Here at HC, we’re all about cultural impact (you know, “holy culture”). If we’re not providing a platform that actually has the ability penetrate culture in some capacity, then what are we doing here? Real talk.. what are we doing besides blowing smoke up each others behinds, growing a bubble that remains segregated with messages inert for a generation that needs it. Of course, that’s not the only stuff that comes out, but it’s my review, and I heard some wack Christian music this week, so I get to rant for a bit.
Guys, I’m so glad we have folks like Ruslan around. Artists like him are the antidote to missionally tone-deaf, culturally irrelevant Christian-made music that dominates our airwaves. Of course, before I dive into too much hyperbole, it’s not a perfect album (some hooks just don’t grab me, hit or miss instrumentals), but here’s three ways Ruslan’s Carry On transcends the Christian box and provides great insight on penetrating culture.
First, Carry On displays Ruslan as a highly approachable emcee. What I mean here is this — you don’t have to a hard core hip hop head to appreciate his raps. Amazingly enough, his accessible is only rivaled by his depth. Songs like “Dreaming”, “It Is What it Is” and “Turnt Up Loud (feat. John Givez)” strike that wonderful balance between the. Backpackers will bump their heads and casual fans will be motivated to dissect his wordplay. All this is wrapped in a trademark confidence!
Second, Ruslan is transparent enough to break down any preconceived barriers listerns may have before tuning in. Ruslan won’t be a distant rapper separated by the iTunes/Spotify player you enjoy him through, but a real man going through real life. His cultural relevance adds texture to the raps. “Victim of Adolescence” models this perfectly. It’s one of the most creatively honest songs I’ve heard in some time.* Ruslan meets his audience right where they are at, and inspires them to change.
I was young married and foolish/trying to pursue music/a part time student almost full time stupid/Feeling cause i was talented I didnt have to move with/the same work ethic I just have to really do it/Thought I had arrived like I had an 80 year old’s brain/up until 2am playing video games/waking up late, taking naps skipping class late to work/kicking facts like an expert/writing raps on the clock, stealing time dont care who’s feeling that/certified scumbag this is the REALEST rap/ that I wrote thus far…/so I needed to be specific to get the dust off
Last, Carry On rests on Ruslan’s mature faith. Pay close attention when you listen — his concepts are highly informed by his firm convictions of a powerful God and resurrected Christ. Take “Turnt Up Loud”. Rowdy anthem at the surface, right up until that 2nd or 3rd listen where you realize his message is so much more than getting hype for dope music. It’s Jesus, the one that has made Ru ”free from [his] curse”** and thus, able to boldly be who he was created that gives him freedom to be his true self– the man that God created him to be. Subversive gems like this are littered throughout the project.
Carry On is what you want out of a debut record. Its a tight showcase of an emerging artist’s talent and identity. And most importantly, it’s the kind of record our scene needs. Faithful to scripture yet forward thinking in approach.
*What twenty-something hasn’t experienced the feeling of knowing you need to grow up, but clinging to the shiny toys and regressive lifestyles of childhood. It’s a feature of pretty much every prominent comedy I can think of since 2000 — you know, a bunch of bros love Playstation and pursuing their (pipe) dreams too much to care for their wives, maintain a steady job, develop financial independence, et al…too timely
** Galatians 3:13