Music enthusiasts love it when a release that declares itself to be distinct arrives on the scene.  No more same-old, same-old.  Just something a little different that won't fail to add a few hot chili pepper specks to a rap fan's ubiquitous musical repertoire.  This is why there was so much talk of the arrival of The Atonement among Lamp Mode loyalists long before the album's pre-order date had arrived.

Well, there are a few things you should know before you snoop the sounds of shai linne's latest undertaking.  First, the title of the CD perfectly aligns itself with the old saying "what you see is what you get."  The album is about nothing else but the atonement of Christ.  Such a topic is unfathomably astonishing, to say the least, but it alone is what the project brings to light.  Second, The Atonement is not shake-your-rump type entertainment.  Not at all.  In fact, it's a sobering collection of artistry.  Sure, the musicality and lyricism are well worth mention, but this album won't be spun in clubs.  Finally, you can rest assured that once you hear it from start to end, you'll come to yourself on the other side having grown and been enlightened in some delightful measure.

Knowing that this album is designed to be listened to from track 1 to track 19 (no skipping – at least not at the first go-around), let's dive in.  The opening is eerie.  It's deep, classical sound is rich and provokes meditation.  The narrator utters timeless words, deejay essence crafts a bangin' percussion-driven transition, and we're off into a head-nodder that rhythmically surges forward: "In Adam All Die."  As one would hope, The Atonement begins with a track that gets into why an atonement was necessary in the first place.  And the album builds, song after song, from there.

Spurred on by periodic interludes with the Ambassador (of the Cross Movement) and the words of two passionate ministers of the Gospel who are beloved by many, The Atonement takes its listener on the critical journey of a topic the Apostle Paul describes as  "of first importance."  Over SomeDUDE's gritty melody in "School Daze," shai spits verses about the hopeless condition of mankind with creativity analogous to the theme of the project.  Then the stage is set for "Were You There?" which brings beautiful underlying vocals over a track with a cinematic feel.  The song shows shai's insane talent for writing pieces with great arrangements and patterns: in this one, each post-hook verse starts and ends virtually the same as the previous.  This thought-provoking track, influenced by an Old Negro Spiritual, is a favorite.  "We see disciples sleep and mock the day with a lot to say / but we do the same thing when we don't watch and pray."  What follows is the "Atonement Selah" which is both unique to a CD of this genre and a necessary respite at this point in the project.  Needless to say, the live instruments and sheer musicality of the selection invoke sincere appreciation for the work of Christ.

The Atonement resumes with a more nimble track expertly crafted by Tony Stone.  The listener is thrust to the scene of the crucifixion in "Through My Eyes," one of the songs on the album that display's shai's lyrical gift the best.  The flavor of his hook is a rare listen for rap fans, and, as with some other songs in this project, each chorus is distinctive from the previous.  Essence lays a track with a sample that generates a sigh of nostalgia in "The Cross (3 Hours)," where shai spits about "the most significant event in the history of the universe."  Remaining true to form, the lowercase emcee ensures his listener realizes the content's weight: "know this – the main thing the cross demonstrated / the glory and the holiness of God vindicated."  From there, the album celebrates the resurrection, proclaims God's grace in preserving a people for Himself, and offers songs of worship for who God is.  The Atonement doesn't end, though, without a few special additional treats.  In "Atonement Q&A," shai teams up with one of his labelmates to spit an enjoyable, didactic round with knowledge that many wish they'd learned at the start of their walk with the Lord.  More live instruments can be grooved to in "Throne of Grace," where a prayer with a wonderful culminating supplication laces the track.  Get ready for "The Gospel" as well.  If you wanted a bit of this artist's energetic edge, you'll go nuts when you hear this tune.  One can almost imagine shai at a street fair with a bullhorn on this one.  And, of course, The Atonement ends in a familiar shai linne style that will remind some of the conclusion to The Solus Christus Project.  This album leaves its patron wide-eyed at the magnificence of the Lord.

As previously stated, shai linne's sophomore album isn't designed to flood dancefloors.  But the joy of the subject at hand and the marvel that believers experience in learning more of the finished work of Christ is more than enough.  We all need at least a small collection of sounds that truly take us somewhere.  The Atonement sticks to its plan and edifies its listener.  shai linne spits thoughtful lyrics over awesome beats characteristic of Lamp Mode's flavor, all the while modifying his tone and flow to the subject of each song.  No doubt the beauty of The Atonement will presumably occupy your listening space for days and weeks to come.  This CD is a must-have for every Christian. 

Release Date: February 12 2008

Record Label: Lamp Mode Recordings

Track Listing
1. Intro
2. In Adam All Die
3. Atonement Interlude 1
4. School Daze
5. Atonement Interlude 2
6. Were You There?
7. Atonement Selah
8. Through My Eyes
9. Cj Mahaney Interlude
10. The Cross (3 Hours)
11. Atonement Interlude 3
12. Jesus Is Alive (House of Tea Remix)
13. Atonement Interlude 4
14. Mission Accomplished
15. Atonement Q&A
16. Triune Praise
17. Throne of Grace
18. The Gospel
19. Outro