Rather than repeat my views on Gospel rap here, I recommend you first peep the review on Cross Movement's "Higher Definition" before you continue as Flame hails from the same music labels and goes through the same successes and problems as Cross Movement does. The biggest distinction is that Flame delves even deeper into spiritual music than Cross Movement, alienating the general Hip-Hop audience even more with his opinions on God and morals.
Flame is pretty dope emcee on his own with an energetic flow that helps him put his point across track after track. On the intro he spits "I ain't trying to get rich off, I went through secular rap, I spit Jesus for the fact that he's better than that" and that statement embodies the spirit of the whole album. Usually spiritual rap isn't a choice as spiritual rappers tend to lack the skills to be accepted elsewhere, but Flame has the voice and skill to make it as rapper - period. He even flips religious concepts in a way that may outshine his Cross Movement record mates. "Like Christ" is much like Nas' "I Can" taken to the extreme, but the surprising fact is that its catchy as hell (No hidden meaning intended). It has a fast paced bouncy beat and a hook that features kids proclaiming "I Wanna Be Like Christ." This track could literally be a radio single if not for its topic matter. "L.A.D.I.E.S." is another dope track that points out the fact that Jesus was respecting the ladies back in his day when it was taboo to do so, yet many men today still have a problem treating them as equals. It's another dope track that might have made it to the radio were it not for its strong Christian theme. "Videos" criticizes the deceiving images found in modern Hip-Hop videos and points out the real issues faced by people everyday but seemingly ignored in mainstream music.
The only wack raps on the CD come from the guests on "From the Mid to the East Cypha," emcees who seemingly made the cut only because of the "Showtime at the Apollo" effect. The beats are bumping throughout, as varied and solid as on any good Hip-Hop CD. The only and main complaint is the focus on Christianity and more so on Jesus.
On "Intro (Everybody's Screamin' Jesus)" it seems Flame is calling out Kanye and criticizing his hit "Jesus Walks." In a Hip-Hop world where artists can be sensitive and beef can be started through misunderstanding one might dismiss the criticism, but later on the album Flame literally calls out Kanye's name. This is perplexing because a hit such as "Jesus Walks" could do a lot to help Flame and his label mates as it at least put a somewhat Christian theme on mainstream radio. Instead Flame sees the popularity of the single as somehow belittling Jesus and making him nothing more than a fad. While some may be acting hypocritically when they chant "Jesus Walks," one can only assume Kanye was dead serious about his faith when he made the track. Even more perplexing is the fact Flame would even think about calling out Kanye. Being familiar with Christianity myself, I thought judging others was supposed to be left to the man himself. If not hypocritical, Flames comments are at least misdirected, unnecessary, and confusing.
Kanye aside, Flame's strong religious convictions shine through on "True God," "Righteous," and "Real One." Its great theme music for you if you are deep into Christian faith and believe in living an impeccable moral life, but it will not convert anybody. Flame would be much more effective as an emcee if he focused on life in general and not preaching. As it stands, "where there's smoke…there's fire" is a good album but recommended only if your beliefs align with Flame's or if you can appreciate good music despite being condemned for your religious beliefs. This is as shame as the album contains plenty of good music, concepts, and punch lines worth peeping by any Hip-Hop fan.
Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 28, 2004