Review: Swoope – ‘Sinema’
They say that a person develops an opinion of a new acquaintance within a matter of seconds, and that it is difficult, if not impossible to change that opinion. If Swoope’s first big label release, 2012’s “Wake Up”, is of any indication of the validity of that statement, he has set the bar respectably high for himself.
And so it is with somber honesty that I must say that “Wake Up”, as a whole, is a better album than “Sinema.” The most apparent flaw to “Sinema” is that it proports to being more than it actually is – a collection of songs, some of which while really good, try too hard to fit a cohesive theme. While “Wake Up” fed off of the broad concept of a Christian’s awakening from a limited worldview (think The Matrix, Inception), “Sinema” relies on a narrative story, presented through a series of back-and-forth voicemails with a woman (Maya Desaree) symbolizing a Christian’s flirtations with their inner lusts (My Desires). This concept, while interesting in the span of a single song, is too limited and fails to sustain a full-length album.
Swoope even seems to acknowledge the fact that this is not “Wake Up 2.0” on one of the album’s better songs, “Best of Me” featuring Natalie Sims. Unfortunately, by this point in the album it almost comes off as a contradiction – Swoope has been trying to sell us on the idea of a highly conceptual album for the last six songs.
Until this point, it feels as though I have only been bad-mouthing the album for not living up to its predecessor. But realize, I have been speaking strictly on the broader scope of the record. When taken individually, many of the songs stand strong. “#Same Team” produced by Jay Cardec Drums and featuring “errbody” as Swoope jokingly posted on his Twitter feed, is a reminder of the message 116 Clique gave us almost a decade ago – even though we may be from different walks of life, our central message is the gospel. It is a crew track of Boot Camp Clik caliber that pretty much gets destroyed after Jgivens and John Givez get on.
“TGC 2” (True, Good, Creative) featuring Sho Baraka gives a second dosage of the bars that were presented on the Circa MMXI High Society album. Referencing the – might I note – non-Christian idea of spiritual transference in the 1988 movie “Child’s Play”, Swoope raps “Now Chucky is usin auras as his moniker put baby monitors all you Monica’s.” Something fun to listen to, not something to get your theological panties into a bunch over.
As with “TGC 2”, “Before Goodnight” borrows lyrics from another High Society Collective song. But whereas on “Before Goodbye” Swoope rapped about avoiding the pitfalls of premarital sex, on “Before Goodnight” he follows the situation to its inevitable outcome – a love child. On the monster-of-a-second verse, Swoope raps “Call it sneakin makin love we can call it sleepin together whatever as long as you don’t call it evil.” It is a reminder of the lies that Satan and the flesh present us with to help justify our sin.
On the penultimate song “Sin in Me”, Swoope spits “Life is a cinema, fightin the sin in my mind and the villainous crimes and the animal feelings inside this chick is so kindred she’s Kendrick at killin the vibe.” This is the quintessential verse, one that I suspect the entire album was built off of. Here, Swoope deals with the reality of unhindered pleasure seeking – a reckoning with death. Pure speculation, but could this be a reference to the sermon Swoope gives at the end of “Above All” on his long-ago “The Zoo” record? The Romans 7:17 verse that says “So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it”?
One way to view of Sinema is as it was intended – a cinematic experience that walks us though the consequences of following our own selfish desires. However, there is a second approach – one that Swoope hinted at in the song “Best of Me.” We have all seen the iterations of the futile consequences of searching for perfection outside of Jesus. The sophomore slumps. The celebrity meltdowns. What if we were to just be honest with ourselves as Swoope is on “Best of Me” and ask the question: do we truly want perfection in light of the demands that it would impose on us? I mean, look what perfection cost Jesus. As fallen creatures, it is only natural in our fallen state that we point out flaws before successes. All artists (and anyone for that matter) can do is work hard, put off anxiety and allow God’s grace to shine.
I cannot remember an album that has made me examine my life more than a Swoope record, and “Sinema” is no exception. The album raises hard questions that don’t simply graze the surface of issues, but dramatically probe them, causing the listener to wonder – what are my selfish desires?
The Ak Town representative has managed to break free from the comparisons that plagued him in 2012, becoming one of CHH’s most sought after names. I am positive that as with “Wake Up”, the coming weeks will find me catching all the little nuances embedded in Swoope’s lyrics. And while it may not be the front-to-back listen as its predecessor, the layered meanings of “Sinema” make it more than a worthwhile listen.