Style: Rap, Hip-Hop
Reviewed by Randy Radic
Hip-hop music came to life during the 1970s, when it was called “disco rap,” and like most genres of music, it has traveled through various stages of growth over the years. Around 2005, Hip-Hop music suffered two simultaneous changes. First, Hip-hop attained mainstream status. Second, the bottom dropped out of sales, declining 44% over a five-year span. This massive decline in sales led some critics to assert that young people were tired of Hip-Hop and its insipid lyrics – lyrics that glorified violence, the humiliation of women and a dissolute lifestyle.
Turned out the critics were wrong. Hip-hop was still popular; perhaps even more popular than ever. The declining sales were the result of technological advances. Listeners were still listening to Hip-Hop. They just weren’t buying CDs. Instead they were downloading, streaming, sharing, etc.
Nowadays, most Hip-Hop artists continue to rap about life in the fast lane; their songs lionize drinking, drugging, violence, bling and promiscuity, along with an endless supply of money. Like Hollywood, they offer entertainment and diversion from the hard realities of life.
There are a few, however, who have chosen to “keep it real.” Such as 832, two brothers named Nawlege 405 and Solomis who hail from Oklahoma City. The brothers – 832 – get back to their roots, back to the days of disco rap. The title of their new album is The RAP-ture, which is a religious double entendre that speaks of their intent: to elevate Hip-Hop out of its doldrums to new heights.
“The Prayer” is the first track on the album, and it sets the religious tone. The song starts off with “You Keep Me Hangin On” by the Supremes, and then segues into lyrics about how entropy is everywhere, warning that everything falls apart unless mankind is wary.
As the tracks move on, so does the theme of ushering in a “new world order.” In “Burn featuring Juju,” Juju carries on a discussion with the devil, which evokes visions of Jesus in the Wilderness, resisting the temptations of worldly power. From there, the tracks trundle on, espousing a cultural upheaval and victory over vice and immorality.
Actually, the lyrics are very moving; the production values are excellent as are the arrangements. There’s a religious fervor to the album that’s hard to resist. Nevertheless, by the end of the album the lyrics assume a plastic sheen, as if the religious theme of the album is simply another gimmick. Only this gimmick is socially and morally acceptable. In other words, there’s too much pious preaching about mankind banding together to usher in Utopia.
There’s a lot to be said for the trite entertainment value of living with Peter Pan in Never Never Land, which is of course pure fantasy. But maybe that’s what people want from their music. That being said, The RAP-ture is well-worth a listen. The two brothers were gifted with wonderful voices, and there is no question about their songwriting abilities.