Is it ever too early to compile an “albums of the year” candidates list? Of course not! 2012 has already been a memorable year for Christian Hip Hop, and the second half only promises to get better. There are some clearly obvious candidates in the mix for best project so far (Lecrae, Beautiful Eulogy, Swoope, Wit & Dre Murray), but I prefer to focus on some of the more under-appreciated albums that may not make our top 5 or top 10 list when the year is over. So here are 10 projects that may not make my final 2012 list but were definitely noteworthy:



10. Consistency: R4 by Viktory


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Viktory has always been one of the more underrated rappers in the game. One thing always distinguishes him from others: consistency. With R4, Vik delivers more consistent production, solid flow and some great features. Not to mention that the title track “R4” is one of the anthems for 2012. Viktory proves again that there it’s not a good idea to sleep on his consistency.


9. Group Standard: Red by Rhema Soul


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Rhema Soul is one of the few groups in Christian Hip Hop that has 1. Stuck together over an extended period of albums and 2. Remained relevant over the course of time. There is always good music on a Rhema Soul album and Red is no different. With “Red” featuring This’l, “Stop the World” featuring Shonlock and “No Walking Away”; the Florida-based crew shows versatility in a way that only they can.


8. Career Comeback: Restoration by Timothy Brindle


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With an honest, triumphant return to the mic, Timothy Brindle presents Restoration. This album is not only a welcome throwback to Brindle’s unique rhyming abilities but also a testimony for people who have been ensnared by the enemy. Back on the scene after an extended absence, Tim Brindle takes some welcome risks. He even allowed the Beautiful Eulogy crew to hop on the mic with “Restore My Vision” This is a great return, making me thankful that there is restoration in Christ.


7. Veteran Reinvention: The 6th by Flame


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Utilizing a new cinematic sound by SpecHouse productions, Flame makes his 6th album count. He reinvents his style with consistent features (Pastor Ad3, label-mates V. Rose and Young Noah and Lecrae) and hype anthems (“Try Me” and “Trap Money”). Most artists are done long before 6 albums, but Flame has us ready for more.


6. Rising Star: Dream Soda by Jerrell Johnson


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Whether talking about his prodigious rap skills or his exceptionally consistent work on mixtapes, it is no stretch to consider Jerrell Johnson a rising star in this genre. Dream Soda is a great combination of life and artistry that made me appreciate Johnson’s talent. In the same vein as Swoope’s Wake Up, Johnson pushes the necessity of being real. Especially on the track “Help Us”. I eagerly anticipate the next Jerrell Johnson project.


5. Smooth Sound: Blood Rushing To My Head by Eshon Burgundy


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I’m very partial to Eshon because I have been a long-time fan patiently waiting for this debut album to come out! The wait was not in vain. What Burgundy accomplishes on this album is a lyrical smoothness that is near unprecedented in his genre (see “I Don’t Want You” and “DBA” for the proof). He is super smooth on the mic, combining grit and easy delivery in a way that is clearly a God-given gift. With this debut, Eshon has satisfied old fans and made new ones as well.


4. New Artist: Abandoned Hope by Reconcile


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Typically, the southern flair is not my style, but Reconcile spits with such a passion for truth that he makes it impossible to ignore him. With a few pulsating tracks like “Never Would Have Made It” and “Teenage Mother”, Reconcile proves why he’ll fit in perfectly as one of the new artists on Thisl’s Full Ride Music Group.


3. Lyrical Prowess: The Last Missionary by Stephen the Levite


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The Levite has always been one of my favorite artists to listen to. I enjoy hearing him experiment with new ways to spit truth. There is plenty of that to be had in The Last Missionary. The opening track “The First Missionary” is a dizzying display of lyrical mastery that sets the tone. “Reign and Rebellion” has some of the most creative internal rhyme schemes I’ve ever heard in hip hop. And “Beauty & The Beast” is a clever metaphorical flip of a classic story. Stephen the Levite should be held in high regard for always pushing the lyrical envelope.


2. Authenticity: Thr3e by Theory Hazit


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Prior to this album, I had only been moderately familiar with Theory Hazit. Now I can confidently say I am a fan. Not only can we use the cliché moniker “real hip hop” to describe it, we can also appreciate his authenticity. ”Find Me” featuring B. Reith is a brilliant example (and for my money, one of the best songs of the year). “I Need You More Than Ever”, tackling the fatherlessness “elephant in the room”, is another highlight. This type of honesty is a gift to the listener.


1. Creativity/Song Structure: Circa MMXI: The Collective by High Society


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It’s hard to imagine that we could ever forget about this album, but it was the first project released this year (midnight on New Years). Sadly, we tend to have short memories. What cannot be so easily forgotten is the mix of lyrical and musical artistry that was put on display by the Hi Soc crew. The most impressive part was the limitless creativity. There were no rules in how long a song was (in the case of “Winner’s Circle”), how many beat/tempo switches were included (“Devil” being a prime example) or how controversial the content became (see “Mad About”). Even if this album doesn’t make the top 5 list, we can’t deny that High Society has raised the creative musical bar.

I already hear you screaming “You forgot about ….!” Well, what are your “under the radar” albums so far this year? Let us know!




LISTENING SESSION


MC JIN XIV:LIX - Buy on iTunes

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