Da Messenger - Lifeline
Posted by Jim Clifford on Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 6:07pm EST
I always find it interesting when people who've achieved great things, whether artistically or nationally, cite their most powerful influences. More than half the time the figures who've shaped the prominent figure are easily told and can be identified through demeanor, tone, language and/or worldviews. The skill in both using influence as a motivational propeller and not succumbing to the constant temptation to become a carbon copy of one's mentor is a tricky, but commendable, one.
Lifeline was my first introduction to Da Messenger, of Holy Soldier Records and his southern-tinged, 808-heavy cuts. And I began the album discussion with talk of influence because it's obvious that this emcee draws highly from Christian Hip-Hop's heaviest hitters, most notably the Reach Records camp. By that I mean explicit Christian anthems, with concert-ready choruses, and familiar song themes. A brief scan of the song titles like "God is Enough," "Fight Music," and "Be a Light" may imply as much for the instinctive listener.
To his credit, the sound of Lifeline is much higher quality than the cynic in me would expect from a holy hip-hopper that I hadn't heard of before. Whether it's the flickering sounds of "Rescue Mission," the stripped down "Lifeline" or the quality "Amazing," everything here is mixed well and crisp. That alone puts it above some of its peers by default. As an emcee, Da Messenger is suitable: Not so weak that he distracts from the entire song but admittedly nothing so stellar that I hit the rewind button to confirm what I just heard.
The largest problem that I can't shake with Lifeline is the unfortunate familiarity of it all. Some of it is obvious, like how the chorus of "Bow Down" is a carbon copy of PRo's song with the same title off his 'Redemption' LP or the same similarities between "Unashamed" and Lecrae and Tedashii's old joint that again bears the same name (Not that any of the above were ground-breaking concepts to begin with). Other tracks, beats and concepts aren't as obvious but still bear similar feelings. Like hearing a beat on a mix tape that you just can't place and have to rewind until you recognize it, I get the ominous feeling on almost every track that I've heard this before...and just can't place it quite yet.
I see Lifeline as a negative example of when influences, who are name dropped at least a couple times throughout the project, are taken too far. Being unfamiliar with Messenger's career, I can't speak to his evolution as an artist, but when he steps into the studio next, I'd love to hear more of the life of the man whose lifeline has been revived by Christ than gloriously true, but overdone, song themes. If this were to be one of the first albums a CHH convert were to listen to, I could see it being on repeat because of the clean, head-bopping but familiar beats and solid theology in simple bars. But if you're looking for more than that, you'll be left wanting.
Categorical Ratings Breakdown:
Beat Selection/Production: 3/5
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