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Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sinema, Christian artist Swoope’s second album.
In green is my opinion. I have never listened to Swoope, though I am familiar with some other Christian artists.
In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He too has listened to a handful of Christian artists, but Swoope is new to him as well. He does not consider himself a fan of rap, though he does enjoy some albums that the genre has birthed.
This album takes off with the collective explosion of psychedelic synthesizer, booming horn, and dramatic piano. The synthesizer sound seems to have taken notes from Pink Floyd’s On the Run. I approve. Swoope’s lyrics, which seem to discuss a dysfunctional relationship, are accented by what sounds like Asian flute, a cool element which harkens back to both Mike Shinoda’s verses on Linkin Park’s Nobody’s Listening and Jay-Z’s Big Pimpin’. The entire track is blanketed by an edgy tone that comes across as genuine. The inclusion of the voicemail dialogue at the beginning and end of the track indicates that Sinema will be a concept album with a linear story. I found this song to be intriguing, full of bold elements and solid lyrical delivery.
We start off the album with a generic breakup song. I can tell that it has some meaning, but all in all, it sounds like a track that you would hear again and again on the radio.
On my Mind (feat. J.R.)
The synthesizer returns. This time, however, it isn’t emulating Pink Floyd. Instead, its melody is closely reminiscent to that of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Can’t Stop. Once again, I can dig it. Swoope doesn’t merely recycle the melody. Instead, he throws some decent verses on top of it. The chorus is a daring blend between a voice that could be coming from Elvis and the vocal distancing effect akin to that which is widely employed by the Black Keys. On my Mind is more about the blues-infused beat than the lyrics, but this track is still a fresh one.
On My Mind sounds like the Nine Inch Nails song Closer. That being said, I’m not a fan of the electronic junk thrown into this song. I can’t even understand its meaning. You know that a song is bad when you use words like “dag.” I first thought that On my Mind was about a murderer or something, but then Swoope started to rap about buying stuff. It is so confusing that it annoys me.
TGC 2 (feat. Sho Baraka)
Call this song “Submarine,” because that sonar is righteous. In fact, the entire beat is rocking. The nasty bass, the sharp claps, and the scratches hold their own among the electronic sounds that are laced throughout the song. The occasional dual-layering of vocal tracks in which one track is drastically dropped in pitch creates an effect similar to that created in Eminem’s resurrection in Bad Guy. Swoope’s lyrics are clever and his delivery is on point. TGC 2 is a fantastic track.
I do not hear anything true, good, or creative in this song. I think the song is about sin or something, but, once again, I cannot understand it. I like how Swoope uses the turntables though. They remind me of Linkin Park, which is always a good thing.
#SameTeam (feat. Tedashii, Yaves, Dre Murray, Jgivens, and John Givez)
The “yeah” that rings out throughout the song, at first, seems to be an intentional nod to Jay-Z’s N****s in Paris. As it turns out, the signature “yeah” originates from a 1959 recording of a track titled Baptizing Scene from a compilation called Southern Folk Heritage: Sounds of the South. This inspiration is certainly more fitting for a Christian artist. With the origins of the sample clarified, I can proceed to criticize #SameTeam. Swoope seemed to be aiming for an epic rap collaboration in the same vein as Drake’s Forever, but the whole thing comes across as underwhelming. The passing of the mic isn’t dynamic because the rappers don’t do much once they have the mic in hand. The artists don’t distinguish themselves from one another in such a way that makes the listener eager to hear who is next or contemplate which of the group they identify with the most. The beat does not fluctuate, remaining constant throughout the seven minute track. If a rap artist wants to craft a seven minute song, there must be hills and valleys. Driving on a dirt road for five hours isn’t much of a dynamic experience. #SameTeam was unimpressive.
Anytime you see a # (this is a number sign, or “pound”, not that made-up “hashtag” crap), you know the song is not going to be good. I do not know who these featured people are, but I want them to be quiet. 7 minutes is way too long for #SameTeam. I could not stand listening to this song.
LSD (feat. Christon Gray)
LSD features a beat ideal for the bedroom. The soft instrumentation fits the lyrical content of the song, but the track’s mood sharply contrasts with the edgy atmosphere established by the first few tracks. In addition, the lyrics are weaker than those in previous songs. I personally prefer the darker side of Swoope. LSD, essentially a hip-hop soul track, has an old school vibe that doesn’t sit well with Swoope. His first tracks indicate that he is moving the genre of hip-hop forward, namely Christian hip-hop. I hope that LSD was only a detour on this journey that is Sinema. LSD is not Swoope’s best.
When I first saw the title of this song, I wondered, “How the heck does that go with Christian music?” After listening to the song, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that Swoope is comparing LSD with sin, because both are terrible for you, both are dangerous, and both are addicting. The connection is an interesting one that works really well. Just listen to the song a few times and you will be able to piece together the connection between drugs and sin.
Bow Down (feat. Tragic Hero)
Bow Down is the Christian anthem of the album. While the previous tracks are laced with Christian messages, Bow Down is an all-out praising of Jesus. The chorus’s melody is reminiscent of that of Y2K’s White Wine, an interesting similarity. Still, the lyrics and beat in Bow Down are straightforward. A strong majority of Christian albums that I have listened to suffer from being safe at one point or another. Bow Down is the track on Sinema where Swoope plays it safe.
Yeah, that’s right. Bow down to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ! Kick Satan and any other false God out our life and make way for Jesus! Great job there, Swoope. Way to tell that to people! I like Bow Down for that reason, and I hope you all feel the same way as I do.
Best of Me (feat. Natalie Lauren)
Heck yes. Best of Me is on point. The lyrics, music, and female vocals mesh together to create an uplifting track. The beat is individual, the wordplay is impressive, and the essence of Sinema returns. I had almost forgotten that this record was built as a concept album until the voicemail bit returned at the end of the track. Best of Me’s beat reminds me of that in Atmosphere’s Sunshine. As a whole, this is a song that is ideal for a summer cruise in a convertible. I enjoy this pick-me-up track.
I love the intro to Best of Me. I wish the entire song featured more Natalie in place of Swoope’s rapping, but in the end, I don’t mind the rap because it is very uplifting. It’s true that nobody is perfect and nobody will ever be. For once, I am able to easily pick up a religious connection in one of Swoope’s songs.
That bass is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. The sudden explosions that follow the chorus are absolute madness. Swoope could rap about peanut butter sandwiches over this beat and it would sound nasty. It must be noted that the chorus is slightly ridiculous, however, almost verging on Lifestyle-leveled ridiculous, but the bass goes so hard that I find it difficult to care. Bounce to Right Side. Yes, nuns, you may bounce to Right Side. It’s a Christian song. Now that would be a sight to see.
On our right side we have our angels. It is true that we should never let them go. We always need an angel to help us to move on in our lives no matter what happens. I’m not sure if Swoope is referencing angels when he is talking about the right side, but that is how I interpret the lyrics. If the reference is in fact regarding angels, then I like the song.
Beauty and the Beast
As a rap song, Beauty and the Beast is satisfactory, not bad by any means. As a Christian rap song, Beauty and the Beast is fit for the top of the pile. No Christian artist that I have listened to is as bold as Swoope. He doesn’t hold back from discussing real-world issues that plague individuals. His catalog isn’t dominated by worship songs. Worship songs are fine, but they are ideal for church, not for the car. Music that dominates is music that is accessible. I could easily play this song (or this entire CD, for that matter) for a friend and expect him to dig it right away. Beauty and the Beast is a cool song.
Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme? Oh, we aren’t talking about the Disney movie? Beauty and the Beast (the song) talks about lust, and its dangers. What I find interesting is the message of how living a sinful life leads to death. To me, the song tells how lust is a deadly sin, which is why I like Beauty and the Beast. It shows the good and bad side of love.
Before Goodnight is riddled with pain. From the screeching sounds to the strained electric noises to the lyrics, Before Goodnight is a release of emotion. The lyrics are fine and the beat is serviceable, but the track doesn’t do much for me. In addition, I’m not a fan of the generic auto tune effect placed on Swoope’s voice. The track ends with Swoope’s girlfriend nagging him to call her back. While this voicemail is obviously a part of the story for the sake of constituting a concept album, it certainly isn’t pleasant. Even if Before Goodnight was a great song (which it isn’t), I wouldn’t opt to listen to it upon knowing that Maya would be roasting me every time I played it. I’m not a fan of Before Goodnight.
Before Goodnight is another song about lust and relationships. We get it by now, Swoope. We know that you are in this troubled relationship and whatnot. You do not have to keep making songs about it like Taylor Swift. I do not like this song because we have heard other songs like it on the record already.
Sin in Me
Clearly the climax of the album, Sin in Me is a cinematic track that brings Swoope’s story to a close. Swoope’s delivery is right on, the beat is strong…and then Swoope gives the listener the middle finger. SPOILER ALERT: It was all a dream! I don’t feel cheated, exactly, because I wasn’t into Swoope’s story like I was into Gladiator. Then again, I feel like I’ve been left hanging. Nonetheless, the climax was effective. The outpour of emotion felt genuine. Sin in Me is gimmicky in its conclusion, but it’s gimmicky in a way that sounds good. A lot of Christian music is gimmicky without sounding good, so I’ll take it.
Sin In Me is a deep song in which the lyrics strongly complement the title of the song. I can just picture Swoope walking through a rainstorm feeling like crap because of all the sins he knows he’s committed. On this track, his sins finally catch up to him, and he realizes all the pain he has caused. Swoope then realizes that he has to ask the Lord for forgiveness for his evil ways to make things better. Sin In Me is my favorite song on the album because it is a deep, dark song that fits my musical taste.
Fix My Heart (feat. Denise Powell and Propaganda)
There we go. The Christian single off of the album. Fix My Heart is light and frothy, an ice cream cone on a summer’s day. Compare it to the heavy-hitting TGC 2 and you will be able to observe the full spectrum of Swoope. Fix My Heart has some nice lyrics and a soft backing track ideal for reflection. The chorus is beautiful, perfect for a worship session. Fix My Heart is a moving song, a perfect way to close Sinema.
We end the album with Fix My Heart, a song incredibly different from the previous track. Swoope knows he is a weak and sinful servant, but rather than giving his life away, Swoope asks God for forgiveness. I noticed that there were a lot of TV show names thrown into this song, which I find really freaking clever. Fix My Heart is the perfect way to end Sinema. After all of the sins that have been committed, Swoope knows to ask God to forgive his sins and to help him to become a better person. That is a great message that I really love.
My Top 3
TGC 2 (feat. Sho Baraka)
Best of Me (feat. Natalie Lauren)
Rob’s Top 3
Beauty and the Beast
Sin In Me
Fix My Heart (feat. Denise Powell and Propaganda)
This album was a pleasant surprise. I did not expect Swoope to deliver such an introspective, inventive rap album. His beats are tight, his lyricism is impressive, and the messages in his songs come across as fresh despite the fact that they have been conveyed before. I enjoyed this T-Bone. I recommend it to all who enjoy the Christian genre, as it offers a freshness that the genre so desperately needs.