God is not welcome in hip-hop – at least when it comes to radio and television. It seems like the only time the big man upstairs gets mentioned at all is during shout-outs, my personal favorite being the obligatory, ‘I’d like to thank Jesus for making my single Shut Up And Strip B**ch such a success.” Now there are of course a few exceptions (most prominently Kanye, who’s rhymed extensively about his struggle to walk with Jesus and look fresh while he does it), but for the most part labels and program directors insist on …
DJBooth Album Review
Until now. Bizzy Bone, the on-again, off-again member of Bone Thugs n’Harmony, has used his solo status to release the first major label hip-hop gospel album I can think of, A Song For You. Now the Bone Thugs were no stranger to spiritually charged songs, but Bizzy has unquestionably taken his worship to an entirely higher level. Make no mistake, there may not be huge church choirs on every track, but A Song For You is more of a gospel album with some hip-hop influence than vice-versa.
The praise-a-thon begins with the title track A Song For You, an inspirationally charged track built around Chris Notez’s soul-lifting chorus and piano-centric production that’s sure to draw comparisons to the Bone Thugs’ s classic hit Crossroads. At the very least Bizzy succeeded where nearly no one else has, actually getting DMX on a track, even if X’s contribution isn’t particularly impressive, but the truly remarkable thing about A Song For You is Bizzy himself. Lyrically he may have turned his pen heavenward, but vocally his high-pitched delivery hasn’t changed in over a decade. He can still switch his flow from blazingly fast to slowly winding at the drop of a dime, the technique that made him famous, but the overall effect just isn’t as strong without his partners in rhyme to balance the musical scale. Is A Song For You a dope track? Yes. Would it have been even better with the full compliment of Bones behind it? Yes. And that’s the gospel truth.
Bizzy completely abandons the church pews on Ballin, a completely typical ode to icy chains and packs of coke…sorry, just kidding. Actually, that’s what Ballin would sound like on nearly anyone else’s album, but Bizzy manages to embed his version of Ballin with the sense of a deeper purpose. Sure the chorus is chopped n’screwed, but the rest of the production floats on soaring harmonies and pealing church bells. It’s only right that Jim Jones drops in for a guest verse, but where Jones was all swagger and no substance on his Ballin, here he continues his recent trend towards more contemplative lyrics. In fact it’s Money that comes closest to an old-school Bizzy banger. With grinding rock guitar chords exploding over rapid-fire percussion, Money’s production begs for Bizzy’s signature street-harmonized flow, and sure enough he delivers a verbal assault that should satisfy even the most thuggish of fellow bones. Plus Twista continues his “bury the beef with Bone Thugs world tour” with a typically fluid flow. Apparently it literally took an act of God to get the once bitter enemies on the same track. All praise due.
If Bizzy does indeed have a direct line to the angels, you’d think they would have steered him clear of A Song For You’s pitfalls (by the way, heaven also apparently has no problem with him dropping constant f-bombs). I Need You is a cover, in the loosest sense of the term, of the classic soul song Try Me, complete with Bizzy dropping the rhymes in favor of some more straightforward crooning. It's more of the same on Memories, an acoustic guitar laced ode to his fellow Bones that’s full of good intentions, but low on musical quality. Let’s just say that God may have blessed Bizzy with many talents, but singing is not one of them. Regardless of A Song For You’s sometimes questionable musical choices, Bizzy seems determined to make his music, mainstream radio be damned (literally), and I have to respect him for that. In the end you don’t have to be religious to enjoy A Song For You, but it would help. As for me, my idea of the scripture is my original copy of Paid In Full, so take this review accordingly. We all worship in our own ways.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 04/20/08
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