Hailing from the ranks of Reach Records comes the debut disk of Holy Hip Hop head Sho Baraka. This Canadian born, Cali raised, ex-gansta rapper hits the scene thumping with “Turn Up My Life”. Now, you may have heard Sho throwing lyrics on songs with heads from the 116 Clique like Lecrae, Tedashii, Trip-Lee, but only now it seems his life has allowed him the occasion to bless us with a full length.
Getting right to business, the first song on the disk is self titled “Turn My Life Up” and well placed as the hard hitting, horn based stab beat pulls you into the energy of Sho’s testimony and proclamation. “I try to speak more on my feet, less through my teeth/ I try to be full of the spirit, less of me/ I try to be more of man, less of a G/ How many saints wasted they life provin they street?” Immediately you get the thought that Sho is a sincere heart and someone who has seen both paths in life. I have a lot of respect for that. I have even more respect for someone who can explicate that idea in song without coming off boring or self-righteous. This track does just that and is one of the dopest tracks on the disk.
Speaking on the technical tip, much of the beat selection on this album is MPC focused, and you can clearly tell its production is sample based and built the repetitive MPC punch, which is fine. But, as much as I’m cool with the MPC, I think the album is reliant a little too much on it. Also, a little more DJ on the CD can never hurt a Hip Hop artist (though there are a few dope cuts, especially on “100”). On the engineering, I immediately noticed a little bit of poor mixing on a few songs, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. Never fear though, the poorly mixed tracks weren’t the bangers and Sho definitely comes through with a dope disk overall.
The next track that really grabbed my attention was track 8 “Great Day II Die” featuring Dillon Chase. An eerie, slow, Midwest style 808 beat shakes you out of your seat as Sho brings something creative and original. Here Sho proves that he doesn’t rely on Hip Hop trends or melodies to gain popularity; this track is pure. Some reggae sounds and minor notes really make an awesome blend, gluing together a spooky anthem about death to the flesh and life in Christ. I really dug this track. “This is not my home, I just need to remember/ I got a home in the heavens miles higher than Denver/ While the church strives to make Forb’s top 50/ The world’s on a thin wire like ‘be more city’.”
Delivery-wise, I have to say Sho Baraka comes through more like Sho Bazooka. Smooth flow, good vocal control, lyricism, rhyme, creativity, wordplay, and versatility all nest in this disk. And there is no leaning toward one end or the other. I wouldn’t say Sho is more wordplay than rhyme or rhythm. He really has a refined and well rounded style. He never misses a hit; there are no gauche pauses or doubling up on the words to make a line fit. Another thing to note is that the disk has a wide array of BPMs and musical styles, so Sho proves his veteran technique can surround all sorts of Hip Hop subgenres. One track that really exemplifies Sho Barakas lyrical flexibility is “Slow it Down” featuring Trip Lee which is ironically fast; at least 100 BPM.
Other tracks that really got my attention included “Oh my Lord” featuring Mitchell Moore and Rick Trotter. It almost sounds like Sho is rocking a track with his whole church choir in the background chanting, “Oh my Lord, Lord, Lord.” And no cheese here, the beat and lyrics are off the chain; riddled with intensity. As I mentioned earlier, “100” is a very hot track, although it has a little bit of that mixing problem I mentioned earlier as well (beat too low). But, check out these lines, “…I serve a God who died harder that Bruce Willis” and “I got to be like Jacob, more God and less hip” (Note: if you don’t get this word play, get off the internet and go read your Bible). You really can’t beat that!
Overall I have to cast my lot for this disk. I had a few grievances, but through and through Sho Baraka puts his mark on the music scene with a hard hitting, non-compromising, non-cheesy, debut CD. The content keeps you thinking and the beats keep you bobbing. Respect to Reach Records for putting this out.
Release Date: 2007
Record Label: Reach Records
1. Turn My Life Up
2. Interlude: The Calling
3. Music of Life
5. Rebuild The City ft Cam
6. Maranatha ft Tedashii & Json
7. Saint ft Cam & Dillon Chase
8. Great Day II Die ft Dillavou
9. Catch Me at the Brook ft Lecrae
10. Higher Love
11. Slow it Down (simplify your life) ft Trip Lee
12. Oh My Lord ft Mitchell Moore & Rick Trotter
13. Love of My Life
15. GOD is Like/Who is Like GOD ft Amen, Cheeks, James Roberson, Joe Surkamer, and Dhati Lewis
16. Rescue Me/You are My Everything ft Keynon Akers