Cross Movement Records needs a little good news at the moment. Their last few albums havent met with much critical praise and they have been going through some familial turmoil at their label lately that has saddened many in the hip-hop and larger church community. Enter Da' T.R.U.T.H.'s fourth album with CMR, The Big Picture. And while this album isnt the best from the artist (I still think thats his debut, Moment of Truth), it does give the label something to smile about while they wait for FLAME to drop a new project.
How do you say something good about an album youre just not feeling, but you know has tons of value despite your own misgivings? I guess Ill just tell the truth as best I can and let the chips fall where they may.
U Ready starts things off on a very promising note. Da' T.R.U.T.H. steps back to the microphone and the listener is treated to a tight talk-thru style over a stiff staccato drum beat and a nice synth vibe and smooth vocal layering. We have entered the age of blazing hot intros.
But, things fizzle from there.
Kirk Franklin's interlude is just a bit too long as it leads into the next track I AM Legend. Thankfully, this one isnt about Will Smith fighting virus-laden zombies, but the song is just as lackluster. (Thats right. You didnt like I Am Legend, either.) Da' T.R.U.T.H. is a far better lyricist and emcee than what this number would have you believe. But, this one seriously doesnt even get me inadvertently bobbing my head.
On his last album, Da' T.R.U.T.H. teamed up with Ty Tribbett and it seemed to work. Unfortunately, their partnership on Tree to Tree doesnt work nearly as well. The lyrical crooning of Tribbett is good, reminiscent of Tonex or J.R., but the song itself is rather disappointing.
However, Trumpet Blows makes you sit up and take notice. Here is hope that this album is not a total loss. It is a bombastic number that features a nice, thick horn line and a guest spot from Reach Records wonder boy Trip Lee. Dripping with that Denton, Texas swagger (what Texans simply refer to as walking), this is my favorite track on the whole album. It hits you right between the earlobes, edifies the spirit, and reminds you that Jesus is coming back for his bride.
But, Trumpet Blows is the final track I could stomach. From here, The Big Picture descends into a schizophrenic valley of dreariness.
President is an absolute rip off. I thought we were past this kind of stuff after KJ-52s Dear Slim and Dear Slim, Part II. Even Lecrae got into the act with Got Paper, a clear response to Young Jeezys Got Money. And the message is a good one to consider. Dont get me wrong. But, it took 2 or 3 listens for me to even think about, given how upsetting it was to hear a beat being ripped off. This kind of thing, I believe, sets Christian rap back rather than propels it forward.
The rest of the album seems to follow suit.
Heres my honest opinion. Take this as you will. I feel like Da' T.R.U.T.H. is quickly becoming that performer who you like to hear as a guest artist on other rappers tracks, but not so much on his own. I've heard that this album will feature a breakthrough multimedia presentation to augment the concert experience, but as an album, I just dont think The Big Picture is all that impressive. There are many ways in which he has matured as an artist and emcee. But, as the bar continues to be raised higher and higher by Reach, Lampmode, and even a few select indie artists, it is difficult to accept the maturation process as what it needs to be for mass consumption. The album never settles into a groove that lets the listener grasp what he or she is listening to beyond Christian hip-hop. One moment its hardcore hip-hop (Trump Blows), 80s pop (Talk To You), the next its R&B (You Made & Fantasy), the next its Israel Houghton praise & worship (How Long?)? Again maybe itll make sense as a concert piece.
I just *sigh* wish Da' T.R.U.T.H. would recapture what he had in his debut.
Release Date: July 21 2009
Label: Cross Movement Records
01. U Ready?
02. The Big Picture Interlude ft. Kirk Franklin
04. Tree To Tree ft. Tye Tribbett
05. Intermission ft. Chris Graham
06. Lost ft. Tia Pittman
07. Trumpet Blow ft. Trip Lee
08. You Made
09. Applying The Big Picture ft. Kirk Franklin
10. My President
11. Great Wall ft. Freddy Washington, Jr
12. Fantasy ft. J.R.
13. Talk To You ft. GP
14. That Great Day Remix
15. How Long ft. Deluge Band
17. Suitcase ft Jahaziel, Stephen The Levite, Swoope