At this point in time, there are four solo rappers signed to Reach Records. Of the four, the newest to be signed goes by the name Sho Baraka. You may have seen his
name before, as he's done guest appearances with Tedashii and Lecrae, and he's also part of the 116 Clique, having appeared on the Clique's 13 Letters and The Compilation Album.
But 2009 was the year that he got some songs of his own and released his debut album, Turn My Life Up. It's a dose of that Reach style of hip hop you probably love,
with a dash of reggaeton here and there, and plenty of worship, teaching and social commentary.
Sho's message is similar to his labelmates, in that, not only does he offer some worshipful moments on his album, he also urges the non-Christian listener to start a
relationship with Jesus and the faithful to put their faith into action. "Rebuild The City" talks about going out and ministering to those in their area that need help and salvation.
After that, Tedashii jumps into the hook and second verse of "Maranatha," tears it up and encourages believers to remember that Jesus is coming back soon. "Music of Life" stresses
the influence of music in our lives, and Sho makes it known that "it's the music of life that makes the stressed man cope, makes the suicidal cat wanna drop that rope, makes the hood drug
dealer wanna quit that dope." Sho also talks about being in love with the Lord in "Higher Love," and spends some time magnifying God, and speaking to the listeners about what He's done
for Sho (and for all of us) that makes him love Him so much. And speaking of love, I can't help but appreciate the message of "Love of My Life." It's a genuine love song between
a man and his wife, where Sho tells his wife that she's his Proverbs 31 girl, and she says to him to be an Ephesians 5 man. All worthwhile messages that all of Reach's artists are
known for, and it's comforting to see that Sho fits in well in the lyrical aspect.
Now while all of Sho's songs present the message of God in his own unique way, it's this same fact that also brings the album down a little. I like that he says things in a real way,
even bringing some humor into the mix without ever compromising the message. But the slight weakness in his style of his beats and his flow are noticeable. Sho is definitely one
of the better rap artists that I've heard, and Turn My Life Up is a rather enjoyable album, but there were moments that I felt could've either been done without or could've
been done a little better. The best example is the song "Great Day II Die." The tempo is really slow and doesn't present a good beat for Sho to flow over. Not to mention, Dillavou's
screeching vocals in the chorus are very obnoxious. Other than that, just a few things could've been tweaked, such as adding some more depth to some songs that seem rather empty
musically (like "Love of My Life"), and some of the samples tend to get on one's nerves more than anything (for instance, the repeating of "God is like" in the song of the same
name or "live at a ten, live at a ten" in "Turn Up My Life"). And while "Be Scientific" has a cool beat, it's almost as if it can't decide whether it's an instrumental with tons
of 116 Clique samples or an actual hip hop song (as Sho does have a verse in there that he performs more than once). These all may seem like minor things, but when they're all present
on a single album, it ends up being a little much.
Sho Baraka is a talented artist who I believe has big things in store for him. His labelmates are all popular amongst Christian hip hop fans, and no doubt he will be as well.
Turn My Life Up was a pretty good start for him, but it wasn't a great album. It has its moments, such as "Maranatha," "Love of My Life" and the slower "Catch Me At The Brook."
These are the main highlights of this album, and I anticipate more of it in future releases. As for now, we have Turn My Life Up, a good debut for this up and coming artist.
- Review date: 3/9/10, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com