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If you are currently a college student or have ever been one you are undoubtedly familiar with the concept of a cram session. They are typified by large amounts of caffeine, blood shot eyes, and high stress levels. For those unfamiliar with the idea a cram session is a group of students coming together to shove as much information into their head about the test they should have studied for a week ago. This is done with varying degrees of success. However, even if you’re a seasoned vet of last minute late night study groups nothing has prepared you for a cram session like this.
"Cram Session 5: 5 Loaves, 2 Fish" a double CD album boasting 24 songs (including no interludes) was written and recorded over the course of just three days. Twenty artists crammed into a small house in Boston with a wide assortment of beats and sought to make history: they did and it sounds good. This album is a must-listen simply on the strength of its production and ambition. Despite the vast number of songs the album does a good job of not settling for recycling sounds or concepts. 2 Fish (disc 1) is more mellow and reflective while 5 Loaves (disc 2) is jam packed with energy and neck-breaking beats. Amazingly Cram 5 finds a way to be fresh throughout while still retaining a cohesive sound.
If this album was just an instrumental CD it would still be a must-listen. The production is classic hip hop; the hypnotic sample loops and drum patterns will leave the b-boy/hip hop enthusiast in you exhilarated. The beats are complemented by fairly good lyricism from a slew of emcees ranging from underground cats like Dibri to female mc/singer Tia Steward. Also, this album is greatly contributed to by a variety of singers who all provide captivating performances.
Among the crowd of emcees a couple immediately stick out from the pack, the most notable is the New York native J.A.Z. After dropping his much slept-on album 'WALK' in 2009 he continues to show himself to be one of the most consistent and memorable artists in gospel rap. J.A.Z. brings his unique blend of energy and New York grit to each and every track he's on. Among his best lyrical contributions is his verse on the song "Gotta Be More" where he paints a vivid portrait of a young man who pursued the riches of the world only to find that it was nothing like he imagined it to be.
Another key contributor to the album is Dead Man Walking. His captivating gravely voice and compelling cadence helps the album out a lot. On "MLK" he teams up with Kirko to create a Hip Hop version of a national address. Over blaring horns they spit tough verses filled with edgy witticism; this is clearly one of the better tracks on the album. Dead Man Walking does an incredible job of conveying spiritual truth through memorable lines like: "You can sing a million songs and say a million prayers/ But without faith in the Word you’ll never move the Himalayas/"
Every artist featured on Cram V brings something unique and ear catching to the project. There are definitely no wasted verses or songs on this album. However, the plethora of emcees at times is more of a drawback than a benefit. Songs like "Get Busy" would have been greatly added to by having a couple artists subtracted from it. Another drawback is that it's really difficult to keep track of all the artists in the project. Many listeners will walk away from this project remembering the names of only a few standout artists while the rest become no more than pieces of a muddled memory. This album would have definitely been helped with a little more time for subtle tweaks. A few songs seem to be a solid verse short of greatness and at times the last line of a rhyme sloppily bleeds into the hook.
Despite these few minor flaws however the album is dope. The rappers do a great job playing off each other's energy. On "Come Back" featuring Dibri, NomiS, and Sonshine is a heartfelt plea for God to restore a passion for Him in the hearts of Christians. You can hear agony and desperation dripping of each of their voices as they cry out to God. Another example is "My Story" where each artist drops tight verses over a soul-drenched beat produced by HD. Spit Jones takes this opportunity to masterfully ride this up-tempo beat with a purposefully restrained laid back flow weaving in memorable lines like "the idle mind is the Devil's playground and I gave him a long recess." This all goes without mentioning "Whatcha Know" "Co-Pilot" "Take It to Heart" and "Break Me Down" which are all good tracks in their own right.
Perhaps no project is as easy to criticize as the double disc album. Its ambition and vastness makes it an easy target for ridicule. Even double disc from the best artists are bound to have dips in quality and forgettable stretches of music. In light of this, Alumni Antioch should be applauded even more for putting together 24 songs of good music and rich spiritual nutrition without any glaring missteps.
Cram V ends with the track "Fishes & Loaves" which recounts modern day tales of believers giving little to God and God doing much with what they submitted to Him. This album is a perfect illustration of that, as God takes a crew of rappers, a gang of dope producers, and in just a few days make a CD that will impact souls for years to come. Get ya '5 Loaves, 2 Fish' today and see what God does in your life through it. Make sure you bring baskets for leftovers.
Purchase part 1 on iTunes and part 2 on iTunes.
Release Date: June 15, 2010
1. Sev Statik, NomiS & Gideon Valor - blind facts
2. Ex-Cal, Mirko, Gideon Valor, & Finale - Spotlight
3. Bobby Bishop, Seth & NomiS - bobby
4. Dibri, NomiS & Sonshine - Come Back
5. Spit Jones, Gideon Valor, Sev Statik & Richie D - Co-pilot
6. Fire, Malcolm,Deadman Walking & Jazz - Going Thru
7. Dibri, Levere & Richie D - Fishes and Loaves
8. Sev Statik & Tia - Break Me Down
9. Jaz, Trinidad, Tia Stewart & Apple Jaxx - Get Busy
10. Deadman Walking, Dibri & NomiS - Got Me
11. Jaz, Ashley, Matt & Trini - Gotta B'More
12. Trini, Jaz & Deadman Walking - He Knew You
13. Fire, Trini & Mirko - Love Lost
14. Deadman Walking & Mirko - MLK
15. Finale, NomiS, Spit Jones & Richie D - My Story
16. Manny, Maverick, Sonshine & Jean - On My Way
17. Deadman Walking & Finale - Salute
18. Sev Statik, Jaz & Sonshine - Take it to Heart
19. Finale, Jean, Ex-Cal & Lavere - The Defense
20. Fire, Finale, Deadman Walking - The Time Is Now
21. Fiyah, Spit Jones, Mirko & Ashley - We Can Make It
22. Sev Statik, Ex-Cal & Mirko - Whatcha Know
23. Sev Statik, Tia & Apple Jaxx - You
24. Debri, Tia & Ex-Cal - Your World