Saturday, June 27, 2015

10 Christian Hip Hop Albums You Should Own

This isn't a top ten. These are not necessarily the 10 best albums in Christian hop hop. This list doesn't even include albums from the top ten artists. Some of my favorite artists don't have albums on this list. (Though some of them make guest appearances.) But if you want to get acquainted with the genre I think this list is a great jumping off point. The list is arranged alphabetically by title.

Christology: In Layman's Terms

The debut solo album from one of the leaders of Cross Movement. No one does a better job than Ambassador of explicitly bringing the gospel with each and every line while never sacrificing the quality of his music. He somehow manages to preach without sounding preachy.

Gang Affiliated
Gospel Gangstaz

At a time when there wasn't a much quality in Christian hip hop, this collection of former Bloods and Crips took the genre to a whole different level. This was probably the first Christian album that could hold its own in mainstream circles.

Grammatical Revolution

These former DC Talk dancers released their first album at roughly the same time as the Gospel Gangstaz and they brought a similar level of quality, albeit with quite a different style. Rather than the West Coast gangsta style, they followed in the footsteps of Outkast, bringing a smooth southern style to the Christian hip hop genre. You can't go wrong with any of their albums, but I went with their third album, Grammatical Revolution, because I felt it was the most interesting, musically.

Hawthorne's Most Wanted

Clearly one of the most gifted emcees in Christian hip hop, RedCloud brings a unique style to the genre. Once again, you can't go wrong with any of his albums, but Hawthorne's Most Wanted seems to be his most polished offering.

The Remnant

This is the newest album and least known group on this list. They're also, in my humble opinion, the most gifted emcees here.

Phase III

If you really want to know about Christian hip hop and where it's come from, you should listen to this album. SFC were best of the pre-Gospel Gangstaz era. Not only that, but they provided a link to the new era of Christian hop hop with DJ Dove as the DJ for both groups. The Gospel Gangstaz actually make an appearance on this album as well.

Pro Pain
Mars Ill

Leading members of Deep Space 5, Manchild and DJ Dust have delivered a number of top notch albums. After hearing one, you're going to want to hear all of them. And while this isn't their first album, it's a great place to start.

Stereo: The Evolution of Hiprocksoul
4th Avenue Jones

As the subtitle of suggests, this is definitely the most experimental album on this list. Not just rappers, 4th Avenue Jones is a full band, complete with guitars, bass, drums, and even a violin. Smooth vocals, interesting sounds, and flawless emceeing. You won't be disappointed by this album.

The Last Street Preacha

Like Grits, Tunnel Rats, and the Gospel Gangstaz, T-Bone has been around since at least the early 1990's helping to elevate the quality of the genre. The Last Street Preacha delivers a polished West Coast sound that you can't help but love.

The Tunnel Rats
The Tunnel Rats

Far from their first, I believe the self-titled album is the Tunnel Rats' best. A large crew including LPG, New Breed, Raphi, Dokument and more, the Tunnel Rats are hip hop veterans who definitely don't sacrifice quality in their craft.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Labyrinth on Crack

Holly Black

Language, Violence
Tithe was the first book by Holly Black that I ever read. She hooked me early. She just has a knack for creating characters and settings that are gritty and real. And so, several years after reading it for the first time, I decided to pick up Tithe again. That's kind of a big deal for me. I simply don't re-read books. But this one is worth it. As are the two companion novels, Valiant and Ironside, the Curse Workers trilogy, and anything else Holly Black has ever written.

As the subtitle suggests, Tithe is "a modern fairy tale". Set in a coastal New Jersey town, the story follows Kaye Fierch, a teenager who lives a transient life with her mother, a talented but largely unsuccessful singer. When her mother's boyfriend suddenly turns violent, Kaye and her mother must move back to New Jersey to live with Kaye's grandmother.

Kaye's childhood is abnormal, to say the least. But she has secrets far stranger than being the teenage dropout daughter of a wanna be chick rock star. Kaye sees things. Strange things. And while many children have invisible friends only they can see, Kaye's friends aren't imaginary. You could see them too, if they wanted you to. They don't generally want to be seen, at least not as they really are. So Kaye is a bit of an anomaly. And not just because she can see things others can't. She can also do things others can't. Or at least strange things happen around her.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Angelfall Soundtrack

I finally compiled another book soundtrack. This one if for Angelfall by Susan Eee

Monday, October 29, 2012

Armageddon has never been so entertaining!

Susan Ee

Violence, Frightening Content

The world may be ending, but thank God this story isn't! Susan Ee's debut young adult novel, Angelfall, sets the stage for a new series which adds an interesting twist to the post-apocalyptic genre. Angels have descended to Earth with the apparent intention of destroying humanity. They've certainly succeeded in wiping out most vestiges of human civilization.

The story follows Penryn Young, who has been thrust into the role of protecting her wheelchair-bound younger sister, Paige, and their schizophrenic mother. She has to move them from abandoned building to abandoned building, staying one step ahead of the street gangs in Silicon Valley, while also keeping them safe from whatever makes the gangs stay inside at night.

One day, while moving from one hopefully safe house to another, they stumble upon a group of angels attacking one of their own, cutting off his wings. In an attempt to create a diversion, Penryn enters the fray, tossing the wingless warrior his sword. He is able to fight off his attackers, but one of them kidnaps Penryn's sister as he flies away.

Penryn nurses the angel back to health so that she can use him to find her sister. The rest of the story follows the two as they make their way to the angels base in San Francisco. Along the way they encounter street gangs, armed human resistance fighters, and something more frightening than warriors of either species.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Veronica Roth's Faction = ENGROSSING

Veronica Roth
Audio Excerpt


I hate to admit it, but I was way behind the curve on this one! Divergent has been out well over a year. The sequel (Insurgent, which I have yet to get my hands on) has been out for months. And I just got around to reading it? And I'm all about the dystopian novels! I loved The Hunger Games (I also just last week watched that movie for the first time!) Legend, by Marie Lu, was a good read. Going all the way back to Brave New World and 1984, I just love dystopian stories! So it's a little difficult for me to admit that it's taken me this long to wade into the dried up marshland of Lake Michigan in Veronica Roth's futuristic Chicago. But I stepped in, I realized that Roth's landscape was more like quicksand, pulling me deeper and deeper into her imagination.

Like most dystopian stories, the world has suffered from some devastating event or string of events and the survivors have devised a plan to restructure society in an attempt to avoid the sort of wars and violence that brought them to the brink of destruction. In Divergent, Beatrice Prior has grown up in a society that has ordered itself according to five certain virtues, with each virtue being represented by a faction of people: Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peace), Erudite (intellectual curiosity), and Candor (truth). It's somewhat reminiscent of The Giver by Lois Lowry, with children being sorted into the different factions which will come to dominate their lives, especially should they join factions other than those of their families. "Faction before blood" after all! Of course which faction a person joins is completely voluntary, but even after that choice is made, the person must complete their faction's initiation and be installed as members. Otherwise, they will be doomed to live on the streets among the other factionless, only surviving because of the kindness of the Abnegation.

Monday, August 20, 2012

172 Years Reading This Book

 Language, Frightening Situations

I heard a representative of the publisher of 172 Hours on the Moon tell about how terrifying it is. After reading the book, I now understand that she was terrified because it is her responsibility to promote it. Johan Harstad's book centers around three teenagers who are chosen via worldwide lottery to take part in NASA's first trip back to the moon in 40 years. Mia, from Norway, only agrees to go because she wants to create publicity for her band. Midori plans to use the mission as her chance to leave Japan for good and settle in the U.S. Antoine just wants to put as much distance as possible between he and his ex-girlfriend.

In the chapters before the launch, Harstad gives indications that the mission won't go as smoothly as planned. Something spooky happened on the last mission, scary enough to keep NASA away from the moon for a few decades. Unfortunately, the book does not follow through on the promised suspense. First of all, this is supposed to be a book about scary stuff happening on the moon, but the characters don't even leave earth until half way through the book. Harstad used too many pages trying to set the scene and build up the characters and he wasn't even successful doing that. None of the teens are particularly sympathetic and the adults are completely unrealistic.

Flat characters would be fine if the suspense and action were able to carry the day. But that just didn't happen in this case. Even after they reached the moon and some freaky stuff started happening, there was just too little action. The events that did occur were generally unrealistic or insufficiently depicted. Overall, 172 Hours on the Moon is just a poorly written book. It seemed to me more like 172 Years Reading This Book. If it weren't for the fact that I was planning to review this book for the blog, I would have stopped long before the liftoff!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crossbow toting assassin nuns? Yes please!

 Violence, Adult Situations

I was pleasantly surprised by Grave Mercy. And considering the fact that I had been eagerly anticipating this book for months, that's no easy feat! I fully expected it to be an entertaining story, it just wasn't exactly the story I was expecting. Set in medieval  Brittany - which is now part of France, but was then a duchy fighting to maintain its independence - Grave Mercy is the first installment of Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin series. Told in first person, the book centers around Ismae, who flees a brutal arranged marriage and is raised in a convent. But she didn't get your usual Catholic school education. The nuns at the convent of St. Mortain didn't whack people on the knuckles with rulers. Think battle axes instead!

Actually they'd lean toward subtler weapons: knives, daggers, garottes, crossbows, poisons. The convent of St. Mortain raised assassins. Not your typical convent, but then Mortain wasn't your typical Catholic saint. He was the Breton god of death, dressed up in Catholic robes to appease the Church, which didn't look too kindly on local pagan deities. Ismae was marked from birth as belonging to Mortain and the convent trained her to do his will.

Crossbow toting assassin nuns? Yes please!

You can see why I would be so excited to read this book. I was all geared up for an 549 pages of bloody action! Maybe the page count should have tipped me off that I'd be in for something a little different. What starts out as a medieval version of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series - minus the boy troubles and with far less comedy - quickly turns into a story of aristocratic intrigue and court politics as Ismae leaves the convent in order to protect the adolescent duchess of Brittany from scheming advisers and backstabbing barons. I've got no problem with that! I happen to love history and politics. I found it very interesting learning about medieval Brittany and its struggle to maintain independence from France, especially since LaFevers faithfully carried over most of the people and events from the documented annuls of history. (Read the author's note for more on the subject of historical accuracy.)