In this day and age artists from the east coast/NE are not exactly plentiful in popular music. Needless to say that in Holy Hip Hop we care little for boundaries and secular concocted cultural viewpoints in many regards. That being said, any artist, new or old, must still prove their quality and capability for us to fork over our hard earned dough to support their efforts, earnest or otherwise. So what did Newark, NJ deliver for the rest of us? Well who else but one to whom few would Oppose.
Speak Lord is a flavorful classic East Coast expression covering a totality of 13 tracks. Yea, that’s right, just 13 tracks. Hate me or love me, but I don’t think that’s acceptable anymore. We simply need more tracks for our albums and interludes don’t cut it. That being said, despite only having 13 tracks, there is an intro song with a skit and an interlude plus some interludes at the beginning and at the end of several tracks. That’s really cutting the quantity down considering the starting point, so that must mean the quality has to be there to compensate. …Sorry, not there either. It’s all just okay; the production is okay; the lyrics are okay; the delivery is okay – and strangely similar to Tonic from Cross Movement Records (CMR). Eeverything is just okay. The strongest element to the whole album is the message. Not just the lyrics in the songs, but also added elements from Pastor and Mrs. Robert Murray, the skit and others. This album is truly ministry minded, but however great that is it also happens to bring the technical quality down a bit, though I wish that were not the case.
This brief synopsis makes Oppose’s Speak Lord very average. But let’s get into some greater detail of the good and bad for the new iTunes era.
Starting from the top, I really didn’t like the fax machine and dial tone sounds in the intro. They were irritating. Not a good way to start an album and draw people in. The following song in the intro, which inevitably makes those sounds make sense, was decent. But it was the skit at the end of the track that was something else. It was a mix of self-promotion, sad and funny all in one. Certainly a risky thing to do but I think it paid off showing the humorous side of Oppose while still touching on a serious topic. With all of the poor quality skits on albums it was nice to hear one that turns out quite funny. At first I was looking a bit cross-eyed at the skit trying to figure it out and see where it goes. But, every time I got to the “all night prayer vigil” at the end I cracked up. I can’t help it. It just happens, even after multiple listens. But that’s a good thing because it shows the quality of the acting and the “funny.” Props to all those involved in that one.
As far as the rest of the album… well, a bit underwhelming. There are several great features and some decent tracks, but the best part of the album is the back half – not a good way to sell an album. Having a roller-skating type track (“Skate Music” ft. Han Soul – track #2) may have become popularized by KJ2 and Kirk Franklin, but I think it might be more difficult than many realized. I think the elements were all there, but the production just fell a bit short of making a real impact. However, I could still see people skating to this track.
I love me some reggae, but “Champion Sound” (track #3) seems to do what most tracks on this album do…they initially sound like they are going to be sick and then just fall off once the intro/lead ends. However, I did like the hook on this particular track. I just didn’t find the harmonization of track, hook and verse matched very well stylistically. It was good, just not great and certainly not as exciting as the intro would make one believe. This ends up being the standard for the whole album, it seems to fall just short, like a basketball player in a Sprite commercial. The execution gets rejected by the rim whose goal was the creative concept. The only successful dunk was the opening skit, which was a surprise in my book. Just not enough legs to get the ball back in the hoop for any kind of monster dunk. I guess this is really more of a Clyde Drexler dunk, just placing it in the rim with no real authority or pizzazz.
“What Do You Want From Me” was a bright spot on the album and one of the few that really felt modern. That might partially be because of J Johnson and great DJ work, but Oppose is no afterthought in this track. This, too, is one of his best and where he seemed to feel the most comfortable; he even seemed excited. Oppose might want to try to reflect on the formula that made this track work for future work.
“Get Down Or Lay Down” was a good track as well. Slower tracks are always a tricky sort, which tend to work out better in concept than in reality. But the rock guitar works, organ, piano, extra vocals and other elements employed in the production, including the great build up and sharp transition and movement in the hooks and bridge, really make this track work. Plus, who else has added Freddy Adu into one of their rhymes? Really, not that many, not like it matters to most, just this individual soccer fan. But much of what made the production in “Get Down Or Lay Down” work was lost in many of the other tracks whose beats end up being quite repetitive and unnecessarily monotonous. Hardly a fault that can simply be blamed on Oppose, but it is his album after all.
Ultimately, Speak Lord is much like the album name implies, a bit corny at times and a bit dated at others, but very focused on Christ and what glorifies and lifts Him up. So if you want to know what kind of rapper and what kind of album Oppose is and will make, this may not be a successful example. That is unless Oppose is a laid back, 90’s style east coast emcee with a sound reminiscent of Tonic aka Wells from CMR, who is more focused on the content than the final product but is also truly a God fearing man.
As an album goes, Speak Lord was kind of all over the place with no balance in the middle. There was the gratuitous commercial attempt, the reggae track attempt, the street attempts, the story writer attempt, the flicker of humor, etc. But what was missing was a stronger link than just the lyrics that would bind everything together into one chain, one package, clearly defining and expressing who Oppose is while enticing modern listeners. Instead, it was like seeing the life of an individual from the past constantly changing and trying to find themselves while still doing so in a way that the final product appeals to the modern listener. This might end up being more of a learning and growing experience than a seller’s success, but Speak Lord is also no failure and certainly worth a chance, especially to old heads.
Music: 5.5 of 10
Flow / Delivery: 4.5 of 10
Lyricism: 3.5 of 10
Content: 8.5 of 10
Creativity / Originality / Relevancy: 4 of 10
Credibility / Confidence: 6 of 10
Personality / Character: 6 of 10
Presentation Quality: 8 of 10
Overall Production Quality: 5 of 10
Potential Impact: 4 of 10