Lyrcyst is living proof that God honors those who use hip-hop to sing praises to the Lord (Psalm 68:32); after being introduced to Jesus by a friend, Steven Cooper felt a need to use his rapping chops to turn his family around and make disciples of all nations. Now he shares the stage with underground legend Tech N9NE, pop-punk sensation Relient K and Flicker Records' post-hardcore rockers Kids in the Way, among many others.
The first thing I noticed about Lyrycyst's American Dream was its musical distinctness-I was expecting opener "Showbiz" to be a bombardment of bassy, Southern-fried crunk or gangsta rap. What I found was quite different. "Showbiz" is a massive sonic soundscape made up of electronic ambience, distorted riffs, and old-school hip-hop beats; if you like DJ Shadow, you won't be able to put it down. While Lyrycyst does not enlist acid rap/trip-hop as a key influence in his music, the similarity is undeniable. I haven't heard anything quite like it in Christian hip-hop since the rise of record label N'Soul Records, save for underground representative Emcee One and the dangerous-yet always accessible-rap/rock crossovers of Manafest. The song's clever rhymes are a perfect opener for American Dream. The bouncy "Get Along" follows, with its catchy lead guitar and bizarre loops. The album takes a more serious turn with "All In Vain" and "What If I," which explain Lyrycyst's troubled past, as well as his newfound life in Christ.
As his stage name suggests, Lyrycyst is a lyrical mastermind. Imagine the lyrical techniques of Eminem and Manafest combined with the biting, right-on-the-money remarks of manChild of Mars ILL and the fervor and fun of KJ-52, and you have Lyrycyst nailed. He also takes more risks than any of the aforementioned, tackling abortion ("What If I"), sexual immorality ("Devil Eye") and everything from pornography to the selfishness of the church (the raucous fist-pumper "American Dream"). The subject resurfaces in "Deny Him," which reprimands lukewarm Christians in the church for claiming to follow Christ, but never giving the poor and hungry a second thought. While most Christian rappers only scratch the surface, Lyrycyst is raw and unapologetic in delivery; he doesn't sugarcoat the truth. Beginning with an impressive a cappella, "New Hit" indicts the nation's addiction to corporate music and its unwholesome messages. "Devil Eye" is perhaps overly belligerent in its verbal attacks against an immoral female. "Song Plays On" delves into trip-hop's techno side, but also includes a hook reminiscent of Mars ILL. Here, Lyrycyst refuses to "rap about sex" and instead remain faithful in Him. The track also encourages Christians to quit listening to degrading rap music.
Essentially, Lyrycyst isn't anything like most Christian rap either sonically or lyrically. "Devil Eye" holds the only mainstream hip-hop beats you'll find here, taking advantage of a tension-building Southern backdrop to compliment the song's uncomfortable lyrics (picture a Christian MC Lars). Everything else is pure alternative hip-hop, from the acoustic pop-laced "All In Vain" to the experimental quirks of "Get Along." Consider it the icing of the cake; Lyrycyst's ubiquitous talent is what takes the cake.
Production 9 Lyrics 10 Message 9 Overall Quality
Label: Alliant Music Group Records
Release Date: 2006
1. Show Biz
2. Get Along
3. New Hit
4. All In Vain
5. What If I
6. Devil Eye
7. American Dream
8. Cross My Heart
9. So Hard To Love
10. Deny Him
11. Song Plays On