After sharing my concern and frustration with some colleagues regarding reading album reviews and their ratings over the years that received 4, 4.5, or 5 mics/stars that are in my opinion undeserving, I decided to publish my thoughts.
I grew up not knowing about Jesus, the church culture, or Christian music. I was saved in 2004, so up until that point I listened to mostly secular hip hop, rock, and some pop. I discovered hip hop when I was about 6 years old (1984). I really started studying hip hop, the production, the lyrics, reading every word in the liner notes, and reading magazines like The Source, XXL, Murder Dog, Vibe, etc. when I was in 8th grade. I gave up baseball card collecting and started to get deep into music and all that came with it.
Magazines really had a lot of weight with regards to news, rumors, independent highlights, and album ratings up until roughly 2005 - 2007. Some of those top hip hop magazines really gained a reputation of rating an album accurately. Some of those magazines were so trust worthy with their album reviews and ratings that you automatically went and bought an album if it got 4 mics or above. Given the audience that reads Rapzilla.com is probably 95% Christian, and a good amount of those Christians didn't listen to secular hip hop and aren't old enough to know most of the albums that I'm going to shed light on below, I don't expect this article to be of much impact with our reader base. But for those that are old enough, and do know the albums that I'm going to shed light on, and are album reviewers or work for media in Christian music, specifically Christian Hip Hop, I hope to make an impact. The Source Magazine launched in 1988. Here is a near complete list of all of the albums that received 5 mics:
People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm -- A Tribe Called Quest
Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em -- Eric B. & Rakim
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted -- Ice Cube
One for All -- Brand Nubian
De La Soul Is Dead -- De La Soul
The Low End Theory -- A Tribe Called Quest
Illmatic -- Nas
Life After Death -- The Notorious B.I.G.
Aquemini -- Outkast
The Blueprint -- Jay-Z
Stillmatic -- Nas
The Fix -- Scarface
The Naked Truth -- Lil' Kim
Trill OG -- Bun B
Albums that were not rated upon their releases, but were later rated five mics in 2002:
Run-D.M.C. -- Run-D.M.C.
Radio -- LL Cool J
Licensed to Ill -- Beastie Boys
Raising Hell -- Run-D.M.C.
Criminal Minded -- Boogie Down Productions
Paid in Full -- Eric B. & Rakim
By All Means Necessary -- Boogie Down Productions
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back -- Public Enemy
Long Live the Kane -- Big Daddy Kane
Critical Beatdown -- Ultramagnetic MCs
Straight Out the Jungle -- Jungle Brothers
Strictly Business -- EPMD
The Great Adventures of Slick Rick -- Slick Rick
Straight Outta Compton -- N.W.A.
No One Can Do It Better -- The D.O.C.
All Eyez on Me -- 2Pac
Albums that originally received 4.5 Mics, and were later re-rated to five:
Breaking Atoms -- Main Source
Death Certificate -- Ice Cube
The Chronic -- Dr. Dre
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) -- Wu-Tang Clan
Ready to Die -- The Notorious B.I.G.
The Infamous -- Mobb Deep
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... -- Raekwon
2001 -- Dr. Dre
Albums that originally received four mics, and were later re-rated to five:
Grip It! On That Other Level -- Geto Boys
Doggystyle -- Snoop Doggy Dogg
The Diary -- Scarface
Me Against the World -- 2Pac
The Score -- The Fugees
Reasonable Doubt -- Jay-Z
If you know hip hop from that time, and you see the albums listed here, then how can we give a majority of the Christian Hip Hop albums that have been given a rating of 4, 4.5, or even 5 mic's, a rating of that caliber? You honestly think that the Christian Hip Hop albums that received a rating of 5 mics can stand up against Let The Rhythm Hit'em, or The Chronic, or The Score, or Aquemini? REALLY?
This isn't specifically about 5 mics/stars either. We can go down to 4.5 or 4 as well. 5 mics/stars is diving off the diving board into the water and getting 10's by the judges. How often does that really happen? The Source Magazine gave their first 5 mic rating this year after not seeing a rating that high in 5 years. I respect that. Now that I am Christian, I can't really go back and listen to these albums and enjoy them. I know now that we are not of this world and we can find inspiration from our experiences and from Go,d and deliver art that can impact people that are listening to the albums listed here. We are to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we should also be honest when asked to critique. Just because we are Christian, art doesn't get a critical pass just because of that.
I'm extremely proud of the quality of hip hop music that Christians have put out this year! I think we have quality projects coming out that are the example, and as a result of many factors, becoming less of the exception and more of the norm. Let's step up the quality and integrity of our album reviews and ensure that when someone reads a review on our websites, they can trust the review, and go listen to or even buy the music and not be disappointed because they trusted the review only to find it was puffed up because the reviewer is friends with or wants to make sure they keep getting love from the artist or label, or because they are a huge fan of the artist. Let's not get so caught up in this tiny bubble of Christian Hip Hop that we start lowering standards and padding our critique's to make ourselves look better than we sound for the sake of ... what? a few sales or a few more pats on the back? Iron sharpens iron.
One attempt at improving our ratings at Rapzilla.com on albums that you may have noticed since our re-launch of even including a rating, is a Rapzilla rating vs. a reviewer rating. The reviews will always represent the site they are on whether or not there is a statement saying they don't. So our reviews include ratings again, but they will be an average rating of all Rapzilla staff.
We would love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.