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Tag: hip-hop

Andy Mineo’s Great American Rap Album (A Review of Uncomfortable)

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

The Richie Righteous Episode #STCDNW

Heatrock of the Week KB feat. Lecrae “Sideways”

Christon Gray- Open Door (See You Later)

Heatrock of the Week: Asaiah Ziv- Ziv?

Heatrock of the Week: Andy Mineo- You Can’t Stop Me

A Year in Songs That Can Do No Wrong

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STCDNW Artist of the Year- Christon Gray

The Final Episode of 2014 #STCDNW (Click and enjoy!)

Twas a great year of music, interviews and commentary. Now I know, everybody is out here giving their awards and recognition…but we been on! Check the episode to hear ten of my favorite songs from the past year.

Also went ahead and gave out some awards.

Top Albums of the Year

Christon Gray was not only artist of the year, in my book he had the album of the year. But School of Roses wasn’t the only strong showing in 2014.

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Beleaf- Red Pills and Black Sugar

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Mali Music- Mali Is

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Trip Lee- Rise

Lecrae-Anomaly

Lecrae- Anomaly

Top Group of the Year

Social Club is the Tag Team Champion of Christian Hip-Hop.

Emcee of the Year

Beleaf is an emcee’s emcee. Great interview, great album and I feel like he’s just getting started.

Rookie of the Year

The good brother JGivens destroyed every feature he hopped on in 2014. Here’s one of my favorites:

2015 is gonna be great. Here are some artists to be on the lookout for.

Heatrock of the Week: Marz Ferrer “Blur” feat. JGivens

Great song from Marz featuring the STCDNW Rookie of the Year JGivens. Seriously, who is spitting like this brother right now?!

The Laugh to Keep From Crying Episode #STCDNW

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The Laugh to Keep From Crying Episode #STCDNW by Di Baddest Chaplain on Mixcloud

My Mind On Shuffle: Ol’ Time Sumting Come Back Again?!

Dancehall a nuh hip hop. Di ting a get wack.”- Bounty Killer

Although Vybz Kartel’s initial arrest and incarceration were severe blows it felt like dancehall had been dying for quite some time. Too much island pop and imitation of American hip hop counterparts had left the genre severely lacking. As rap knows all too well, nostalgia can be a suffocating prison and many dancehall fans and observers concluded that its best days were in the past.

As a fan this grieved me as I found myself longing for the next big riddim. Dancehall has had solid moments in recent years but none comparable to the last great era in dancehall (2001-2007). That era saw Sean Paul and Elephant Man become household names, birthed timeless riddims like Coolie Dance and Diwali, but was nearly a decade ago and any honest assessment would attest that there was no hope on the horizon.

I found solace in the rise of conscious artists bringing “culture” to the forefront. I-Octane? Sign me up. Damian Marley’s “Gunman World”? Masterful. Chronixx denouncing colonialism and making clean eating fashionable? Dread and terrible indeed.

But dancehall for its intents and purposes was dead to me. No one could supplant the energy Kartel brought to the arena. Artists had their lane but none could be the dancehall hero that Kartel portrayed. In truth it felt like Kartel too was incapable of filling the larger than life pole position he created for himself. Was he merely becoming a caricature? Would he be unable to keep fans attention without further stunts like bleaching and controversy?

The release of “School” is perhaps the last gasp of influence in Kartel’s career. A nostalgia satisfying tune released in 2013 it is full of positive vibes and felt fresh on the heels of dancehall giants Supercat and Shabba returning to the public conscious. Maybe that would be the key. For dancehall to survive it had to return to the roots.

So where are we now? Several mixes and radio shows will show dancehall in the full throws of nostalgia. The biggest riddim out right now is “gwaan bad”, a call back to the “bruk out” riddim featuring a rejuvenated Elephant Man and a diss tune from Mavado to his former mentor, Bounty Killer, that isnt scathing but may be the crown jewel of this particular riddim.

Coupled with the popularity of Answer Riddim 2014, nuh fraid riddim and greatest creation riddim, 2014 well may be the year dancehall gets back on its feet. Dancehall has heroes in plenty supply but with the resurgence of classic vibes one must worry that without exciting young artists doing the heavy lifting, the genre’s late nostalgia is merely a snake eating its tail.

If Dancehall is to thrive it will do so with elders and young champions in tow.

Brian Mooney

Educator, Scholar, Author

The Nerds of Color

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Love Dance Hall

Feel the riddim.

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