It must be hard to gain respect in the hip-hop world being a Christian rapper. While so many artists are conveying their reality with a language as vulgar as the content, Christian rappers attempt to show the bright side, usually with the absence of profane words. One of the most implicit aspects of being a respected MC is being the "hardest" or the "rawest" out there. Bobby Bishop has the task of telling people about the God he believes in without sounding too much like a church boy who read about hip-hop
"Government Name" gets going with the catchy gospel hook on "He Won't Leave You Alone." The funky beat transcends religion and makes your head nod, regardless of who you bow it to. Bobby comes in with a nasal flow that mirrors the voice and delivery of a young Eminem; however, his content quickly loosens the connection between the two. Although the song is clearly promoting the loyalty of Jesus, the message sort of sneaks up on you by way of the short stories he conveys it through. He benefits from a lack of preaching, until the end that is, when he can be caught saying "God is awesome."
"Amy's Song" is about a girl who was raped and how God's influence helps her recover. Bobby shows adeptness at storytelling as he raps through her eyes with conviction. The narration and melancholy guitar beat draw another striking resemblance to his polar opposite (Eminem) when he tells a story through the eyes of Stan.
Many times throughout the album, Bobby tries to sound a little too rough or a little too excited and it comes off sounding a little too odd for the soft-voiced rhymer. Even the most positive MC's (Gift of Gab, Common, Kweli) have a rougher, more aggressive side to them. It's that potential to be rugged that makes them standout as positive forces because it's clear that their bright outlook is a conscious choice. It's also in knowing that they're not perfect that humanizes them and makes them more relatable.
Bobby Bishop is from the Boston suburb of Lynn, Massachusetts and it shows in his rhymes. There's little to none aggression in this album and as a hip-hop fan for most of my life, I've noticed that aggressiveness (positive or negative) has always been a trademark to good music. That's not to say this isn't good music but something's up when his most harrowing personal experience can be found in this verse on "Back Up Off the Wall":
"I think I told her we were going to Carman
getting our praise on, hip-hopping for God
Yo, the crowd was intensive, so loud and so festive
DJ Lethal brought the needle, believe that he blessed it
The mosh pit started, awful hot and aggressive
I already said I was 100 pounds wet kid
Everlast & Danny Boy had the crowd jumping
Little Bobby was already taking a lumping
The shorty behind me was smoking on something
Her hand was on my shoulder, older and lovely
I was sweating, she was wearing just next to nothing
Nate had taken her friend, grinding and bumping
Slim Dog was stage diving, wylin' and bugging
Sipping a 40, puffing & blunted
My mother shouldn't have trusted a word that her son said
My odor was skunk yo I was totally busted
I didn't toke a thing, that was the thing
Revisiting the talk my youth pastor had bringed
What was it he said? Don't conform to the Earth
Be in it not of it, I wish that I heard
I suddenly yearned for my warm, cozy bed
18 years old, in way over my head"
Not being privy to Christian Rap, I'm definitely not familiar with its supporters. This might be what the fans seek and if it is, then more power to them. This is a good album to buy for your children if you're a parent distraught by the language and stories used in non-theological hip-hop. It has the innocence and message of an early Fresh Prince album, with a large chunk of God embodied in it. Bobby has talent as an MC; he owns a respectable flow, a keen lyrical ability, and the comprehension of how to put a good song together. The decision to cop this album would boil down to a simple preference of content rather than the talent of the artist.
I wanted to approach this album with unbiased ears. An artist's talent shouldn't be shackled by his beliefs. But the fact remains, if this were released by Def Jam and the word "God" didn't appear once, then the overall vibe of this album would still feel too delicate and toned down; and I don't think that religion should garner a loophole out of this shortcoming.
Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: June 14, 2005