NF delivers lyrics with a raw and passionate energy (“Face It” compared to the assertive “Motivated”) with a varied flow, shown in the same songs. The pumping “Turn The Music” and the intro show the double-timing and ferocious delivery that NF is able to effortlessly bring. He is up-front about the struggles of his life and the challenges, evidenced in every track like the worshipful “I’ll Keep On” with Jeremiah Carlson. Tracks vary in production from the more minimalist sounds of “Notepad” and the uplifting “Wait” or the powerful title track with Fleurie. NF equally channels his emotion into powerful sung hooks like “Paralyzed” but none more so than the incredible final track “Can You Hold Me” with Britt Nicole. Like Nate, allow God to blow down the walls of any mansions or prisons and bring you to freedom. This is the journey he is on and you can be too.