You may know Giano from his guest feature on shai linne’s album The Attributes of God. A seasoned rapper, B-Sides & Remixes, Vol. 2 is Giano’s fifth album. On this compilation, Giano covers a range of topics, from our assurance and promise in the next life, to love between him and his significant other. This range of subject matter will give the listener something new to take away with each repeated listen, but it causes the album to suffer from a lack of focus. However, Giano himself has described this project to Holyculture.net as a concept album, loosely exploring the allusions of the James Joyce classic, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. From what Wikipedia describes, this may help bring the album together thematically. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the novel, and can only describe what I take away from this release alone.
Giano has provided the portrait of a believer that many of us in the Church can relate to and learn from.
Giano’s rhymes offer a sweeping look into his heart and soul. The listener hears his frustration with the Church’s tendency to restrain believers (and rappers) into compartments depending on secondary denominational issues. Take this line from “Fusion, Fellowship, Fission” for example:
These factions, and he’s asking, // hypothesis, all of this is making me a-path-etic. // My brain’s magnetic, but I can’t fathom it // – how can so many be arguing intelligence? // Or how can people be caught up in irrelevance // – what if I need life, who could develop it? // And who’s on their knees telling Him? // We study the elements of time, while the people need fellowship.
Two tracks before this, on “Prelude to a Love Song”, Giano and guest MC Sinuous tactfully and cleverly admire and give praise for their loved ones. He even describes his partner as “sexy”, a characteristic that is taboo in the Church today.
Degrees, you see, indeed // I shouldn’t be that blessed // matter of fact, you shouldn’t be that fresh // Then I relax and I see that “S” // the second letter is your elegance // and man I be that “XY”, get it?
While praises are assuredly given to God for this gift:
With no effect on the science of God, // I had to put you in perspective, He wired you apart // from the rest, it’s like you’re an award // that I got off of a long hard tour.
With much more to hear, comparing himself with the spiritual treachery of Judas to the necessity of a life following the teachings of Jesus, Giano has provided the portrait of a believer that many of us in the Church can relate to and learn from.
At its best, the production accentuates his words. On “Society Conscience”, the beat changes for the third verse, adding gravity to his message. The production on “Prelude to a Love Song” is reminiscent of the soulful tracks used by Common in the late 90s/early 00’s. But on other songs, the production seems to go against the grain and take away from the songs. Even beyond that problem, the beat on “Fantastic (NrG mix)” stands out like a sore thumb. A bizarre klaxon-like sound is heavily used, to the point I wished the song to end as quickly as possible. It’s a shame, because Giano manages to flow well and provides genuine praise for the Trinity’s work in our lives.
Giano manages to flow well and provides genuine praise for the Trinity’s work in our lives.
Giano has a tendency to end his sentences by stretching out his words, sometimes used to stress a point. I found this useful about half the time. The rest of the time, I found it tedious and unnecessary. To contrast with this effect, Giano’s flow is quick paced, a flurry of punches full of heavy terms and long analogies that left my head spinning a few times. I appreciate a wide vocabulary and thoughtful metaphors, but I would have been lost if I didn’t have the lyrics for the songs.
I’m still not sure I know who Giano is talking about in “Society Conscience (Cinematic Mix)”. Does Giano want to avoid controversy and scandal by making his targets ambiguous? Or does he leave it open for the listener to reflect on their own experience? I’m not sure, but I think he had more to say here, and I feel the song suffers for the lack of it.
“In Hindsight” is a look into the prayer at Gethsemene. Not only was Jesus betrayed by one of his own disciples, but the others were sleeping instead of praying with Him. Giano honestly looks into this scene and sees himself in their shoes, and I know we all can do the same.
I didn’t think much of B-Sides and Remixes, Vol 2 after my first couple of listens. But this album has a way of growing on you. Give the songs a chance to develop. While B-Sides and Remixes, Vol 2 is not the most cohesive package, there is a lot take take from this album and some good beats to bump to.