True - High Calling
Posted by Jim Clifford on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 7:45pm EST
Being average has to be one of the most frustrating things for any artist to be. There are plenty of areas where people would be satisfied with being average, as long as they don't fall into the negatives. In school, we're cool with an average grade because it means we passed the class. In work, if blending in with the median will help us keep that job, that will be our goal. But as an artist, there may not be anything more condemning than being labeled average. Think about it. The average songs, even on a 4-star project, will always be skipped in favor of the next hot track. When you only have ten bucks in your pocket, you'll never shell that out for an album on itunes that has a middle or the road star rating when there are much stronger options available to you. And that's exactly the position I put this LP at.
"Red Veil" opens up the project with a sonically sparkling beat before we get the first taste of True's bars. This is an effective intro, you could say, because it gives you a perfect picture of what you're going to be listening to for the next 40 minutes: Satisfactory, but thin, beats, lyrics chock full of truth but delivered in a flow much less compelling than the Biblical treasure the lyrics contain. The next track from the Toledo, Ohio emcee, "Welcome to the Kingdom," is a minor highlight of High Calling. K-Drama steps in for a guest spot for his state-mate but there is nothing particularly compelling that hooks you and creates a craving for you to hit the previous button on your touch screen. I am a fan of "Something More" though. Allison Sky contributes a rough hook that is actually enhanced by the indie level of production throughout this project. True delivers a few decent lines (Like rhyming 'Sadducees' with 'Saddens me') that make this the warmest spoonful in a lukewarm soup.
From that point, tracks start running into each other. The blame for that goes mostly to a lack of guests over the next five tracks (save one that is barely noticeable) which leaves True dealing with chorus duty. When that happens, we see True's biggest flaw: Very little fluctuation of his tone of voice. His flow isn't monotone, but it never switches up the style or intensity, so all the trumpet-based tracks start to bleed into each other quicker than usual. Similar sounding beats and a lack of lyrical showcasing add to the fog that is the center of this album. That haze is broken up in "Fly High," thanks to the wacky cadence of fellow Ohio emcee D-Maub, but by then we're two tracks away from wrapping up. "Phillipians 3:14" is an audio clip from a sermon on the title text that is delivered passionately and gives context for the album's title, but I never listened to more than once. Album finale "High Calling" is decent ear candy...the smooth vocals of the chorus give the verses more momentum and True even flirts with some double-timed raps, which is enough to make the album stand up at the end.
This project reminds me of the music I would have been passed by another member of my small circle of holy hip-hop lovers...5 years ago. Our subgenre has evolved since then to the point where being a fan doesn't have to be a spiritual discipline. We can take pride in the music. But there isn't much to boast about on this, at best, average product.
Categorical Ratings Breakdown:
Beat Selection/Production: 2/5
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