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ATLast is Collision Record’s self-proclaimed best album to date – a bold statement considering the label’s prolific output as of late. And yet, I tend to agree. In the past two years, we have had Swoope’s “Wake Up”, Dre Murray’s “Gold Rush: Maybe One Day”, W.L.A.K., not to mention a plethora of phenomenal mixtapes. And while ATLast’s Southern flavor is a departure from sounds of Collision’s preceding releases, it is the album’s unmistakable production value that puts it a quintessential step above the rest.

At first glance (no pun intended), the album might seem to lean heavy on the street life tracks, but to find the meaning of ATLast, one has to understand the form of the project. The entire album takes the shape of a narrative story, complete with a character arc. The overall issue of coming to a trust in Christ is shown not as a single leap, but rather multiple jumps that intensify as the album progresses. Even the second to last track, “Refuge” shows a remembrance of Alex’s sinful past.

On “ATFirst” Alex provides the first glimmer of hope in a sea of darkness with bars like “Music tailor made for your soul to have a war to. Life it hanging in the balance, boy, I thought I told you.” Yet the very next track “backslides” over hard hitting low brass stabs, reminiscent of the south’s trademark No Limit tracks. “Chase big money, drive fast cars, may be from the gutter but we lookin at the stars”, Alex says.

Sonically, the next couple of tracks provide a tonal shift that slow the energy of the album down at just the right time. The Wit produced and Trip Lee featured “Light Up” is “ridin’” music at its core and “Hold Me Down” (produced by J.R.) shifts the album’s sound once again into a more personal direction. Over an acoustic guitar line and with some soaring vocals from Christon Gray, Alex paints a picture of marital complications that conjure images of Tiger Woods backing out of his driveway with his wife swinging a golf club. And while Alex’s problems are not infidelity based, they are no less jarring.

With “Bloodlines” we delve into the gracious rescue mission the Lord took on to save Alex. Wit and Wes Pendleton’s arpeggiator line accompanied with J.R.’s transcendent vocals give the track an almost intergalactic feeling. Alex shows his resolve to follow Christ while J.R. drives the point home singing, “You gave me a voice to share my love, forever be true to what I believe.”

“Letting Me Go” is Alex’s autobiography, telling his story from his dirty southern life to his Christian walk as a married man. The dichotomy between the seemingly unavoidable enticement of street life and the “still, small voice” is shown in lines like “I’m not really supposed to win here, an the odds are piling up now, what’s wrong its always been fair and I feel like giving up now.” The song is a reminder that while some believers have been saved from a blatantly heretical lifestyle, others have had deeper-seated issues that might not be readily apparent. We should give equal praise for deliverance from both.

Taking the character arc a step further, we see Alex in the midst of his Christian walk on “Never Giving Up” featuring Social Club. This is a track about pressing in the Lord, and understanding that “all things work together for the good of those who love him” (Rom 8:28). F.E.R.N. spits a particularly interesting verse recalling his tumultuous past: “Walking through the front door just hours later, higher than the moon but [mom] still gone serve that plate up.” Whether it be unsolicited prayers or not, the Father does not give up on those who are His elect.

“Refuge” is a low-key song that employs the skills of three of the most illustrative emcees Christian HipHop has to offer - Alex Faith, Dre Murray and JGivens give their walk us through the muck and mire of their respective cities. But instead of the boastful “City of Nightmares”, we are now given the final act of the play – a much more wisdom-driven reflection of the past. Dre Murray spits - “We don’t trust the reverend so we get it how we live, loadin up the weapons takin what you wouldn’t give.”

The final track, “ATLast” carries the reflection to its conclusion – the reason for the hope that is within us. Alex raps “I crucified Jesus, I was there on that day, I told them hang him on the tree, I told them put him on display.” This is the birth of a new man, one that was not brainwashed by religious rhetoric, one that had a supernatural act done in his life and simply “responded to the call.”

ATLast is a standout in CHH, but after awhile I began to feel that this should be the norm rather than the exception if the genre is to progress in its search for mainstream assimilation. Alex might not be concerned that “your twitter follows don’t play [him]”, but he does know that just because we are Christians, we do not receive a free pass for creating sloppy music. We are (and should be) held to the same standards as the world.

Our lives were never promised to be an unfaltering ascension to happiness, as ATLast reminds us. We will experience pain, suffering, love, loss, anger, fear, regret and joy while we are here. But isn’t it great that we can rest easily in knowing our salvation is secured, ATLast?

Buy 'ATLast' on iTunes - out now on Collision Records. Tracklist:

1. ATFirst
Produced by: Wit & Swoope

2. City of Nightmares (feat. Tragic Hero)
Produced by: Jacob Cardec

3. Light Up (feat. Trip Lee)
Produced by: Wit

4. Hold Me Down (feat. Christon Gray)
Produced by: J.R. for So Hot Productions
Bass by: John McNeill of 42*North
Organ by: Joel McNeill of 42*North

5. Refuge (Interlude) by Odd Thomas
Produced by: Wit & Swoope

6. Bloodlines (feat. J.R.)
Produced by: Wit & Wes Pendleton

7. Letting Me Go
Produced by: Swade and Wit

8. Runaway (feat. Andy Mineo)
Produced by Hothandz Xclusives, Swoope, & Wit

9. Pull Up (feat. Tedashii & Corey Paul)
Produced by: Swade & Wit

10. Never Giving Up (feat. Social Club)
Produced by: D Flow (Beat Politicians)

11. Refuge (feat. Dre Murray & J. Givens)
Produced by: Wit & Swoope


12. ATLast (feat. Christon Gray)
Produced by: Wit & Swoope

Digital only Bonus Track
The Morning (feat. Wes Pendleton)
(Produced by: 42*North

CD only Bonus Track
Everywhere (Remix)
Produced by: Dirty Rice

CD only Bonus Track
Honest 2 God (42*North Remix)
Produced by: 42*North