- Album Overview
- Spiritual Signifiance
- Standout Tracks
- Overall Recommendation
- Track Listing
For almost as long as I’ve been involved with web design, I’ve been very close to the Christian music industry. Whether it was designing websties for artists, or being an artist myself, I’ve had this steady attachment to Christian music artists, especially those in the sub-genre of Christian Hip-Hop. That’s caused some measure of perks in terms of early listening, and some measure of contemplation as with some artists, you hear them a lot clearer in their music than you do talking with them face to face.
That’s where Crucial’s latest release, The Hard Truth, sits with me. I’ve known him for the better part of the past four years. I’ve sat with him over prayer and tears, as well as admired him as a fan would any artist in their element when watching him do rap or spoken word. He’s a brother that wears his heart on his sleeve, and in following his producing of The Hard Truth, there’s been a revelatory aspect to Crucial that I’ve not seen in artists except in a few instances – the canvas causes you to become more transparent than you want to be.
This new project, The Hard Truth, ends up being one of those projects. Throughout the album Crucial dives into topics and characteristics of Christian living that provokes the listener to contemplate where they stand on various issues. Where the listener lands is hopefully on the side of contemplating the kind of love that God’s granted to them, while deciding to take on the truth of life choices which sound quite similar to the wisdom Paul left with Titus, Timothy, and the Colossians.
As with many hip-hop projects, The Hard Truth makes no exception towards establishing and staying with a high-energy and electronic-based tempo. Crucial’s fingerprint on this includes voice and synthesized effects which do lend to keepting the entire project relatively fresh. However, I did find my ears getting tired of the electronic instruments over the more live instruments that I’m used to. At least in the early tracks (1-4), this was fine, but does get a bit tiring for this reviewer.
Track 1 (The Hard Truth) establishes most of what the listener will hear throughout the album. Its probably one of the weaker tracks lyrically, but fits the motif of establishing the rest of the project. Shades of Grey (#2) and Being A Kid (#3) kept my head nodding – probably a bit too much so, I had to go back and listen a bit more throughly to catch the main points. Not Crucial’s fault, they were just good head-nodding listens.
Property of Jesus (#4) we hear the first track where there’s a featured artist (D-Maub). Its also the first track that you’d notice a different quality to the track versus what you’ve heard before. It might have to do with the featured artist, but I also got that sense when listening to I Apologize (#6), Fallen World (#7), and Homosexuals (#11).
Speaking of Homosexuals, that track is going to just flat out be heard wrong by some on the first listen. Crucial deals the kind of honesty and truth about the perception Christians have towards homosexuals, and then the behavior of homosexuality, and finally the love God to forgive and restore. One of the better discussions of the topic I’ve heard. Similar discussion and humility with the topic is taken with Hit A Woman (#10) and Stupid Is As Stupid Does (#8) – the using Forrest Gump’s imitated vocals to further emphasize the point.
The last two tracks change pace with the rest of the project. Bromance (#13) is a heartfelt letter to Crucial’s little brother. On one listen, you hear the attachment and brotherly example that is indicative of teacher and student. On another listen, the you’ll hear the attempt to keep that tether despite the distance that growing up eventually causes with many of our relationships. Unfailing Love (#14) is almost a typical slow-rap, singing-chorus track, yet brings the introduction to a suitable conclusion. I’d probably want to hear less of the voice changes Crucial does throughout the track (tempo as well as character), yet I can imagine this track fitting a bit better in a live setting than on just an album.
Any album like this has to at the end of the day encourage contemplation, maturity, or at least a healthy challenge to stances anyone takes ethically and spriritually. I believe that The Hard Truth does this in spades, mainly because of the subject areas chosen for this project.
This project doesn’t cite the following sections of Scripture per say, but does speak a similar message to them, while contextualizing the application of those truths to The Hard Truth’s listeners:
In a summarizing sense, the marks of the life of a believer is one who doesn’t eaves from the truth, but is firmly rooted in it, able to teach, able to exhort, able to correct, and humble enough to live with others. The elements which make up this character are spoken throughout this album, but I would encourage those looking to dig further than the topics on the album to speak with an elder, pastor, or teacher to parse out the applicable nuggets.
It is rare that albums have standout tracks that people won’t agree to, but I can see The Hard Truth being such an album. For me, it was Property of Jesus (#4), I Apologize (#6), Fallen World (#7), and Bromance (#13) that stood out most to me. In terms of production quality, lyrical quality, and clarity of message these were simply the best. I Apologize and Fallen World could easily stand as the most radio-friendly tracks of the entire project.
I am in tremendous admiration of the imaginations behind Being A Kid (#3), Stupid Is as Stupid Does (#8), and Push (#12). Those are the kinds of tracks that could easily find friendly ears and open the door to audiences primarily targeted by Christian rap artists, but not always hit as squarely.
It took a good while to write this review. Separating the friendship from objectively listening to the artist was harder than I would have figured. But, I think that’s what factors most into how I’m hearing The Hard Truth as a testimonial project just as much as it is an evangelical one. Crucial manages to capture the attitude and conversational approach needed for these topics (abuse, lust, esteem, etc.) while not losing that fingerprint that speaks squarely towards Christ being the source and standard for the truth of living.
As an artist, Crucial has certainly grown and matured considerably. The lyrical and production quality of this release is miles better than previous releases. It feels even as if tracks that he released earlier (Christian Boy, Stupid Is as Stupid Does) have gotten a solid touch up. I would like to hear tracks like Bring A Kid, Fallen World, and Bromance treated with more live instruments. The featured artists add to the tracks and don’t seem to over shine Crucial’s lyrics and tone.
I’d recommend The Hard Truth specifically for those ministries who are looking to open up these topics of truth and lifestyle to teen and young adult communities. I’d even go as far as saying those folks should have Crucial come in and speak towards a topic or two after they’ve heard this project. For the casual listener, you’ll find the tempo and pace of most of the tracks pleasing for driving or an exercise workout (I’ve been riding to Push #12 a bit lately ), but will want to invest time into simply listening to the project so that you don’t end up skipping some of the points raised here. Outside of Christian circles, this might be a hard album to find. But, if you can take your stance on issues being challenged, this album won’t disappoint and consider you not to put all Chrisitans into the bucket of insensitive or perspective-challenged members of your communities.
- The Hard Truth
- Shades of Grey
- Being A Kid
- Property of Jesus
- Christian Boy
- I Apologize
- Fallen World
- Stupid Is as Stupid Does
- Whatcha Doin’ Man
- Hit A Woman
- Unfailing Love
The Hard Truth can be purchased from iTunes, Sphere of Hip Hop, Da South, and Holy Culture Radio’s online stores.