Trip Lee – The Good Life
Reviewed by: Neil Christian
Rating: 5.1 (Out of 10)
Artists that break into the mainstream arena and achieve commercial (i.e. monetary) success are often faced with a dilemma. Do they keep making music for their demographic or do they reach out to a new demographic? Do they attempt both? This is a struggle that plagues many artists. Some artists are able to successfully meet the radio criteria while satisfying their original fans. Some artists are able to continue to make the music they and their fans love while achieving commercial success. However many are not. Trip Lee has not found that balance.
It was with great anticipation that I pressed play on The Good Life and I loved the first track, “New Dreams.” JR brought an amazing, intricately crafted intro which crescendos at the chorus and the track comes packaged with a solid verse from the impeccable Mr. High Society himself. I was walking on the moon when I heard the first track. Then the second track hit and the smile disappeared. Skip to the next song and the smile returned with “I’m Good,” with another solid verse from Lecrae over an unusual sounding lead that was epic in every sense. Then “War” hit and a frown appeared.
First off, I was expecting something war-like and epic from the name of the song. Instead I got a soft, fluffy, guitar driven ballad. From that point the frown continued to increase until the last song where I was thinking that this must be some sort of April Fool’s joke or that I was getting punked. Alas, this was not to be. So why was I so disappointed?
For one, lyrically this album is a black spot on Trip Lee’s otherwise illustrious career so far. Many of the rhymes are basic nursery rhymes such as “But I got to much to lose I’m bout to go insane /I been here too many times got my head low/ If I gave a dime for every time I’d be dead broke” on “Falling.”
These type of basic rhymes styles permeate the album and it’s quite hard to listen to this knowing that Trip is capable of this. There are no rewind-worthy lines on this project. Most of the chorus range from mediocre to stolid. Plus, the theology that has normally permeated his past projects is watered down to a point where I am shocked that the rapper who made this is now making this.
Secondly, the songs were crafted to cater to a certain audience. With extensive guitar and synth use through the album, it is clear that the demographic targeted is the average suburban youth group age kids who actually buy albums. I do not listen to radio artists like Justin Bieber & Flo Rida. Hence, I am not attracted to songs highly emotional sounding songs. The hip-hop base that launched Trip Lee to the position he is now has been forgotten. In fact after I’m Good (3rd song of the album) I had no desire to listen to this album again. The 2nd and 3rd times listening through were quite painful and made me increasingly annoyed that the artist who remanded us with Cash or Christ was now drifting towards the exact same route.
Reach has always been solid on the production front and there are no surprises there. However the most glaring gripe with the post-recording process is the sequencing of the tracks. Why would someone put a legit banger like “Im Good” and follow that up with a guitar driven ballad? Why put a southern banger like “Robot” with a repetitious annoying hook and beat right after the exquisite “New Dreams”? And I do not understand the purpose of “Know Me”. It seems to be targeted at the east coast hip hoppers and comes with the token sample driven instrumental, but it lacks the sharp snare and the rhymes are tasteless. In fact, I could not discern any cohesiveness to the project. The rest of the album after “Know Me” I did not care for at all. It was tasteless and I have no desire to talk about those tracks as they gave me a stomachache.
Since the birth of Reach Records to the various signings to the label, I have seen the artist evolve. I have followed him since his Mixtape Messiah days and have seen his evolve from the southern sounding days of If They Only Knew to the jazzy days of 20/20 to the commercialization of B2W (which I loved). I have no problem with the artist evolving their sound. They problem occurs when the artist moves towards a blatantly radio-friendly sound to “reach” a new audience, all the while making songs like “Heart Problem”.
In conclusion, I don’t understand this direction that Reach is moving towards. Being a leader is a high calling and with it comes great responsibility. Whether they like it or not, Reach is the face of Christian Hip Hop. This trend of catering to an audience who buys the albums rather than setting the standard for CHH seems to be the antithesis against the “i don’t care if i don’t sell” mentality which was so prevalent circa 20/20.
If you are a teenager who wears skinny jeans and listens to One Direction and Flo Rida, then you will love this album. For the grown folk, this album is so sweet it will give you a toothache. As Trip Lee himself states, “Success is dangerous if you don’t do it right.” I hope Trip listens to his own song.
1. Music – 5
2. Flow – 4
3. Creativity / Originality – 2
4. Relevancy – 5
5. Content & Character – 6
6. Credibility & Confidence – 7
7. Personality – 7
8. Presentation Quality –6
9. Overall Production Quality – 6
10. Potential Impact – 3