The Caravan – The Caravan album review

“It is not the aim of this record to hypnotize you,” are the opening lines of The Caravan’s latest album. Yet the acoustic sounds of their self-titled track list pull you into Kyle McKenna’s world and show you artistry and political passion from his point of view.

This album explains how much the Caravan’s have a passion for artistry with a blend of pop and old school 90’s hip hop. The Caravan are riding music, made with intentions to provoke emotion and promote awareness to life in Canada. Songs like “The Groove” blend a smooth, old school vibe into a pop record that is nice to dance to. Other like “Flex the Flow” offer clever wordplay and smooth flows to show off the band’s lyrical skills.

In Their broad arrangement of songs lies many messages.

One, the Caravan are serious about music.“First Thing I Do Every Morning” talks about how dedicated McKeena is to rap and his skills. He explains that he wants to be a different type of rapper; defeating stereotypes, unleashing the truth and and making people really feel his music on a motivational level.

Two, The Caravan are serious about their political rights. “What up Steve?” is the most controversial songs on the album, picked up my Huffington Post Canada March 5. The song depicts sharp opinions about the Canadian prime minster, Stephen Harper. The lyrics lash out at Harper for alleged dishonesty, oppression, and the controversial Beyond the Boarder Pact. The song continues to attacks his country’s leaders for greed and power instead of for not thinking about it’s citizens.

Three, The Caravan use their music to uplift the people. In “Words That Makes You Feel Good,” the Caravan talks to their fans. Inspired by Blackalicious’s “Make You Feel That Way,” McKenna talks about how he writes for the heart for people to relate to and find comfort in. You can gauge the groups musical progression as they get more confident and secure in their sound and message every day. The verses explain how the group started rapping and grew to take it seriously. By the end of the song it becomes clear why their audience is growing.

Another song that is fan relatable is “Ghost in Your Heart.” The short one verse track depicts growing up under rough circumstances and struggling to find direction. The “ghost in your heart” seems to represent an inner pain or trouble that grow every day. The song advocates examining this ‘ghost’ and finding yourself in the process.

Rapper Kyle McKenna, guitar and keys player Mike Ritchie and drummer Mark Bachynski all have an exceptional career in front of them if they keep making music that passionately speaks out from the heart. This album is utterly amazing, invoking all kinds of emotions from me as I still revel over the clever way that it was done.

Find more information about the group, including tour dates and album details, on their website.

Reality – Life Music album review

Full disclosure: this is a review of a Christian Rap album. I’m not saying that because I’m discouraging anyone, believer or not, from listening to it. However, I think it’s important to bear in mind that blending an openly religious message with secular musical genres can often produce confusing results. That, in a nutshell, is the problem with Reality’s Life Music, and maybe contemporary Christian music (CCM) in general. Christian rap artists have a lot more barriers to overcome than other contemporary Christian musicians. Finding a lyrical message that keeps it real and also keeps it righteous is rarely achieved, and probably why Christian rappers don’t enjoy a lot of mainstream success even by CCM standards. So, by peppering in religious overtones throughout an album comprised mostly of rhymes about a violent criminal lifestyle, Reality really isn’t striking much of a balance.

Reality relates to the listener a number of tales of a rough life in the streets and of his inner struggle. Unfortunately, none of his verses are very self-revealing. For the most part he just uses generalities to describe his struggle and paint in broad strokes a picture of hardship that he rose above through the power of Jesus. Even the title of the album promises a vital look into a life transformed by faith, but Reality doesn’t even make it clear how or when exactly he decided to devote himself to Christian faith. Combine that with weak storytelling, it becomes hard to truly grasp the transformation that Reality obviously wants to convey. Now, I’m not trying to discredit a man’s testimony, but when it’s hard to tell the difference between a rapper who’s lamenting a life of violence and a rapper who’s glorifying that life, I have to take issue with that. Often Reality’s message of positivity only appears on the latter verses of his songs, and by that time, I’m afraid that many listeners will have already written off the content as boilerplate gangsta rap. However, Reality does seem most genuine when he is focusing on his inner turmoil and his grappling with God, particularly on “To The Generation” which was easily my favorite song on the album.

Would I listen to this album if I even if I were a non-believer? Maybe. Reality’s strong voice and solid delivery are enough to keep listeners interested for at least a skim of a few tracks. However, I just don’t think that Reality’s message is going to hit home with Christians, because it just doesn’t deliver honest, impactful testimony. So, if this album is going to seem lukewarm to non-believers, and inauthentic to believers, then who is this album for? That question, in my opinion, sums up the awkwardness of contemporary Christian music, and in particular the confusing blend of ‘holy’ and ‘hip hop’ found in Life Music.

The Problem with Leakage

It seems like no one really has to wait until official release dates anymore to get a listen to new albums. The rule of thumb is: the more popular the artist, the earlier his or her tracks leak, and the faster they spread. Just ask Ciara. While her latest album can’t exactly be considered a flop, it’s definitely no fantasy ride, as pretty much the entire project leaked to the internet weeks and weeks before it was due to be released. You just can’t hit them listeners like you used to – and when it comes to responsibility, again, larger projects means more people being involved and more people being involved means a higher chance of someone letting something slip.

Then again, leaking one track early has the potential to make your entire album – if it’s good enough. Usher’s “Yeah!” (how could we forget?) lit everything on fire when Lil’ Jon, its producer, deliberately let it loose while Usher was prepping “Burn” as the lead single. Fans loved it, critics loved it, and Confessions went Diamond in the US (that’s Platinum status times ten for you people who’ve never heard of it). Brilliant marketing tactic… or just crazy luck?

Off the top of my head, upcoming artists whose albums in danger of pulling a Leona Lewis include: Ryan Leslie (although it’s doubtful because he’s writing and producing everything himself); Rihanna (although it’s unbelievable how tightly under wraps her new project is); Mary J Blige (she is working with quite a few producers); and of course, Usher (can you say high-profile??). While fans who just can’t wait for new music may benefit from all this lack of discretion, admittedly, it’s pretty damaging to the artists themselves. You’ve got artists like Cassie who are leaking songs every day, and although it’s not clear whether or not this is being done deliberately, it’s definitely not helping their careers – from what we’re seeing now, at least.

Rihanna’s new album is by far the most interesting out of the upcoming releases; she may not be the best singer, but everything she touches turns to gold. What I can’t fathom is how no one, apart from her camp, has any information whatsoever about her fourth album. It’s slated to drop in November, but as of right there isn’t even a hint as to what the name may be. Impressive. It’s doubtful that she’ll last all the way to the day of release without at least a song leaking (apart from the lead single), but the building anticipation promises pandemonium – could this be the antithesis to Usher in 2004? Or will a major leakage happen and make this just another warning for artists and producers who want to leak tracks without knowing what they’re doing?