It seems that just about every new holy hip-hop emcee seems to be coming from the Midwest these days. Just a few years ago, it seemed like everyone was coming from Philadelphia, but now it looks like St. Louis is becoming a breeding ground for up and coming holy hip-hoppers. One of the most notable names to come the Gateway to the West is CMR’s very own Flame. He was a smashing success with his self-titled debut album. For me, personally, it took a good while for his sophomore project Rewind to grow on me. This time around, Flame is set to release his third and fourth albums as two halves of a set titled Our World. The first up is Our World Fallen, which focuses on the fallen state of the world and mankind (with the follow-up to be released later this year called Our World Redeemed).
Now, when I first got my hands on this album, I had very high expectations, but I wasn’t sure what to expect, considering it took some time for his previous work to grow on me. One thing I do know is that Marcus T.W. Gray has a considerable amount of talent and I was expecting for it to shine through with a much greater level of maturity and deep Christian content. In my look at this album, there are a few things that I want to focus on, and they are: 1) the delivery, 2) the content, and finally 3) the production.
First and foremost, Flame’s delivery on this project is stellar. He kicks off the album with the track “Our World (Fallen)” where he rips it with a flow that is very reminiscent to that Nuwine/Wine-O sound that I used to love back in the late 90’s, but with a much sharper edge and focus on meaty lyricism. Marcus then gets down & dirty with a bass laden hardcore hook and crisp in your face lyrics on the song“Where God Placed You” as he discusses the sovereignty of God in placing us right where He placed us at this place and time. Collaborations are in abundance with this album, and there are plenty of repeats from his first two albums, along with a new face or two. The first tag team that’s worth mentioning is the drumline & marching band inspired “When You Step” featuring labelmate Da’ T.R.U.T.H.; the two emcees compliment each other perfectly on this track and I still think they should release a project together. Other collaborating artists include Trubble from Cho’zyn, Diamone, Tedashii, and J.R. to name a few. The one consistent throughout this album is the progression of growth from track to track and the diversity of rhyme scheme that is exhibited from one song to the next; it really kept things fresh from start to finish.
Right up there with the extraordinary delivery is the content that backs it up. As stated earlier, the focus on the album is on the fallen state of world as a result of the disobedience of Adam; it is from this perspective that he takes a wide variety of topics to show the world’s depravity, while still giving a glimmer of hope through Christ Jesus. “MySpace” featuring Diamone is one of the most notable songs that really brings home the purpose of this project. Here, Flame tells the story of a fictitious teenager named Chante Andrea Jones who is only able to find “love” through her MySpace page because she is unable to get it from her parents; I won’t spoil the song, but the reality of it is gut wrenching and makes you realize our need for a Savior. “Goodness to Repentance” is another track that shows just how good God has been, even in the midst of this fallen world. Flame spends a few moments talking about all of the war stories of rappers and hip-hop moguls who have been shot and had their lives spared; he uses these stories as an example of how God’s goodness (in sparing their lives) should lead them to repentance and putting their faith in Him. Nevertheless, they would much rather have the benefits of being God’s seed without living godly. I really like the song “Bad Ain’t Good” featuring Trubble as it depicts how we love to keep sin close to us and have a propensity to do those things that we know we shouldn’t be doing (Romans 7 in full effect). The last track that I want to mention is a song that Flame uses to discuss the sin of homosexuality and how we should respond to it, as the Body of Christ; the name of the song is “Desires in Conflict” and it features Tony and UnderFive. With this song, Tony and UnderFive are people that use the first two verses to confide in Marcus to share their dark secret of homosexuality, to which Marcus then responds with a godly perspective on this sin and God’s original plan for marriage and sexual relations. All in all, the content is superb and hits home to the very nature of sin and the fall of mankind; it makes you perfectly aware of the problem and even gives you a glimpse at the solution (even without giving away the entire focus of the forthcoming project).
Not to be forgotten in all of this is the strength of the production. As usual, J.R. and Official handle the majority of the production duties, but Tony Stone and NAB are also called on to share their gift of beat making. With this project in particular, Flame did a great job in picking the perfect beat for each song, and also uses them to challenge himself to take his rhyming to another level. An example of this can be found in the track “Worldview” where the beat shifts numerous times to represent different indigenous areas around the world, as he speaks about the suffering that is being faced in different corners of the world. “MySpace” is another perfect track as the music compliments the storytelling flawlessly and even aids in telling the story, especially when it reaches its climatic point. Our World Fallen ends perfectly too with the song “Goodbye” featuring J.R. & Json as the racing beat helps to display the urgency that is being delivering in the songs lyricism and story.
I’m hard pressed to find anything negative to say about this project. I’ve listened to it from start to finish every time and I can’t think of a single song that is worth skipping over. Marcus T.W. Gray exemplifies what it means to be a holy hip-hopper on this project and proved that he has what it takes to be a great emcee. He delivered on every track and was able to switch up his delivery without any sort of struggle whatsoever. The beats were stellar and the content was jaw dropping. If you’re trying to find an album that talks about the fallen state of the world, then this project is it. It’s flawless in my opinion, and stands to be a top 3 CMR release (only falling behind House of Representatives & Christology). If this project is any indication, I’m looking forward to Our World Redeemed.
Label: Cross Movement Records
Release Date: April 17th 2007
|1.||Our World Fallen|
|2.||Where God Placed You|
|3.||Shinin' (Featuring Tedashii)|
|4.||MySpace (Featuring Diamone)|
|5.||Fallen World (Interlude 1)|
|6.||Goodness To Repentance|
|8.||When You Step (Featuring Da' T.R.U.T.H.)|
|10.||Fallen World (Interlude 2)|
|11.||Bad Ain't Good|
|13.||Desires In Conflict|
|15.||Come To Christ (Interlude 3)|
|16.||Goodbye (Featuring J.R.)|