The first person thanked in almost every hip hop album ever released is God. Considering they make such profane music, rappers are a religious bunch. They are also a very contradictory bunch, and don't seem to see the disconnect between calling yourself a Christian (or Muslim, for that matter) and glorifying a life of crime, being totally materialistic, and being disrespectful to pretty much every female who isn't a blood relative. It's not uncommon for an MC to go on about dealing yay or capping rivals in one verse and talk about their love of God in the next. Enter Paradox, a Brooklyn rapper who is trying to walk the walk, and create a more positive, more Christian alternative to mainstream hip hop.
Positive is the perfect word to describe Paradox and his music. He opens the album with an upbeat ode to his neighborhood, "Brooklyn." He celebrates love on "Everything Girl" and his religion on "That's A Lot". He avoids scolding or being overly negative. "A bad attitude is bad for your health," he declares on "Let It Burn." On "Role Model" he rhymes:
"Rappers' all about the hustle
What about the art?
They want to touch your pockets
I want to touch your heart"
He handles production on several tracks, with Rock , DJX-Ray and Tony "Keynote" Sebro contributing to the rest of the album. The production favors pianos and strings, and tries to be as positive and uplifting as the lyrics. The most successful is the upbeat neo-soul of "We Gonna Make It," which outlines Paradox adventures being a performer.
As much as I appreciate Paradox's intentions, and as much as I want to like this album, it is hampered by one major fault: he can't rap. His rhymes are clumsy, stilted and awkward, full of too many syllables and unfortunate word choices. His flow has a rudimentary cadence that went out with BKs and dookie chains. He is clearly more interested in getting his message out than in being deadly on the mic, and his music suffers because of it.
Paradox is full of good intentions, but not nearly as full of skills as an MC. I appreciate his attempt at creating positive hip hop, but he needs to step his game up. As it stands, "Role Model" isn't a compelling alternative to mainstream rap, and will only appeal to those who are willing to put the message before the music.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10
Originally posted: November 13, 2007