Top 5 Christian (International) Albums of the year!
5. Kings Kaleidoscope – “The Beauty Between”
What happens when you try to cross heartfelt worship with rap? Sounds like a disaster or something like that right? Yet that's totally the opposite of what we get on Kings Kaleidoscope's new EP/ mixtape ‘The Beauty Between’. The band enlisted help from rappers such as Andy Mineo, Derek minor, Propaganda, Braille and Beleaf to create this unique listening experience. The band is able to create the same musical experience that encourages listeners to respond in worship, yet now with an added flavour of rap.
Through this amalgamation of sounds we get a unique and extremely heartfelt listening experience. As each person's verse adds to the worshipful atmosphere of the song, adding more context to their own personal struggles and experience, this enables the listener to relate more and like the psalms, elicit a response of worship. There’s a lot of rap on this list, in fact it’s basically only rap from here on out. However I urge you if you’re not a fan of this genre give these albums a chance, as they each, in their unique way, cause us to respond in worship.
Listen here: https://goo.gl/bK5utw
4. Beautiful Eulogy – “Worthy”
Just a shorty backstory, back in 2012 when I became a Christian one of the first christian hip hop albums I was exposed to was the album ‘Instruments of Mercy’ by Beautiful Eulogy. It’s safe to say that album played a fundamental role in my understanding of the Christian faith and in truly beginning to understand the characteristics of God. So I was definitely looking forward to this project. At first I must admit I was a bit disappointed in the album; it was very short and just seemed like a very simple pop-rap album. However, after delving into the lyrics more I started to see that this was truly a worship album. Similar to Kings Kaleidoscope’s project, we see an amalgamation of worship and rap, which is a very unique sound. I hope more artists explore this direction as worship music allows for that atmosphere to be created where we get to reflect on the goodness of God and what He has done for us. Furthermore, rap makes it easy to share a lot of information, thoughts and doctrine in a melodious way.
“Worthy” explores the different characteristics of God and why He is in fact “worthy” and what He is worthy of. We have songs such as “Messiah” and “Omnipotent” that delve into how Jesus is our messiah and… omnipotent. What I really developed a liking to was how they brought about these messages, not just in a way where it’s like “God is our messiah because of xyz, and we must respond in worship”(which is quite fine for a sermon), but they chose to share their own struggles with these specific characteristics of God. On ‘Messiah’ we see how both rappers struggle with the idea of Jesus being messiah and their own desire to be their own messiah or find salvation in other things. Similarly, in “Omnipotent” they show that in comparison to God they are weak and that it’s only God who is able to save.
Sonically there’s a lot going on, from orchestral sounds like the usage of strings and horns, to more traditional hip hop beats. Each track’s soundscape adds more to the theme of that song. So on “Sovereign”, for example, the sound is grand and epic, as it deals with such a majestic characteristic of Jesus. All in all, if you’re looking for thought provoking, heart moving music that will lead you closer to God, look no further.
Download for free here: https://goo.gl/7yUDNk
3. nobigdyl – “Canopy”
Prior to “Canopy” I was unfamiliar with nobigdyl, however after hearing “Tree Tops
and a few other singles I decided to give the album a listen. What proceeded was a foray into melodic and mellow hip-hop. At first I disliked this sound as it wasn’t as trappy or “hard-hitting” as I preferred. When “Canopy” came out at the beginning of the year I gave it a couple listens and put it aside. However some time later, “it just clicked”. I’m unsure if it was due to my own personal experiences or just a change in my tastes, but soon enough these tracks just got stuck in my head. The ablum delved into a number of topics including suicide, depression, greed, jealousy and the importance of community in the church, amongst others. Additionally, all of these topics were tied together and connected to the overarching theme that God is our canopy, He is our safety net, our security; He is the hand that holds us and keeps us. The artist didn’t just speak from an outsider’s perspective, but gave his own experiences throughout the album. However, not all the moments on this project tackle heavy topics. There are lighter moments such as on ‘purple dinosaur’ and ‘video’. All in all I suggest everyone give this album a chance, even if you’re not a fan of rap you’ll definitely find something to like here. The lyrics are relevant and the music is melodic, yet still complex and diverse.
Listen here: https://goo.gl/31ETVY
2. Kb – “Today We Rebel”
Up until November or so of this year, this was my favorite album and rightfully still exists as one of my all time favourite albums. KB’s last album, “Tomorrow We Live” explored the hope that we have in the future for those that place their faith in Christ. He proposed that even in the midst of disaster, there is hope. However “Today We Rebel” deals with the tension that Christians face. Yes, we know that our futures are secure, but how do we live in world that is constantly trying to conform us to its image and force us to withdraw our allegiance to our Saviour? KB tackles various issues believers encounter in day to day life and proposes that we rebel against it. Sonically, the project can be described as “trap”, however there are other sounds and sonic textures that pop up throughout the course of the album that harken back to his previous work. There’s a whole lot more I can say about this project, but I won’t. Just give it a listen, read through the lyrics, give it another listen and let it soak in. There’s a lot of meat to chew on here.
Listen here: https://goo.gl/79x7Af
1. Lecrae – “All Things Work Together”
Released in September of this year, “All Things Work Together” is what I truly believe to be Lecrae’s best work to date. The album covers a wide range of topics, ranging from racial issues, cultural assimilation within the church, love, loss of love, ongoing battles with the flesh and even the sovereignty of God in his life. All of these contain and show characteristics of God's love and grace in one way or another. He ties in each of his experiences to the promise God made for believers in Romans 8:28. To put it simply: there's something for everyone to relate to, as we have all wondered at some point whether a particular circumstance will work out, or question how it could possibly work out for good. He shows how being an outsider, being broke, losing love, struggling with addictions, doubts and insecurities all work together for our good.
Sonically as well, this album was extremely diverse in sounds and sonic textures. On the first half or so of the album we see Lecrae utilising more modern, trap-flavoured production and flows. However, on the second half he uses more jazz and gospel along with trap to create nuanced and softer tones. Throughout the album, in spite of the wide range of sounds used, Lecrae always matches the sounds with the lyrics and message of the track. The upbeat tracks bear an encouraging and celebratory tone, while the quieter, restrained songs are more contemplative in message.
But the reason this album stole my heart as my favourite album of the year has to do with Lecrae's vulnerability and transparency as shown in his lyrics. He details his battles with sin, (past and current) , his insecurities and most importantly, life’s highs and lows.
Let's look at the lyrics on “Worth It”, for example:
Listen, now you gon' have to explain to me how the Lord love a little sinner like me
I've been over-stressin', I've been second guessin'
I was on them Xan's for a second, I was feelin' so defeated
I thought I was a leader
Hurt so many people, all I see is teardrops when I try to go to sleep
I heard you had a soft spot for the black sheep
Offer me forgiveness while I struggle to receive it
It's Lecrae’s openness about his failures and doubts that make this album so relatable and yet hopeful, as it assures us that we are not alone in our struggles. Again, on “Wish You The Best”, he opens up about a past relationship that ended due to his mistakes:
But I blew it, I missed it, I didn't make you Mrs., I just made you miss us
I didn't put no ring on yo finger, but I did put you through the ringer
Yeah, I own that
Wish I could go back
Treat you right take and take my wrongs back
Lyrics like these and many others are what made this my favourite album of the year. Instead of simply passing off his transgressions and sins in a vague way, Lecrae shares details of his shortcomings. This not only encourages those of us who may be in similar situations, but shows that there is grace even when we fall and that these failings “work together for our good".
Let it all work out, that pain gon' make you stronger
That hurt gon' make you a leader, don't let that make you a monster
In the middle of the darkest heart is heartless tarnished carnage
The Master Artist makes your mess a masterpiece regardless
On this album Lecrae gives us a snapshot of his life; he shows us how messy situations, failures and even losses work together for our benefit and for God’s glory.
Listen here: https://goo.gl/qVRmLi
Azriel Boodram (ISCF Staff & UWI Executive 2015-2017 )