Review: Trip Lee - 'Rise'

By the time Trip Lee released his 4th studio album, The Good Life, the long-time Reach Records favorite was at a crossroads. He was battling a serious health condition and preparing himself for pastoral ministry. When he announced he would be taking a “break from music” on a short behind-the-scenes video for TGL, everyone seemed to be caught off guard. “Wait, did Trip just say he was retiring?” Two-and-a-half years later, Trip is releasing Rise. Musically, Rise is a beautiful album from first to last. The music is diverse and yet solidly hip-hop. It is commercial, but soulful and genuine. Thematically, Trip gives us an honest look into the conflict that led him to back away from music for a while. This is the album we should have gotten in 2012. Thankfully, we get it now.

“Rise” and “Lights On” have a cinematic quality that makes them great opening tracks. And in case there is any doubt, Trip is on a mission: “I’m back here to tell you this life is a flash in the pan/How I’m a retire when we need a crier that tell us to rise up and stand,” raps Lee on “Rise.”

Tracks 3-7 can all be singles. “Shweet,” the first single released for the album, has been received well though some assert the song sounds like Drake’s “0-100.” "Manolo" is a Spanish sobriquet for Emmanuel and the title to a banger on Rise featuring Lecrae. The song presents the metaphor of the word of God as a weapon used to fight spiritual battles. Lecrae raps, “And I aint gotta say no mo’/ I’ma click click bang and the thang gon’ blow/ red lettaz like a red dial on yo’ dome/yep yep yep yep yep/all ya’ gon’.” These along with “Lazarus,” a Trap-meets-old-school West Coast track featuring Thi’sl, are the speaker knockers on the album.

“You Don’t Know” is a true standout track. It opens with a chopped and screwed sample of Christon Gray’s “Even With Evil Within Me” and explodes into a bright celebration of fighting for holiness.

“All Rise Up” (interlude and track) gives a peek into the history of Reach and lets fans into Trip’s heart. Fans learn about the “bootleg” first unashamed tour. Trip then jumps into a defense of his Reach partners against the “haters saying we just do it for dough but they won’t break us/cause The Lord we serve with the flow, we is so gracious,” and tells fans about contemplating retirement.

Tracks 8-13 cover a variety of topics. We hear Trip’s love for his children, “Beautiful Life 2 (Mine),” a one-verse track about sneaker heads’ addiction on an absolutely sick beat featuring a Cuban Salsa sample, “Something New,” and a story of emotional infidelity and reconciliation, “All My Love,” featuring Natalie Lauren.

The album closes out with the 2nd single to be released, “Sweet Victory,” featuring Dmitri McDowell & Leah Smith. This track could have turned into a contemporary Christian music type of anthem, but GAWVI lets Trip’s verses lead, allowing this to be an introspective Hip-Hop track that propels the hearer to worship. The theme of the track is that of victory already accomplished though not yet experienced.

There have been - and will be - better Christian hip hop albums this year. This album is important not because of it’s overall impact on hip hop or the Christian hip hop sub-genre (though GAWVI certainly demonstrates why he’s one of the hottest producer in hip hop right now) but because Trip Lee is an important figure in the game. He was just a teenager when he emerged on to the scene and, along with his label mates, expanded the reach of the genre to a place once unimaginable. Trip is still a young man but his maturity stands out as he describes his physical and spiritual battles. As the greater Christian hip hop community debates the issue of sacred vs. secular; ministry vs. profession; for the church vs. from the church (or however else we want to label it), Trip gives us his response: “I see his glory in his word and I gotta shout it/so I’m just trying to figure out how to shout the loudest.”

Tracklisting

1. Rise
Produced by GAWVI

2. Lights On
Produced by GAWVI

3. Shweet
Produced by GAWVI

4. Manolo ft. Lecrae
Produced by GAWVI

5. You Don’t Know
Produced by GAWVI

6. All Rise Up (Interlude)
Produced by GAWVI and Jonatan Barahona

7. All Rise Up
Produced by GAWVI

8. Beautiful Life 2 (Mine)
Produced by GAWVI

9. Insomniac ft. Andy Mineo
Produced by GAWVI

10. Something New
Produced by GAWVI

11. Lazarus ft. This'l
Produced by GAWVI

12. All My Love ft. Natalie Lauren
Produced by GAWVI

13. I’m Gone
Produced by GAWVI and Alex Medina

14. Sweet Victory ft. Dimitri McDowell and Leah Smith
Produced by GAWVI

Pre-order Rise on iTunes now or get it when it releases next Tuesday October 28th.
About the Author
Chad Horton has been in the music business since 2000 and is currently the Director of Social Media for 10th Street Entertainment, which manages several multi-platinum artists. Originally from Northern California, Horton rooted himself in San Diego with his wife and two daughters.

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