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Maybe you are a mid-thirties hip hop guru and no one can tell you diddly about the history of the culture. Sure, you might miss a few of the forefathers, but at least you can name Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. Maybe you know a little bit about Jesus, too, and are able to spell out the Beatitudes like alphabet soup.
Fans of Andy Mineo know that he is a different kind of rapper, one who embraces not only hip hop, but rock and R&B, too. Many times, artists attempting to cover so many genres become no more than cheesy imitations. But when considering Andy Mineo, thoughts are conjured of a young hip hop group from Brooklyn rapping about Paul Revere - he has paid his dues. Staying true and respectful to artform is no easy task - Andy is, after all, “Young” (only twenty-five at the time of the album’s release). But on his first official retail album, the self-proclaimed nerd-in-glasses rises to the occasion like Wichita State in the Final Four.
Heroes For Sale is an album that does not come without a great deal of anticipation. It has been almost two years since the release of his free album, ‘Formerly Known,’ with only minimal releases following it from Andy such as his Saturday Morning Car-Tunez series. The album takes off with “Superhuman” produced by Joseph Prielozny and Dirty Rice, a production team most recently known for their banger “All In” on the W.L.A.K. project. The hymn “Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy” sets the stage for an extremely personable album, blended seamlessly with a distorted guitar that lends to the idea of evangelism even in the darkest of places.
“Even though my pride’s tellin me don’t ever let the fans know / I am not a Superhuman, no, I’m a man” – “Superhuman”
Similar transparency is portrayed throughout the album on songs like “Bitter” as well as “Shallow” (featuring Swoope). The former, originally released as under Andy’s previous alias C-Lite, takes a look at his relationship with his father. After dedicating a good thirty seconds to a voice mail from the estranged family member, Andy provides wisdom like “If Jesus forgave me and washed away my sins when I didn’t deserve it then I can forgive him.” The listener may not have experienced an absent father, but this short snippet immediately stirs up the “Love/Hate” emotion. Forgiveness is at the song’s core, intertwined with the desperate attempt to find it in one’s heart after being so badly hurt.
Andy steps into the realm of heavy metal for “Wild Things” and with the shift in genre comes a dissertation on a subject rarely mentioned in Christian hip hop. “Porn stars, dope dealers they like ‘Why you chill with them?’” Andy spits. His retort to those who “want to be in earshot of the church bells” and “say the wild things will eat you up” is that he “walk[s] with the Paraclete.” The great secular/spiritual divide has received a lot of attention over the past year, but one subject typically left unspoken is the call for the spiritual maturity of Christians. The bible tells us to get off the milk and onto meat (Hebrews 5:14), and one is wise to understand, like Andy, that this is a slow and personal path.
“Uno Uno Seis” (featuring Lecrae) and “The Saints” (featuring KB and Trip Lee) are Christian anthems, speaking of the brotherhood of Christ. “Uno Uno Seis” is reminiscent of eighties New York “Wild Style” park parties – a feel-good track to tour with that expresses the diversity of the church. Andy comes with the slick flow “But you know we take it international/ We finna follow anywhere the Master go” and Lecrae absolutely kills it with bars like “Might catch a plane to rep for my King Puerto Rico’s on my checklist.”
Every hip hop album needs at least one song that plays straight New York, and Heroes For Sale boasts two. “AYO!” produced by J.R. is easily the album’s most radio-ready track. Andy raps “From this life to the one that’ll follow/Dudes gone vibrato at the bottom of the bottle/Til they got their face twisted up like Picasso/There’s another way to live!” By the end of the track the beat has morphed into a bass heavy intermission, sure to get hands up and side to side.
On “Cocky”, Andy enlists “DJs [to] treat [wack rappers] like Mr. Miyagi and turn their wax off.” The boom-bap track produced by Skrip has an echoing vocal sample and a monotonous, Terminator-style bass stab that indiscriminately leads to broken necks. A shocking title at its core, Andy dispels ideas that his confidence comes from something internal.
“Ya’ll know how to get it - encounters with the most high. You don’t need to blow lah, come and get to know Jah” – “Cocky”
The final trilogy of songs is an emotional roller coaster - chains pulling from the low-blows of hurtful words (“Still Bleeding”) and difficulties in surrendering one’s “final god” (“Tug of War”) to the insurmountable realization that one day Jesus will one day “wipe every tear from our eyes” (“Death Has Died”). On “Still Bleeding” we are given yet another snapshot of a relationship that wounded Andy deeply. Once again, it is unnecessary to know the circumstances behind Andy’s situation - the pain is felt, especially in the second verse where he digs deep with bars like “It isn’t really what you said its what you didn’t/ I left texts and voice mails you actin’ like you missed ‘em.” A chilling track over cinematic orchestration, Andy reminds us that one has the power to kill with the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) and that “Every memory’s a portal to the past pain/And most of the time its caused by somebody with your last name.”
On the Heat Academy produced “Tug of War,” Andy examines the faith-decision every Christian must make between sin and salvation. In his first person narrative, Andy finds redemption with lines like “You have to change me in my sin, I’ll never choose him / my heart needs to see something greater than what I’m pursuin’” and “Sometimes I believe the lie that God don’t provide for his child when they obey. That’s so Crae(zy).” Krizz Kaliko, a rapper in Tech N9ne's stable of artists, sings the haunting and sobering chorus "back and forth like a tug of war / cause I been fighting for control / fighting for my soul / this is war." The ministry from an artist to artist standpoint that may get overlooked, is that the Strange Music artist has made songs expressing a desire to want to believe and live for God and this could begin the pouring into what Tech & Krizz have longed for so many years.
To be honest, I was a little thrown off by the intimacy of Hereos for Sale - Formerly Known was nowhere near as dark and personal as this album. Andy’s transparency in his storytelling sometimes makes it feel as though we should be all be interceding for him. Married people especially might find this album a little unrelatable, but maybe the reason is that, like Paul, Andy expresses in his singleness, a message from God that is without worldly filter or social etiquette. If we are all honest, the sin struggle that all Christians carry can make us a little less-than-empathetic to others. If we are truthful, we realize we are no better than our brothers and sisters. We are all in need of grace.
What did the album lack? Although well produced, the production at times feels a bit forced or overproduced. And as with most albums, there are a couple of songs that could have been trimmed. Regardless, Heroes For Sale is one of, if not the best album released in 2013 so far.
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1. Superhuman - Prod. by Joseph Prielozny and Dirty Rice
2. Ex Nihilo ft. Christon Gray - Prod. by J.R. for So Hot Productions
3. AYO! - Prod. by J.R. for So Hot Productions
4. You Will - Prod. by Gawvi
5. The Saints ft. KB, Trip Lee - Prod. by GROC for Beat Mekanickz
6. Caught Dreaming ft. for KING & COUNTRY - Prod. by Jeremey S. H. Griffith, Andy Mineo and J.R. for So Hot Productions
7. Bitter - Prod. by Alex Medina and D-Flow (The Brassman)
8. Shallow ft. Swoope - Prod. by 808 & Elite (Additional Prod. by Joseph Prielozny and Andy Mineo)
9. Wild Things - Prod. by Tyshane, ThaInnaCircle & Joseph Prielozny
10. Take Me Alive - Prod. by Tyshane
11. Uno Uno Seis ft. Lecrae - Prod. by Alex Medina (Additional Prod. by Andy Mineo)
12. Cocky - Prod. by Skrip
13. Curious - Prod. by TheBridge and Heat Academy
14. Still Bleeding ft. Co Campbell - Prod. by Andy Mineo and Chris Morgan (Additional Prod. by Joseph Prielozny)
15. Tug Of War ft. Krizz Kaliko - Prod. by Heat Academy
16. Death Has Died - Prod. by J.R. for So Hot Productions