Album Review: Sho Baraka’s Talented 10th

sho-baraka-talented-xth-1500I’ve always been a little apprehensive of “Christian rap”. Attending church, I made a decision to throw out all of my secular CDs with the aim of clearing my mind of anything ungodly. To my disappointment, the Christian alternatives didn’t quite live up to my expectations. As somebody who cannot go a day without hearing good music, I found my way back to the secular music and never looked back. So I handled this album with great a sense of caution.

Canadian rapper Sho Baraka’s album Talented 10th (which dropped January 15th) made its way to my inbox twice. Sho Baraka is not new to the scene.  His debut album, Turn My Life Up, managed to reach into the US Billboard Gospel charts’ top 50. Then, in March 2010, his sophomore album Lions And Liars not only managed to break its way back into the charts again, this time at #3, it also charted in the US Billboard rap charts at #15.

The theatrics of Talented 10th kick off immediately just by looking at the tracklist, with each of the 14 tracks being listed as “chapters”. The album was apparently inspired by W.E.B Du Bois’s essay “The Talented Tenth,” a clear indication that Sho Baraka in no way intends to shy away from his religious beliefs, but rather audaciously stands side by side with his faith. “Bathsheda” is the intro of the album and sets the tone rather well of what to expect. “Michael,” a cool, fusion of rap and soul, tells a story of a young man growing up in the world and tragically losing his life.  “Get Happy” is a cool, Pentecostal-vibed ditty exploding with organs, tambourines and vibrant choir vocals, leading rather perfectly into the next track, “Mahalia.” In “Mrs.” (featuring JR), the album moves away from the church organs. “Mrs.” is packed full of drums and synths with a nice upbeat tempo. “Ali,” featuring Ali, is one of the standout tracks of the project, as well as the following single “Denzel,” a type of grown and sexy ode to classiness. Chantae’s sultry vocals weaved through are like honeycomb to the ears.  Sho Baraka then breaks us off with some spoken word on the song “Madoff” before launching into another standout single, “Jim Crow,” which has the interweb alight recently. The single is a social commentary through the medium of hip-hop where he ponders everything from civil rights, slavery and the powers that be. And in the track, Sho Baraka even uses the word “N*gga”.

“Well I’ll be stuck here on n*gga island/ Where n*ggas be wilin’/ And color is violence/ Moment of silence…”.

In the context in which the word is used, its use was necessary to drum in a very powerful message.  “Peter Pan” is a very relatable story to many. It paints a vivid picture of a young boy growing up and idolising his favourite rappers and the influence they had on him. But we can’t be young forever. The young man eventually grew up and found God, and his idols are still on screen years later talking the same talk, never growing up.  On “Cliff and Claire”, Sho tackles the subject of marriage in a multi-dimensional and quite intriguing way. “ME!” is the track every artist is going to make sometime during their career, allowing us a look deep into the looking glass as he bares his soul.  “KING” follows and the album wraps up with “Nicodemus”. Sho Baraka gives this track all to God. Unashamedly and thoroughly, he is a Man Of God.

Talented 10th was definitely an eye opener for me personally. Sho Baraka is a Christian rapper who makes dope hip-hop music. As a Christian rapper, it’s refreshing to hear an artist be both lyrical and relatable, and this is what makes Talented 10th such a great album. Sho is extremely gifted with the art of storytelling without coming across as being. He also demonstrates a very keen ear for production, and there is great chemistry between Sho and each feature on the album. Talented 10th is not exclusively for Christians. His ability to translate modern history and current social issues alongside his love of God as well as what he stands for as a man is impeccably done.

“I’m usually in a creative place because of the type of individual I am. The tension is being able to balance my anxiety of working with others, who are also creative, while we work towards a common goal. Once the musical direction of the album is set, the lyrics come pretty easy because they come from the outpouring of my heart. It’s me and not something I have to fabricate.” – Sho Baraka

Purchase Talented 10th on iTunes.

–Ayara Pommells

Ayara Pommells is Owner of UK website Rawroots.com and a music writer for Soultrain.com, stupidDOPE.com &Badperm.com . Ayara also handles PR for several artists and is the Co- Founder of the #Lipgloss&Sneakers – Women In Hip Hop Movement. Follow @iAmaButtafly.

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