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, the word Anthony Flagg Jr.'s stage name Fedel is derived from, means truth. The same could be said about Fedel himself. Fedel fell in love with rap and hip-hop in 1991, upon watching a Kriss Kross video. However, much like the rap duo's pants, secular rap music's message is backward; Fedel's parents didn't approve of the hedonistic lifestyles most hip-hop promotes. So, what does he do? Make hip-hop that sounds just as good, of course! And all the while, he effectively preaches God's Truth. The Great I AM is the center of attention in every song written by Fedel and his crew—and so it should be—but instead of bashing listeners over the head with the Word, Fedel presents its attainable nature and openly encourages society to turn to God, like Jesus did 2000 years ago.

Fedel doesn't think twice before kicking things off properly with an ingenious intro, breaking the theme song of the TV show Growing Pains into an appropriate hip-hop beat, with fresh turntable scratches provided by DJ Aslan and a bouncy opening rap. Growing Pains proceeds with the brash, unapologetic "The Truth," which utilizes a hard-hitting Southern-fried beat. "The Truth" gives way to the mixtape's only particularly lackluster tracks, with the monotonous, rap-driven hooks of "Gas" and "Gladiator" and the draggy pop of "Let 'Em Know." From there on out, however, there is little to complain of.

"Underground Cypha" and "I'm Changed," in particular, apply perfectly lightweight, bass-driven beats, while a line-up of guest rappers lend their talents for boisterous verses. Even better is the hilariously sarcastic "Sorry," in which Fedel refuses to apologize for "fulfilling the very reason I'm created," complete with a naïve tropical beat. "Good News" is another excellent collaboration complimented by blippy analog synths and sampled elements. Fedel handles the subject of street life in "Children of the Ghetto" and its prelude, "Black Empathy." Social commentary continues in "Lil' Homie," in which Fedel employs the talents of Sean Slaughter and up-and-comer Promise, who communicates with a teenager misled by secular rap's message by spitting: "I love hip-hop, but it's not what keeps me goin' / When it stop, what keeps me goin' is His love, it's what keeps me flowin' / I spit hot and that keeps me closer to the top." Likewise, "Swang" executes a heavy party groove which contrasts with its poignant message. The primarily underground "The Answer" expresses both anxiety and a desperate need for God, with a tension-building guitar loop to further the effect. Party-friendly beats are the rule, alternating between underground, pop-rap, East Coast and Southern hip-hop. Production is generally first-rate, while lyrics cleverly highlight dependence on God and preaching the Gospel.

Growing Pains takes a more serious turn with the sonically sparse "Save Me" (featuring Dae Lee), which indicts the pain involved in divorce and loss of a loved one. "Lady" is a summery, God-driven ode to various rappers' wives, with shimmering metaphors of their love ("Truth be told, the ground is never looking for the sky / But you can clearly see when it collides / So this is why the first time that I met my wife / She wasn't looking for a guy and I wasn't looking for her / But the ground meets the sky / 'Cause if the sky don't provide its shine, the ground dies / Or even better, without the sky's weather the ground cannot grow / And this is why she's so special / She helps me grow, and so I stand tall / Become the foundation, so my sky won't have to fall / This ain't handmade or man-made / This is God with the canvass paintin' up a landscape.") In a genre polluted with misogynistic messages, such dedication to a female companion in a hip-hop track is a breath of fresh air.

That basically sums up Growing Pains as well, a breath of fresh air. Fedel is an excellent hip-hop talent who shines without being bogged down by the "growing pains" the title suggests. "Outro" leaves us with the words, "Know that love is the only true wealth, and you're important, so take care of yourself … Just remember, keep Jesus first in your life." Highly recommended.

 

Release Date: 23 November 2006

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