I remember the first time I heard “In Da Club” by 50 Cent – this emcee with this cool, lazy slur on top of that infectious beat – ultimately there was nowhere you could go and not hear that song – for years! Brings me back to the days of EPMD. Those guys slurred most of their words, but you knew their voices – and loved their music. Voices like DJ Run (Run-DMC) seemed to stick out in the crowd. You knew it, and you loved listening to it. Very few voices are that distinct anymore.
But I felt the same thing the first time I heard Trip Lee’s voice on Lecrae’s “Fall Back”. Who Is That??? The slick rhyme structure and pattern, the smooth delivery, the deep accent. I had to find that artist! I found and bought the Between Two Worlds record immediately, then I went back and bought 20/20, then “The Good Life” and then I waited – starvin’ like Marvin for a Trip Lee song. While I was disappointed that it took so long, Trip held us over by doing several cameos with the likes of Deraj, Andy Mineo, KB, and more as little appetizers for the Trip Lee fans.
But finally, on 10/28/2014, RISE, by Trip Lee was released.
It was interesting. A unique musical experience. Kind of the feel I’d get when I purchased a Timbaland-produced Aaliyah, Missy, or Justin Timberlake record. Trip’s unique way to lay rhyme patterns on different types of music made for a fun and compelling listening experience.
Yes, I started biased. I expected it to be good. I wanted it to be good. Well after pass 1, it was Shweet indeed.
Lyrically it began to stand out, and the nuances of the Gawvi-produced music and the theme of the album jumped out immediately. This is an album I would love to hear live at a small venue with a live band – the music arrangements and sounds just scream for live instruments and a jazz club.
“Rise”: First words (classic Trip) “Yes sir, Hold up!” How’s that for an attention-getter? Then he charges the listener to rise up and recognize that there’s one true God who rules the universe, and we have an obligation to serve him only and to proclaim him. My favorite line: “How I’ma retire when we need a crier to tell you to rise up and stand!” I love that! A lot of meat in that quick 1 verse concept introduction song.
Then “Lights On”. I remember riding in the car with my son and watching him rocking to the groove of the sample. I was taken by the unique groove of the song – jungle groove meets hip hop, and it’s done extremely well. Talking about us having moved so far from home that our lights are out – we’re groping in the dark and we need the light of Christ. And to add beautiful fuel to the fire, listen to the ending! The hip-hop drops out and leaves us with a ballad groove, piano, Leah Smith’s vocals…really pretty. Something you’d hear on your classic R&B station overnight. How did they do that and do it so well
So there are definitely the really fun songs: Shweet, the first release leading up to the album. Creative word play – sounds like it would be a blast to watch performed live with a hype man by his side. He must have a blast recording it. This song has been on my playlist over and over for a week now. Then what’s a Reach Records album without a Lecrae feature (Manolo, my son brags that the song had the most hits on youtube), and a Mineo feature (Insomniac, it’s OK. I thought they were going for the Uno Uno Seis (Mineo, Heroes for Sale) energy, but it just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t feel the excitement in the song. Decent vocal performances, but I felt like something was missing. But that’s just me.)
For me, there were some standouts: You Don’t Know – a real feel-good song. A tune that feels like I should be riding with my top down near a beach in Miami. And then the transition to live drums! OMG – Kudos to Nate Robinson, and double kudos to Gawvi for another wonderful, unique take on a hip-hop track! I’m Gone was a cool tune – I like the vocal flavor he put on it. Just Trip on the track having a good time rhyming and telling his story.
There’s one more flavor on the record; the more transparent, introspective look into his life. All Rise Up starts with an interview response, and then puts that interview to music. A rags to riches-esque story of a humble beginning through to a more polished expertise, yet with the same mission. This is a look into why he does what he does. Verse 3, though, almost sounds like a preparation for the possibility of RISE being the last album. He alludes to a desire to transition from a rapper on a stage to pastor behind a pulpit….Hmmmmm. The final track, Sweet Victory, is another introspective – powerful song. I saw him minister it live at the Dove Awards show and it was powerful, but after reading some of the articles about his struggle with his health, listening to the song gave new meaning and brought a tear to my eye.
On the serious tip, we have Beautiful life 2., Lazarus – featuring Thi’sl, and All My Love – which tells a story of a man who has an affair with a woman that’s not his wife. A story well told, point made!
So I’m not disappointed at all, it was a smart record and was worth the wait. He didn’t disappoint, he didn’t adjust his message – Trip Lee was faithful to who he is, the God he serves and the Gospel he was sent to preach. Although Gawvi’s production speaks for itself, the partnership between the two was magic like the Michael Jackson/Quincy Jones partnership days. I’ve listened to the album over and over already – loudly and louder. I’ve sang along, bobbed my head, and have been blessed and ministered to in so many ways. So as I close (every good preacher has to close) here’s my pros, cons, my wishlist, and my faves for the record.
Pros.Musically eclectic in sounds, rhythms and flavors. There’s a feel for just about every type of hip-hop lover. Gawvi handled the production from start to finish and was so ingenious, Trip got the best of the best tracks to lay vocals on.
Cons. I didn’t hear the “116” crew song that Reach artists generally have on their album. That’s a disappointment. I look forward to those.
My Wishlist. I don’t have anything I could have wished for that wasn’t delivered. Maybe a personal invite to the release party?
My Fave. Man, that’s hard! Sweet Victory touched my heart when I first heard it and it still does. Dimitri McDowell did a bang up job with the chorus. He hit it perfectly and contributed to the energy and emotion of the tune. Rise is a killer start to the album and You Don’t Know is just one of the many songs that MUST be played loud in order to fully enjoy!
Least Fave. Yeah, the Trip/Andy tune. But, as I said, that’s just my taste. My son seemed to like it. He’s 17. I’m not. What do I know?
Looking forward to giving you a review of Manic Drive. This will be for the tween/pop-generation. Look for it in 2 weeks! Review by Pastor V (Veronne Carter)