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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Judah The Lyrical Rev

It Is What It Is

Review by Gary Hill

So you say you don’t like hip-hop because of the glorification of drugs and violence and the degradation of women? Well, you won’t find any of that here. This disc is a very strong album with a positive message. The beats and sounds are very well chosen and no one can dis him on the rhymes. In the opening cut he says, "look close you won't find a flaw in this design." He's referring to his rap style, and I have to say, I don't disagree with that statement one bit. I suppose for the hardcore gangsta fans this one will not be legit. Judah draws his lyrical inspiration from Christianity. So, you won't find gratuitous sex and violence in this mix. The thing is, he doesn't hit you over the head with his religious beliefs to the point of seeming "preachy."

For fans of hip-hop that can live without all the hardcore references, this one is a great release. For those who would like a good introduction to the musical style without having to sit through a lot of usages of the "f" word and hearing women called by a name that rhymes with "witch" this is also highly recommended. In general, I'd say that this is very strong album that showcases a solid rapper who seems like he's probably a good guy, too. That's not always a combination that shows up. For more information or to buy the CD check out Judah’s myspace.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
It Is What It Is (featuring Vanatta)
This killer rap is an introduction to both Judah and the CD. The music that makes up the backdrop here is almost symphonic in nature. It’s definitely an effective opener. The rap itself seems to swirl around in lines of rhyme and rhythm.
Waiting For So Long (featuring Ice Cold)
I love the talk box intro on this one. It’s a nice touch. As it drops to the song proper, this is more of a stripped down groove with just the rapping carrying the tune over a bare bones keyboard and percussion line. A great synthesized vocal line, feeling like a synthetic voice brings in the title later, along with some hard edged, almost metallic rock sound. It’s another touch that adds a lot to this cut. This tune is all about the path that brought Judah to this recording.
Certified (featuring KM2)
This is a more R & B textured cut with a faster rap. There’s not really a bad tune on this disc, but this one might not stand quite as tall as some of the rest. I hear a little bit of an Ice T influence in some of the rapping on this piece.
Burning Hot
The music that serves as the backdrop here has a jazz/soul sort of texture. Judah raps with quick bursts on this one.
No Parts of Dat
An odd synthesizer texture brings this one in tentatively. It almost feels like a computer or a Simon Game. On this one the rap reminds me of some Will Smith’s rhymes back in the early days of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – I’m talking before the TV show. This is another that doesn’t feel as strong as some of the competition on show here.
Radio
Appropriately this one is lead off with the sounds of a turning radio dial seeking a channel. Then a sample from Styx “Grand Illusion” comes in to back up Judah’s rap. Here Judah raps about the false images and posing in the music business these days. In many ways that ties this song to that Styx song as much as the samples (there are more in this cut) do. I’d have to say that this is probably my favorite cut here.
It's On You
This has a dirty jazz sort of feel, but sampled. This is an empowering rap challenging the listener to rise above his (or her) situation. It’s another strong one.
Rockford Files (featuring VaNatta)
A saxophone opens this one up along with an announcer bringing Judah to the stage. The song is about Rockford, Illinois. This is a cool groove with a scratched record texture adding to the atmosphere. People who live in Rockford will really recognize a lot of the attitudes and situations Judah raps about here.
Manhood
Here we get a more gentle sort of musical texture. This is Judah giving shout outs to the men who inspired him. It’s another feel good rap (there aren’t a lot of those out there, either).
Good Thing (featuring Anqunette)
A tongue in cheek (at least I hope it’s tongue in cheek) falsetto leads this one off. Then what sounds like a Chipmunks female vocal line is in the mix. Judah swirls lines over the top of the rhythmic backdrop. This is a song about a lady (that one special lady). It includes a sung female vocal later that brings and R & B texture to the table.
This Is The End (featuring Bless and Stract)
This one comes in laid back and down in the mix, but it jumps up after a short introduction to a killer groove. There is a great sung vocal over the top at points. This one has some great sounds to it. The lyrics point up a lot of the problems with the world today. This is one of my favorites on the disc.
He Rose (remix, featuring VaNatta and Apollo)
One of the best grooves of the whole disc makes up the backdrop to this one. I like it a lot.
Give Thanks
A more smooth R & B jam makes up the basis for this one. It’s all about giving thanks to God for the blessings you receive.
 
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