RISE ALBUM REVIEW by Veronne Carter
ARTIST: TRIP LEE
Release date: October 28, 2014
- Lights On
- Manolo (Feat. Lecrae)
- You Don’t Know
- All Rise Up (interlude)
- All Rise Up
- Beautiful Life 2 (Mine)
- Insomniac (feat. Andy Mineo)
- Something New
- Lazarus (Feat. Thi’sl)
- All My Love (Feat. Natalie Lauren)
- I’m Gone
- Sweet Victory (Feat. Dimitri McDowell & Leah Smith)
A review of the album: RISE
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) Nashville, TN
MICHELLE WILLIAMS “JOURNEY TO FREEDOM” by Veronne Carter aka Pastor V
ALBUM: Journey to Freedom
ARTIST: Michelle Williams
Release date: 9/9/2014
- Need Your Help
- Fall (feat. Lecrae and Tye Tribbett)
- Just Like You
- Believe in Me
- In the Morning
- If We Had Your Eyes (feat. Fantasia)
- Say Yes (feat. Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland)
Looking for a good modern gospel album? This month I am taking a listen to the new release by Michelle Williams. On September 9th E 1 Music released “Journey to Freedom” the fourth studio album by Michelle Williams. I remember the moment, back in 2002 when I first saw “Heart to Yours” in the Christian bookstore. Back then, I was excited over a ‘Destiny’s Child’ chick releasing a Gospel record. But I listened to the album and not only fell in love with the record, but I loved her voice. The production complimented her jazzy-soul vocals and made for a very interesting album.
Fast-forward to 2014. I am one of the odd individuals that still buy CDs – to support the artist. Then I download the album from CD onto my phone, then I plug my phone into the USB drive in my car and listen to music LOUD as I drive. So I love vibing to the music and just feeling the record – before knowing any album credits, guest appearances, label, writers, etc. That’s how I listened to Michelle’s album.
I thought, ‘ok. I kind of see where she’s going. Not bad. She’s talking good stuff, interesting lyric content. Good themes.’ But that was about it. I can clean the house playing this album. A lot of good, but not a lot of great – not on the first listen.
Some songs began to jump out. The album starts out the way you would expect an R&B/Gospel album to begin – an uptempo, fun sounding track which lays a lyrical foundation for the story the artist wants to tell through the rest of the record (yes, I use the words ‘tunes,’ ‘record’ and ‘album’ because I’m artsy and cool). You couldn’t ask for a better message: “Lord, I need your help. I need your guidance.” How many of us can agree with that! Not overly produced and it spotlights Michelle’s genuine vocal skill (and welcomes a cameo performance by none other than Eric Dawkins).
Continuing her declaration on Yes – a light, almost-dancey song, the album continues to be listenable and enjoyable. In honesty, there’s nothing wrong with the production, and there’s no compromising in the writing – which is what you want in a gospel record and what you admire in an R&B/Gospel album that utilizes the production talents of someone like Harmony Samuels who not only produced the album in its entirety, but he boasts so many high mainstream music production credits. My only critique of the record is that Michelle’s voice is so unique and distinguishable, I would have loved to hear a more unique and crafted sound for her – not the music and arrangement that you’d hear from the average R&B artist – although as one of Michelle’s interviews quote, she asked for just that (not the old 90’s gospel sound, but the tracks he would write for Chris Brown).
Fire is track #5 on the album, and was the second song released leading up to the album’s release. A decent, sing-able tune with a reggae-type vocal, over an urban track. One of my daughters really took to that song…a bit more than I did. But it’s not until we get down into the record at #10 that I begin to hear some really interesting sounds which takes her away from the standard modern-day R&B/Gospel. The song In The Morning is a guitar driven song that you’d expect to hear Demi Lovato singing on a movie soundtrack, but what a song of hope for those who may live in regret or disappointment “But in the morning, everything worked out alright. Yeah in the morning, you’ll see that everything’s just fine…” I love the song. It’s probably too pop-ish for gospel radio and maybe too urban for pop radio, but it is a unique enjoyable song with a beautiful encouragement lyrically.
Right after that, buried deep in the album is actually the album’s first release (released back in June 2013 – what’s up with that?) If We Had Your Eyes. This is my absolute favorite song on the album. In fact as I listened to it, I immediately thought ‘man, this has to be the next single!’ Little did I realize that 1 year and 3 months ago it actually was. The vocal match-up between Michelle and Fantasia is an artistic treasure – a vocal ballet that is just beautiful hear! A natural blend. For Gospel radio and soloists worldwide, what a song to sing at your church or outreach events – this is the heart of God, right? “People judge by what they see, but Lord you see the heart. If we had Your eyes, we’d see things right!” How convicting of a message, in a soulful ballad with a great groove. I went back and found the music video – talk about an impacting visual. A’s all around for this song.
And then, of course the last track on the album, Say Yes which is the reason why I was made aware of the album in the first place – gospel radio has given this song a lot of play, probably because the gospel world has been given the only recorded reunion of the members of Destiny’s Child (both Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland are featured on the tune). But I must say it breaks the mold of what you hear on gospel radio – a break from the normal narrated gospel choir, or the soloist with the hand-clapping revival song, or the latest urban remake of a popular modern contemporary worship song. Say Yes puts a calypso rhythm with simple lyrics and beautiful music, and perfect vocal performances from all soloists. Even my little ones walk around singing “If Jesus Say Yes nobody can say no.” I, personally love the pre-chorus and the chord structure there “there’s no limit to what You can do – because it all belongs to you, yes it all belongs to you…”
You’ll notice that I skipped over the Lecrae/Tye Tribbet tune. I guess it’s an ok song. Unfortunately it sounds like a typical gospel song trying to be hip with a rap verse. Having been given an opportunity to add to the album of a vocal talent the caliber of Michelle, I’m pretty sure Lecrae would have appreciated a more unique track – perhaps next time Reach Records could have lent a production hand for a Lecrae feature.
Overall I think it would be of little value to sum up an album with a letter grade or a scale from 1 to 10. I hope to only review music that’s worth a listen or a purchase (unless something is so bad that I feel that it’s my duty as an American to warn you). How about pros, cons, my wishlist, and my faves for the record.
Pros. Message-wise, she kept first things first: The presentation of the gospel and songs of hope and inspiration tied to her faith in Jesus. The album is one that anyone who’s ever been to a church can relate to, the true believer can enjoy with a good conscience, and the non-believer can be inspired by. Harmony (producer) did a wonderful job allowing Michelle’s voice to shine – the production doesn’t overpower her vocal artistry. The music is tight with fun, clean tracks.
I certainly believe that the true gems of the CD is from track 1, 10 – 12.
Cons. The only con, is that the album is fairly safe – no risks taken (other than Say Yes which offsets the risk with the guest vocalists).
My Wishlist. I would have loved to hear more unique musical journeys on the album. The gospel R&B thing sounds good, but Michelle’s voice is so distinct and unique that I would love to have heard some production by some local, talented, underground producer who’s not yet living in the lap of pop music and is, instead, seeking to establish a new sound. That could only enhance what we have on the record.
My Fave. You guessed it: If We Had Your Eyes. Yes, released over a year ago, but still worth it!
Least Fave. Fall. I’m a Lecrae supporter and I even like some of Tye’s stuff. I just don’t think this song fulfilled any of what makes any of these 3 artists unique.
Until next review…I think we’ll be looking at Trip Lee and Manic Drive next month!