The first thing I’d like to mention: Da T.R.U.T.H. has gone mainstream. *gasp!* Wait, wait, please, don’t stop reading! I promise this review will be worth your while. T.R.U.T.H. does go mainstream, but with much better results than usual. His new project, “The Big Picture” is an solid release, an overall positive build over his previous release, and an entertaining listen throughout. Don’t expect groundbreaking hip hop music, but know you’ll be humming some of the tunes on your own downtime.
But again, this album is extremely mainstream. And not in that “setting the pop standard” kind of way. Instead, think of much of it as a “Best of 2008-09” compilation, with T.R.U.T.H. rapping instead of T.I. or Jeezy. Speaking of the latter, I know a few won’t be feeling his take on Yung Jeezy’s “My President.” You know, blah blah, “biting”, blah blah “unauthentic”, etc. And in some ways, I totally hear that complaint. “My President” song gives a VERY slight musical shift on Jeezy’s same titled celebration of President Obama’s victory. There’s nothing here Da T.R.U.T.H. did dramatically original from a sonic standpoint (and that’s reflected in my review score). Still, I wouldn’t throw it in the biting category, as Da T.R.U.T.H. wasn’t trying to pass off someone else’s idea as his own. He even mentions in the hook that “Jeezy said ‘My President is Black/My Lambo is Blue.” This isn’t the artistic thievery that lots of Christian hip hoppers fall in to. Instead, it’s weighty social commentary. Rather than kneeling before Obama’s throne (like sadly, too much of Black/minority America), he explains the Biblical perspective on government, encouraging the listener to healthily respect the authority, while focusing the true praise on the King. Don’t write off his hip-pop style too quickly, instead, look at “The Big Picture” (aha! you see what I did there?)
A few of his other top-40 sounding material can be traced pretty quickly to their secular counterparts if you’re plugged into the Billboard charts. This limits the artistic merit, but it does sound good. T.R.U.T.H. has a very dope remix of “That Great Day.” Instead of having gospel stalwart Donnie McClurkin on the vocal hook, he shifts it into a synthy 21st century dance track. But yo, the new sound is infectious, and a fantastic transition.
As a whole, “The Big Picture” is much less gospel-ish record than his previous album, “Open Book.” I think that’s for the better. Many of the songs from Open Book were clunky mashups, while this time, his collaborations mesh much more organically. Take the latest T.R.U.T.H. and Tye Tribbett link up, “Tree to Tree.” Tribbett adds a lot to the song, giving a fresh interpretation of God’s voice pleading towards His creation to obey good instruction. “Tree to Tree” evokes a powerful emotional response, reminding me of God’s pain over the fall of man, and His compassion leading us to eventual redemption. This isn’t another “crossover song,” it’s T.R.U.T.H. at his finest.
Lastly, though I’d say Da’ T.R.U.T.H. is a solid-average lyricist, he does have tremendous MIC presence. The confidence and conviction he brings helps fill in the gaps his lack of lyrical complexity or depth might bring sometimes. Flow and style can be quite important, and he has it in spades.
Once again, when listening to Da’ T.R.U.T.H.’s latest drop, have a “Big Picture” perspective (aha! I made the same joke! Twice!). Just as T.R.U.T.H. exhorts the body to look at God’s redemptive plan from His eyes, look at this release from more than a narrow-minded backpacker viewpoint. Unlike much of the mainstream hip-hop (secular or Christian), he has a LOT to say, and presents the Gospel in fresh and intriguing ways. When he does directly use other artists’ sounds, T.R.U.T.H. makes a point of not taking the praise for it. It’s not great music, and it probably won’t have the lasting appeal to make it very appealing in 2012. But it does have some value, and I’m not opposed to having it bump on my iPod or in my wheels.
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Review by: Bradford Davis
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