I really like the concept of MC Tempo's "Direct From The Heart." I've been hoping for a rap-infused worship project for some time now. There's so much potential for an album like that. Unfortunately, Tempo's effort is poorly executed. Instead of taking worship music to a place it's never been and respecting the forward progress of Christian hip-hop, Tempo takes a page from the Christian rap of 10 years agowhen rap was trying so hard to emulate rather than create something new. Thus, there's not much I like about this particular album, despite my intentions to do so.
This is the kind of product Christians can get laughed at for. *Sigh*
But, the man has quite the story, which is where I think this album's heart comes from. And I can't fault that. Straight out of London, Tempo has been rapping on British stages since 1995. As with many in the hip-hop scene, he was rapping about things like drugs and illegal activity, which simply spiraled further downward. But, the death of his younger sister and the divorce of his parents, on the brink of suicide, Tempo began asking himself some hard questions about his life. That's when God met him. He hasn't looked back since.
"Direct From The Heart" leads off with the track Christian standard "Awesome God." Tempo puts his own urban spit and shine on the song, but his attempt at a rasta vibe is sometimes difficult to understand when coupled with his British accent. Also, the slower tempo of the track hinders more than helps. "Hail The King" follows suit and really could be considered the same song if you think about it hard enough.
"Happy Day" has a reggae vibe that is fun, but the rap is so much of a throwback as to be considered obsolete. Add to that the fact that it is poorly constructed rap and you've got a recipe for disaster.
"Bravo" is the ray of sunshine on this album, but Tempo sings rather than raps. He has a really decent voice and I think this might be where he needs to focus his efforts. He's no BeBe Winans or J.R., but he exudes confidants as he applauds God for his wonderful works.
There are a number of unique covers that work and don't work on this album. Tempo covers such songs as "Heart of Worship," "I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever," and "Mighty To Save." I believe the former two don't work all that well, but his reinterpretation of "Mighty To Save" is well executed. The new rap lyrics here work well with the song's original chorus.
"Direct From The Heart" suffers from an identity crisis. It is one part reggae, one part rap, one part R&B. It never quite touches down or settles into a groove. While this might work for certain projects, here it left me frustrated and slightly confused. That is not how a person expects to feel after listening to a worship album, whatever the stripe. Unfortunately, desire does not guarantee great art. "Direct From The Heart" misfires in so many ways that I cannot help but be disappointed.
Year of Release: 2008
1 Awesome God (feat. David Andrew)
2 Free (feat. Nathan Ironside)
3 Happy Day (feat. Nathan Ironside)
4 River of God (feat. Paul Oakley)
5 Bravo (feat. Nathan Ironside)
6 Hail the King (feat. Ruth Shelling)
7 Intimate (feat. Nathan Ironside)
8 Heart of Worship (feat. David Scholes)
9 I Could Sing (feat. Sheila Monique Gallegos)
10 One Way (feat. David Andrew)
11 Righteous Road (feat. Nathan Ironside)
12 The Stand (feat. Nathan Ironside)
13 It Is You (feat. Ruth Shelling)
14 The Hearts Response
15 Mighty to Save (feat. Becky Campball)