That man is back! No, not me. I am wholly unimportant. I’m talking about Mr. R the Swift, R-Sweezy, R-Swizzle, R – (smack!)… um, sorry… Got caught up there. The Philly bred street grime rhymer is back with his unproliferated, unapologetic, unabashed, unadulterated – (smack!) sorry again – edgy style to ‘tell it like it is’ with the “Anthem.”
R-Swift sets it up right off the jump with the intro “Swift Box” referencing the very dilemma that several Christian artists with a street edge, like R-Swift, have had to deal with in Christian music:
“He spits Jesus so he ain’t for the street/ He spit Jesus so he ain’t for the church/ I won’t let a man’s words measure my worth/ or compare the depth of the work…”
And don’t let the music box at the top of this same intro throw you either. One of the great things about Swift is that he has a strong balance of musicality, delivery, message, creativity, lyricism, theology, street and texture while still having a familiar and appealing sound. The ability to be hard and soft, deep and yet superficially interesting, street and yet churchy and be real while being educational is an extraordinary feat few have ever accomplished. R-Swift now has, and throws in some touches of comedy to boot – “And boxers don’t fit me right, I ain’t having it.”
Soapbox, R-Swift’s last album, may have some mixed reviews from people of different tastes. Maybe Anthem will as well, but I don’t know just quite how. For good measure on this subject, Swift makes it a point in Swift Box to reference his last album and some of his cuts from the album for those who may be astutely alert. But this is also, in a way, to show that this album and its sound isn’t that much different than the last. Sure, it’s a little sharper, a little more well rounded, and a bit better but that doesn’t mean the formula changed. Nope, it just got a little better.
Sometimes, however, to go forward you have to look back or sideways or sometimes both. As such, one of my favorite tracks is “No, No, No.” Some of you might know the original reggae tune by Dawn Penn originally called “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No).” Others might merely know the hip hop remix by Jae Millz – or any number of other artists who jumped on this cut after Jae Millz. Others may have not been fortunate enough to have heard this tune before. Regardless, this was one of those tracks that just always seems to produce hits, whether in its original form or a remix. Well, this version is both tastefully done – with Swift singing the classic hook – and fresh including features from Jahaziel and Sho Baraka and a reggae breakdown with featured artist Monty G. This is a sure fire classic track and by far my favorite.
Yet, that’s not the only stand out track. Track 2, Anthem, takes a page from Soapbox’s “Breatha,” but with a bit more of a aggressive edge that reminded me of Mash Out Posse (M.O.P.). As tracks go, this is right up there with some of my all time favorites. Yet, this kind of extreme aggression is immediately balanced by the next track, a laid back story of the street. Both of these styles have become favorites of R-Swift fans and Swift certainly is capable and willing to deliver.
The reality is, each track stands out on its own in some way and fashion and all are appealing and well done. Take “Mr. President” for example. The DJ cuts are exquisite and the hook is definitely Anthem’ic (got me creating words Swift) much like the previously mentioned “No, No, No.” Track 9, “Shattered,” too presents a brilliant soul sample for another quality silky smooth yet serious story track (featuring Eric Westbrook).
Swift even does as other previous Christian emcees have done of late, bring in real life, personal, tragic examples. In “Held Me Down,” Swift recounts the troubles in his family as a child as well as the loss of his own son and much of the emotion and story surrounding it as well as the unexpected return of his own father into his life and how the birth and loss of his own son helped serve as a bridge. A certain type of respect should be garnered for individuals such as these who peel back the wall of entertainer/superstar and real person. Few would brave sharing something so personal and so tragic, yet stories like these tend to serve as inspiration, reassurance and encouragement for others who suffer their own tragedy.
“Trap Muzik” has a popular southern styled beat along with Swift’s raw east coast delivery which just seems to work brilliantly. But don’t think it’s simply a club track. Trap Muzik is a serious cut masked as a club track.
If you want a collection of street emcees that are too often overlooked in Christian and secular circles look no further than “Back Up,” which features Jaz and Young Joshua. Here’s a track that has it all: street, lyricism, evangelism, banging beat, sick delivery and well its just kinda sick. But just in case none of this album seems to be churchy enough, despite smooth tracks and theological tracks, there is always the final track of the album. “Awesome God” is probably the best use of this classic worship song in a hip hop track ever and certainly church friendly if there ever is a need to be specifically church friendly in a hip hop track.
So what does all this mean, SUCCESS!!! This is a great album that aught to register highly with long time and recent fans of Swift and is highly recommended for those fans of Christian hip hop whom have not had the opportunity to hear R-Swift before. This is also an album I would highly suggest for those who evangelize to cats in the street and use music in that process.
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Review by: DJ Guardian
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