September 11th. The date is forever etched in American hearts.
It’s the day our world changed and we woke up to the very real threat of global terrorism. Shamefully, just six years later, the memory of nearly 3,000 lives is pushed aside in the name of hip hop consumerism.
It wasn’t just 50 vs. Kanye - although their well-orchestrated competition did spur album sales. Wine-0 (fka Nuwine) pimped the memorial day with an expletive-laced diss track video for Ye, Curtis, and his former gospel rap brethren so that listeners would know his new album would be in stores on that date.
Godchaserz Entertainment also saw the 9/11 anniversary as a prime opportunity for pub by dropping Jovan MacKenzy’s disc titled Jihad* and carrying the idea to its cover art with Arabic font faces and Crusades-era battle imagery. This from a [gulp] Christian MC.
Fortunately (?) this offensively brash and exploitive theme doesn’t go much further than the packaging and title song track. However, it’s not the first time J-Mac has courted controversy. His “Shot To Ya Soul” track on the Dat’s Gospel Mixxtape also struck nerves by calling out mainstream rappers (Mobb Deep, 50, Jay-Z, R Kelly) and explaining how their public words and actions appeared to contradict or conflict with modern Christian practices.
Pushing aside such distasteful promotion tactics to evaluate Jihad’s overall content is admittedly hard to do. But there is substance underneath.
MacKenzy has rhyme skill talent and delivers a solid Biblical message about the struggle to lead a sacred life throughout the project. However, this spiritual strife is not the same thing as the “holy war” referenced in the title. “Jihad” and “sanctification” are not synonyms!
On the album Jovan employs a throwback East Coast type flow over serviceable synth-heavy beats by Godchaserz artist/CEO Brinson. Early tracks like “Capital G” with Dae Lee remind the listener of golden-era mic tag teams and up-tempo party flavor. Later, “I’m So Glad” utilizes Uncle Reese’s soulful pipes on the hook to make a nice, smoothed-out praise joint that is ripe for radio.
Jovan also attempts some concept records with “39 Lashes” and “Class of 08.” The effort is appreciated but the execution could be improved.
“39 Lashes” recalls the beating Jesus took before his crucifixion by illustrating each whip with a description of sin that we, as a global people group, have committed against Him. However, it seems like many of these offenses are external and in somewhat of the same category.
For example, masturbation, fornication, adultery, and prostitution are mentioned but aren’t they all sex issues? What about gossip, rage, greed, envy, pride or other, more internal, transgressions? A few are noted, but it seems that the obvious, exterior behaviors have them outnumbered despite Christ devoting equal, if not more, of his words toward the internal struggles we face.
“Class of 08” brings a bold “spirit of Joshua” from young voices MacKenzy, Rigs, and Readywriter as the new holy hip hop (HHH) torch bearers. The fire and drive is encouraging, but while there are passing mentions to those that came before them, it would have been cool to actually hear a few “Moses” names dropped.
Shout out cats like Fred Lynch of P.I.D., martyr D-Boy Rodriguez, Sup the Chemist of SFC, or even more modern legends like Lil Raskull, T-Bone, and Cross Movement who are still adding titles to their discographies. Perhaps the young cats are simply ignorant of their musical genealogy. If that’s the case then maybe they get a pass. Still, a more overt acknowledgment of gospel rap trailblazers would have been a nice addition to this message.
The inclusion of a live “Freestyle” track (over a HHH beat no less) is great, as is the smooth wordplay of ingenious Knine atop handclap drum kicks on “Red Carpet Treatment.” The “UFC Cypha” with Excelsius and other MCs is also a fun, pass-the-mic insight.
There’s real meat on Jihad to be sure. One just wishes the way it was delivered was more palatable.**
* “Jihad” is an Arabic/Islamic word used in the Qur’an. Today it is typically used to define a Muslim holy war against unbelievers or campaign against doctrine, policy, etc. One could say that the New York and D.C. attacks on September 11 were part of a Muslim terrorist jihad.
** Am I making too big of an issue out of the album’s marketing?
I can honestly say I never got a real Christian vs. Islam vibe from the project, but I definitely got a "Let's-exploit-their-terminology-and-imagery-in-our-promo" feeling.
Maybe that's the issue.
1. It's tacky and exploitative – particularly from one who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus.
2. It doesn't even make sense. Once you get past the cover and suspicious drop date you don't really get the "Us vs. Them" or "conversion-by-force" thematic sense from the rest of the album.
The packaging (not just the physical thing, but the whole concept, 9/11 date, etc.) doesn't match the content. When that outer wrapping is offensive and distasteful to boot, you're just doing yourself a disservice.
It would be like a CD titled The Abortionist Killer Chronicles with cover art that featured rifle crosshairs on a clinic and was released on the anniversary of one of those tragic shootings.
But what if, inside TAKC, when you actually listened to the lyrics, you didn't hear that vitriol? Instead, you got a personal story song about an unwed father who regrets letting his lover abort their child (an actual HHH song I recently heard that really moved me). What if you got lyrics about love and respect for the emotional turmoil these women are going through? That's the true message of Christ.
However, who would know that from the outside? Would they be willing to buy this CD with that kind of outer shell?
And what about the people who WOULD want to purchase a project called The Abortionist Killer Chronicles? What would that say about them?
I guess with Jihad I feel there's a bit of a bait-and-switch going on. And the bait, as it often does, stinks.
Release Date: September 11, 2007
Record Label: Godchaserz EntertainmentTrack Listing
02. 39 Lashes
03. We Keep It High
04. Hands Up
05. Red Carpet Treatment
06. Grown Folks Gospel
07. Narrow Rd.
08. On A Quick Note
09. I'm So Glad
10. Class Of '08
11. U Know He Iz
12. Capital G
14. U.F.C. Cypha (Ultimate Faith Christians)
15. Coals Of Fiyah
16. Who Came To Worship