Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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The Narrative – Sho Baraka
****

Three years in the making, Sho Baraka returns with his fourth album. The fourteen songs address themes of race, faith and love. Each title has an accompanying year that symbolizes something important. It is an important album that is musically diverse and creative, and lyrically relevant. Below are a few comments on each song:
Foreward, 1619 – The opening track was written by the Beatbreaker (who also produced it), Adam Bean and Baraka. It features C Lacy and Bean. 1619 was the start of American slavery, which is addressed in Adam Bean’s verse. From 1619 and beyond, here he stands. He is a man. Baraka asks whether he should he pray or riot. He states that we are all desperate and broken.
Don’t close the book, I got more to write
You can change the story, that is my advice
I read in color, they see black and white
You just saw the cover, but there’s more to life

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
§  More of this review
§  Review of The Narrative Vol. 2: Pianos & Politics by Sho Baraka
§  Music News
§  Music Quotes
§  Song of the Week Lyrics

Soul, 1971 – This track was written by Baraka and produced by Jamie Portee, who also contributes vocals. It features some excellent James Brown-like horns. He’s picking up the pieces in a world that’s fallen. He addresses being poor, bad schools, bad food, and bad predatory lenders.
Kanye, 2009 –  This song was produced by Jamie Portee and Swoope. It features Jackie Hill-Perry, who co-wrote the song with Baraka. The song briefly opens with piano and a gospel choir. This is his Kanye rant. He has something to say and a lot on his mind. The track features some good sax work.
Love, 1959 – This song is produced by the Beatbreaker and Jamie Portee and written by Baraka. He references Jimmy Bee’s “If It Wasn’t For Love” in the opening. Features some good horns and piano.  And if it wasn’t for love, where would he be? It’s unconditional love that he needs.
Here, 2016 –  This song is produced by the Beatbreaker and Swoope and features Lecrae, who co-wrote the song with Baraka. First of all, the song sounds great – live horns, drums and keys. It has jazz and soul elements. The song also has powerful lyrics, about justice, equality, holding politicians accountable, love over hate, faith, etc. The song ends with a spoken word piece about the strength of Black women.
30 & Up, 1986 –  This song is produced by J.R. and features Courtney Orlando, who co-writes the song with Baraka. Baraka has said that this is a song that celebrates those people who are living life 30 and up in the sense of love and relationships. A key lyric: You know we got to work to stay in love.
Profhet, 1968 –  This song is produced by and features Jamie Portee, who co-writes it with Baraka. Baraka has said that the song is about the commodification of him as an individual, his body, his likeness, his tonality, also his religion, his faith, and how sometimes we allow ourselves to be pimped out and sold. And also, the idea that activism needs prophets, not profit. You can offer him money but you can’t have his soul. A key lyric: I’m undervalued but I can be a prophet.  
Maybe Both, 1865 – This song is produced by, and features Jamie Portee, who also co-wrote the song with Baraka. This song is loosely based on Malcolm X’s “Ballot in a Bullet” speech. He critiques both political parties, and looks at how we can use Jesus to promote our own agendas, but understands that Christ is pretty complicated. A key lyric: Are they killing with a pistol or a vote? 
Excellent, 2017 – This song is produced and features Courtney Orlando, who also co-wrote the song with Baraka. Creative musically, he mentions several people in this song. A key lyric: I know Black lives matter, and they should matter in the womb.  
Road to Humble, 1979 – This autobiographical song is produced by Jamie Portee, who also co-wrote the song with Baraka. He raps about pride, salvation, being a part of 116 Clique, Reach and Humble Beast. A key lyric I’m deeply loved, I’m forgiven, I have vision. He has changed my condition on the day he was risen.
Myhood, U.S.A., 1937 – This song is produced by theBeatbreaker and features Venessa Hill, who also co-wrote the song with Baraka, theBeatbreaker and Lataurus Johnson. Baraka tells us a love story, though not your typical love story. He gives us a history lesson for Black Americans from the 1930s onward using a fictional ‘Myhood USA’. A key lyric:  This is a love song, I like to call it justice. 
Words, 2006 – This song is produced by theBeatbreaker and Jamie Portee and written by Baraka. It is about being a father of a child with special needs and his father with cancer. It opens with a baby crying over a piano, then builds with drums. Key lyric: Maybe we don’t need words to communicate our love.
Fathers, 2004 – This song is produced by Jamie Portee and written by Baraka.  Musically, it’s more laid back, with piano, light drums and horns. He gives advice and encouragement to first his son, and then daughter, and finally to other fathers. Key lyric: How do you spell Dad? It goes L-O-V-E.
Piano Break, 33 A.D. –  The final song is produced by Jamie Portee and written by Baraka. He sings about being made in the image of God and celebrating that.

Contains some language that got the album banned from a major Christian bookstore chain. Features piano over a drum beat. Includes samples from a preacher, who shouts “Hallelujah” throughout the song.  Key lyrics: If my words bring conviction, let’s call in context, I’m realizin’ life is pretty complex and I’m a servant, but I have a room in the palace.  

The Narrative Vol. 2: Pianos & Politics – Sho Baraka
****

Baraka followed up his groundbreaking 2016 release The Narrative with a surprise EP. The Narrative Volume 2, featuring four new songs and two remixes from The Narrative. Here are a few brief comments about each song:
Pedantic – This song is written by Amisho Baraka Lewis, Thomas Joseph Terry and Bryan L. Winchester. It includes soundbites from an interview with Denzel Washington and is produced by Braille. The song features a good drum beat throughout and an excellent guitar solo. Information is a theme throughout. Key lyric: I had information but did I have wisdom?  
Pianos in Jericho – This song features Sean C. Johnson. It is written by Amisho Baraka Lewis, Thomas Joseph Terry and Bryan L. Winchester and produced by Braille.  The song features a driving drum beat, piano and some backing vocals. The wall is a theme throughout. Key lyric:
Man, I think I’ve let my problems become my savior
I’ve taken focus off the Lord and focused on my anger
I think I’ve let my opposition define who’s my neighbor

Piano Bars – This song is written by Amisho Baraka Lewis, Thomas Joseph Terry, Bryan L. Winchester, Ron Sararana and Jamie Portee. It features record scratches by DJ Efectho and is produced by Braille. Sho raps over a great beat, driven by piano. Includes some humor and a reference to his music being removed by Baptist owned bookstores for mentioning a male body part. Key lyric:
He’s moving between thugs and seminary professors
He writes with intelligence and honors his heritage
The bottom line is he is changing the narrative 

Pluralism – This song is written by Amisho Baraka Lewis, Thomas Joseph Terry and Bryan L. Winchester. It features background vocals from Lauren Michael and is produced by Braille. The song features piano and drums.  Key lyric:
But be careful how you share your views
Cause they’ll protest you 

Maybe Both – This song, which was included on The Narrative, features James Portier. DSTL does the remix, which features a great beat and percussion. It is written by Amisho Baraka Lewis, Thomas Joseph Terry, Bryan L. Winchester, Daniel Steele and Jamie Portee. The song is loosely based on Malcolm X’s “Ballot in a Bullet” speech. He critiques both political parties, and looks at how we can use Jesus to promote our own agendas, but understands that Christ is pretty complicated.  A key lyric: Are they killing with a pistol or a vote?  Or maybe it is both.    
Here – This song, which was included on The Narrative, features Lecrae. Coutland Urbano does the remix. It is written by Amisho Baraka Lewis, Thomas Joseph Terry, Bryan L. Winchester, Lecrae and Courtland Urbano. This is a stripped-down version of the version on The Narrative, which featured piano and horns, and has excellent percussion. The song has powerful lyrics, about justice, equality, holding politicians accountable, love over hate, faith, etc. Key lyric: I promise there’s healing for your hurt now.  

  • One Day (When We All Get to Heaven). This was my top song of 2017. Check out the new video from Matt Redman.
  • First Person with Fernando Ortega. Listen to Wayne Shepherd’s interview with Fernando Ortega.
  • Check out the video for “Everything”, the new song from TobyMac, the second single form his forthcoming album.
  • Hang On, Hang On. Watch the new video from Amos Lee’s song “Hang On, Hang On, from his new album My New Moon. The song was the hardest on the album for him to sing as it was reliving the time when his grandmother died. Watch Amos’ acoustic performance of “No More Darkness, No More Light” here.
  • Love is Bigger Than Anything In its Way. The Broken Fingaz Crew have directed a stop-motion animation video for the Beck remix of U2’s “Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way”.
  • Remembering Cornerstone Festival. I enjoyed reading this article by Jessi Ellerbe about the Cornerstone Festival, which I attended many times over the years, both in the Chicago area and in Bushnell, Illinois.
  • In the Blue Light. Paul Simon will release In The Blue Light on September 7. The album will include fresh perspectives on 10 of Simon’s favorite (though perhaps less-familiar) songs. The album is produced by Simon and Roy Halee. Simon states that “The album consists of songs that I thought were almost right or were odd enough to be overlooked the first time around. Re-doing arrangements, harmonic structures, and lyrics that didn’t make their meaning clear, gave me time to clarify in my own head what I wanted to say, or realize what I was thinking and make it more easily understood.”
  • Summer Eighteen. Reach Records has dropped an amazing Summer Eighteen playlist for Christian hip-hop listeners. The 9 tracks feature the entire roster of Reach (Lecrae, Andy Mineo, KB, Tedashii, etc., except for Trip Lee.
  • New NEEDTOBREATHE Live Album. Listen to “Drive All Night (Acoustic Live)” from NEEDTOBREATHE’s upcoming release, Acoustic Live Vol. 1, out November 16th.
  • You Found Me. Watch the video for Switchfoot’s new song “You Found Me” from the upcoming movie about Louis Zamperini Unbroken: Path to Redemption.
  • Dying White Light. Watch this video for Amos Lee’s new song “Dying White Light” which he wrote about Charlottesville.

  • We should be careful about the words of the music we sing and ensure that those words communicate truth. R.C. Sproul
  • When truth gets into a hymnbook, it becomes the confident possession of the whole church. Sinclair Ferguson
  • Too much comparing kills contentment. Lecrae
  • Remember: In the end, you’re not living to impress your friends or your relatives or your coworkers. All of life is for Jesus. Chris Tomlin

Fight for Me by Gawvi, featuring Lecrae

This week’s song of the week is Gawvi’s “Fight for Me”, featuring Lecrae. Watch the video here.

Pre-Chorus: GAWVI]
Yeah, yeah, I need You to fight for me
When I don’t know what I believe, hey, hey
Why does everybody leave?
Show me what it’s like to dream

[Chorus: GAWVI]
Hey, go, You the best, ah
Hey, Say with your chest high
Hey, yeah, wave ’em high, side to side
Let ’em know, we gon’ rise, we gon’ shine
I need You to fight for me
I know You’re my therapy
I know why we fight
It’s just to know we try
Aye, yeah

[Verse 1: GAWVI]
Eyedrops, how do I start it off?
Pullin’ all these hours, trying to keep it all clear
I got, way too many thoughts
Fighting these expectations, got me feeling stuck like

Aye, yeah, think I feel it all the time
Aye, yeah, did I really miss my prime?
I don’t know, how to cope when I’m low
But I know, that You’re close, that You’re close
I’ve been away, yeah, losing my faith, yeah
Hope I’m not late, trying to find grace, yeah
For my mistakes, aye, I need to pray, yeah
Yeah, I need to pray, yeah, wake up to the mirror like

[Pre-Chorus: GAWVI]
I need You to fight for me
When I don’t know what I believe

Why does everybody leave?
Show me what it’s like to dream

[Chorus: GAWVI]
Hey, go, You the best, ah
Hey, Say with your chest high
Hey, yeah, yeah, wave ’em high, side to side
Let ’em know, we gon’ rise, we gon’ shine
I need You to fight for me
I know You’re my therapy
I know why we fight
It’s just to know we try

[Verse 2: Lecrae]
Say you gon’ fight, you ain’t try, you don’t lie right
Send a prayer up, throw a line, you don’t find time
Down yeah, homie, down yeah, pick me up off of the ground, yeah
Almost drown, yeah, pull me out, yeah (sheesh)
Wasn’t in my right mind, yeah, yeah, reach out for me like a lifeline
I’ve been with You so long it feel like a lifetime
So connected to You I could be Your WiFi
Oh, it’s a fight
Left hook right chest, that’s just right
Out my weight class feels too light
Lose my faith, I lose my life
I’ve been lost and feeling lonely
Tell ’em they can’t hold me
Looking in the mirror like when You fighting for me?

[Pre-Chorus: GAWVI]
I need You to fight for me
When I don’t know what I believe
Why does everybody leave?
Show me what it’s like to dream

[Chorus: GAWVI]
Hey, go, You the best, ah
Hey, Say with your chest high
Hey, yeah, yeah, wave ’em high, side to side
Let ’em know, we gon’ rise, we gon’ shine
I need You to fight for me, yeah, yeah
I know You’re my therapy, yeah, yeah
Hey, yeah, yeah, Wave ’em high, side to side
Let ’em know, we gon’ rise, we gon’ shine
Hey, I need You to fight for me, yeah, yeah
Ah, hey, I know You’re my therapy, yeah, yeah
I know why we fight
It’s just to know we try
I need You to fight for me

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 38 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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