When I started writing reviews and doing top albums of the year lists I always said I wouldn't do one for anybody I know. The reason being I'm not willing to sacrifice my journalistic integrity to endorse a friend. If you are reading my reviews you want to know how I honestly feel about a project and therefore I'm honest. At times it results in my bosses here at Thirsty Soul not publishing a review because I am brutally honest. For that reason I also don't want to write a review and completely trash one of my friends and cause issues between the two of us. So I stay clear of reviews for people I know. That was until I heard this project. I wrestled for a few days on if I should do this or not. But the more I listened the more I decided that this was too important of an album not to review.
With that said, I first heard Sho Baraka when he dropped the Barakology mixtape in March of 2009. I was stunned at what I was hearing. For the first time in Christian Hip Hop I was hearing a true lyricist. This guy was on the level of a Lupe Fiasco. I quickly called my homeboy and said dude you have to check this out. His reply was "You are late, I been on Sho since 07 when he dropped Turn My Life up, he nice". Fast forward to him dropping Lions and Liars with the dopest album artwork I've ever seen (by the way Sho I hope you getting money from Meek Mill for completely copying that idea on his project). I've met a lot of people in the industry and seen a lot of things. Some of the people I've met were extremely fake. But that wasn't the case with Sho. I could see very quickly by watching how he interacted with his wife and kids that this is a man who lives what he preached. He doesn't know this but I watched him act as his wife's biggest fan during her art exhibit. A lot of us men could learn a lesson or two in how to be more supportive of our woman. I learned that lesson that day.
When the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings took place, I had so many emotions going through me, one of which was intense anger. I was interested in hearing what the leaders of my church were going to say regarding everything. Sho is one of those leaders. I watched how he pulled people together from all over to pray with each other. I heard his heart as he expressed his feelings about things. I watched as he laid out his plan for the And Campaign. I realized that he is more than a great rapper. He is a revolutionary, one that combines Christian values with a realistic view on politics and injustice. I've struggled with how to be unapologetically black while being unapologetically Christian, but he seems to have mastered it and for that reason I admire him, not as a rapper but as a man.
Now on to the album! Sho Baraka is now officially signed to Humble Beast record label and has dropped a new album. The album starts off with Foreward, 1619 featuring Poet Adan Bean. What a way to start an album off. With lyrics that would make Kendrick Lamar proud over production reminiscent of the Late Registration era Kanye West. Sho doesn't show any rust as he gives us a glimpse into his upbringing on the first verse. This song is awesome and sets the tone for the rest of the album. The next track is Soul 1971 which would make James Brown proud. The horns on this track combined with the hook grabs you by the neck. Kanye, 2009 is exactly what you would expect. Sho rants about everything on his mind and displays his signature lyricism. Jackie Perry is featured and continues to make improvements as a rapper. I can hear a strong Natalie Sims influence on her flow. The track is produced by Swoope and I was a little disappointed in his production. It wasn't bad but he is capable of better.
Love, 1959 is in the top 5 of songs on this album. Sho is doing an excellent job at this point of creating an album that, much like To Pimp A Butterfly, incorporates Jazz and Blues with Hip Hop. Here, 2016 featuring Lecrae is amazing. The production on this track.... man listen. As a producer, it's rare that I hear a track that impresses me. This was one of those times. This is a standout track, people are going to love this one. 30 & Up 1986 is produced by one of my favorite producers of all time, Courtney Orlando fka JR. The track is incredible, and he destroys the hook. This song is amazing. Profhet, 1968 has a darker sound reminiscent of the High Society album. Sho continues to take social injustices head on with the song Maybe Both, 1865 which also sounds like a High Society track. He goes right at the apathy of a lot of so called Christians. It's an amazing song almost like a sequel to his song Jim Crow.
Excellent continues down the path the previous two tracks started. The beat switch on this song is incredible. The second half of the song has more Jazz. Road to Humble sounds a lot like the work Kanye did for Common on the Be album. Myhood, U.S.A is like an ode to the hood and what challenges it faces. Lupe Fiasco circa Food & Liquor era would be proud. Words 2006 is a transparent side of Sho that displays the man that I bragged about earlier in this review. A man that those around him admire. Fathers 2004 continues where Words 2006 left off. As a father this track spoke directly to me and how I feel about my sons. Piano Break, 33 A.D. ends the album.
It's almost unheard of for someone's best work to come 10 plus years into their career. This album is a must have for any music fan, not just Hip Hop or CHH. This album is that good that it tackles social issues from a Christian point of view and is executed flawlessly. Well done Sho, well done. - K. Hall
What did you think about the album? Comment below.
About The Author
Kevin Hall is a father of two, son to one, and a friend to many. He is a native of Camden New Jersey but currently resides in Atlanta, GA. Kevin is a producer for 620 Music Group and self-described music connoisseur. @khall620