Andy Mineo’s Great American Rap Album (A Review of Uncomfortable)
by Chris Burton
Uncomfortable is the best word to describe the Christian life. I often joke that when we, American Christians, get to Heaven, we may find ourselves at the back of the line. Possibly disturbing to some but when you consider the plight of brothers and sisters around the world, it feels appropriate. Persecution certainly happens within this culture as well but far more insidious is the damage done to us by excess. I often meditate on Proverbs 30:7-9 (NKJV):
Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die);
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches–
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
I wonder if this passage had an effect on Andy Mineo as he crafted the album, Uncomfortable. The title/intro track begins by taking us to King David’s place when he was out of pocket and observing Bathsheba’s beauty rather than engaging in war where he ought to be.
How often are we misled by comforts? How often are we enamored with excess and deny God?
As 2015 began, I was looking forward to two emcees dropping albums: Kendrick Lamar and Andy Mineo. King Kendrick’s release, To Pimp A Butterfly, has catapulted him into my personal pantheon of emcees and is simply, black excellence. I speak about Andy’s Uncomfortable as a great American rap album because of its timeliness. In an age where #BlackLivesMatter is systematically shouted down by respectability politics and narratives detailing what is wrong with black people, Andy does what is required of white Americans if our nation will ever jettison racism, he examines himself and sees how he aids and abets white supremacy.
The love of Christ flows through Uncomfortable. “My own people owned people but we don’t own that.” There can be no reconciliation without recognition. Andy plunges into the difficulty and squeezes a cross shaped perspective into stifling issues. Mineo makes his listeners consider Christ’s role in their response. Truly transformative. How would this world look if Christians wore WWJD on their hearts instead of their wrists?
I remember when Nas released Life Is Good in 2012 and proclaimed that “Loco-Motive” was for all of us still trapped in the 90s. But there’s something about that record I could not fully appreciate until I heard it while riding the subway. “Uptown” has those same qualities. Andy, originally from Syracuse, has adopted Washington Heights as his home but is an anti-gentrifier of sorts. Instead of whitewashing his environment, he embraces and engages the surrounding culture. The terrain described on “Uptown” is neither glorified or mocked. A wonderfully soulful vibe, infused with Latin Jazz, lays the foundation for a record filled with love for his part of town. Hopefully the city loves him back. Real talk, can we name the top 5 emcees coming out of NY right now and not include Andy Mineo?
One of my favorite elements of Lecrae’s Anomaly was his unashamed Outkast fandom. It was hard to hear “Timepiece” or “Fear” and not here the ATLiens influence. Uncomfortable showcases the multitude of sounds Mineo appreciates. We move from the soulful Latin Jazz of “Uptown” to “Now I Know”; a refreshingly honest record that would make Teddy Riley crack a smile. “Now I Know” ain’t out here to make friends. Business picks up as Andy performs introspection with a lyrical scalpel. Ain’t nothing safe, from wrestling, Santa, his mama’s virtue (!), to jobs being available after college. Many artists lay themselves bare but Lecrae said it best on Saturday Morning Car-Tunes when he noted that Andy fillets himself for the benefit of others. “Now I know” works for me because Mineo questions much but hasn’t been able to place Christ in the pile of things that failed him.
I enjoyed listening to “Desperados”. Superhero flow definitely in the building! Wanted to hear more Mali Music on this but that’s my biggest complaint. (Sidebar: if Andy and Mali ever did a Drake-Futuresque collab?! What a time to be alive!)
I’m a fan of hyperbole. Sincerely. But hear me (read me?) when I tell you “Hear My Heart” is a crown jewel. Whenever “The Best of Andy Mineo” is considered, “Hear My Heart” will be there. When we consider the best rap songs of 2015, “Hear My Heart” will be there for everyone who’s really paying attention. “Even though you was born deaf, I pray you forgive me for the years I lived blind.” A beautiful record, honestly detailing his relationship with his sister, Andy shows that he is a master of catharsis.
When I saw the track change and a song was called “David’s Roof” I said “Uh-oh”. Nothing good happens on David’s roof. And the same is true here. Song was way too short. Just as I got into it, it was over.
I liked “Rat Race” because it showed flashes of Mineo’s battle rap roots. “It ain’t all bout who you know. Bleek knew Jay Z.” Much of the rhyming on Uncomfortable was simple but to the point. I pray Lloyd Banks gets saved. CHH needs his punchlines.
“Know that’s right” sounds very radio ready. I appreciate the freedom Andy expresses on this album. He’s clearly not chasing singles or making formulaic music. It doesn’t even have the trademark “116” anthem that Reach used to put on every CD. It is clear that Andy is ready for the world. A world that will embrace him as a conscious emcee speaking about justice more readily than the youth group circuit he has outgrown. Some may think this is bad news. But CHH is not in danger. We need Christians in the marketplace. Moving the culture’s needle. Shining light in the darkest places and playlists. Prayerfully someone who likes that OVO sound can hear “Ghost” and rock with it. Hopefully they hear “Love” and get inspired to live in its fullness, past lust, past mistrust.
Andy ends the record with a pair of #StadiumStatus joints. “Strange Motions” sounds like it will be a fantastic live record. If I was him, I’d perform that joint right after Uno Uno Seis for the cool down, lighters up anthem. It’s a big record, your headphones are not enough. “Make Me A Believer” really encapsulates my feelings about Uncomfortable in general. I anticipated a very fun album but received a more mature, but still enjoyable album. It’s great to see growth. I was lowkey disappointed when Heroes 4 Sale came out because it felt like a step back from Formerly Known. Uncomfortable is a leap above Never Land. Andy getting grown! He is absolutely a great emcee and an ambassador of the gospel.
Gems on Gems. I give Uncomfortable 4 #obligatoryjamaicanairhorns