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It has been two years since Swoope’s last full-length album, ‘The Zoo’ – an album that brought the artist almost instant recognition in the Christian Hip Hop community. Swoope releases his sophomore album ‘Wake Up’ on Collision Records, boasting a certain clarity of thought that, while present on ‘The Zoo’, has been refined like iron ore for this release.
In its entirety, ‘Wake Up’ features a very contemplative soundscape, relying heavily on well-orchestrated piano and strings. That Swoope produced the majority of the tracks himself speaks magnitudes of his talents. The musicianship of the album makes it clear that Swoope would rather take his time giving an apology for the Christianity than to rush his listeners to a conclusion of God’s glory. Large expanses of instrumentation fill the void between tracks, making ‘Wake Up’ a very coherent story from beginning to end.
“Ideality” starts off the seventy-minute album in introductory fashion, similar to the way “The Apostle Peter Pan’s Lament” told of Swoope’s beginnings on ‘The Zoo’. Over staccato strings, Swoope expands on a topic also mentioned briefly in ‘The Zoo’, imploring the listener to “wake up” from a comatose slumber and to recognize the splendor of the Almighty God (see: “Time”, also found as a DJ Official remix on this album).
You know, DiCaprio hollerin’ at Juno, tellin’ her that life is just a fantasy.
But the self-proclaimed “Christopher Nolan of rhyme” does not dwell in a single area. ‘Wake Up’ fearlessly dances with difficult topics such as the inner conflict between flesh and spirit on tracks like “Schizo” featuring Tedashii and produced by heavy hitter Street Symphony. Here, Swoope makes clear that what is deemed as a certified medical condition (namely schizophrenia) can also easily be applied to the unrepentant sinner. Bars like “No need for no hero, cuz we live like we villains” give heed for introspection of one’s stance with God.“
Social injustice is looked at on “Blind Eyes (The Good American)”. Featuring label-mate Christon Gray, Swoope carryies forward the prominent theme of activism established by his group, the High Society Collective. But unlike much of the “agenda- driven wisdom” expelled from the lips of musicians, Swoope causes the listener to consider of his own stance in the turmoils of the world.
9:11 we can hold hands… 9:12, I don’t know, man…
The ever popular question “what would your eulogy be like” is answered on “Dreamslave”, featuring Eshon Burgundy. Over a track that sounds like an intro to a Days of Our Lives episode, Mr.“Lowercase on the ‘e’” spits his iconic ultimatum- heavy lyrics: “Gotta let the Potter put my heart together or get shot up by a shooter who was sharp with the Berreta.” Swoope and Eshon each provide verses that expose dream- chasing out to be exactly what they are – luxuries, not necessities.
“Mirage” stands out lyrically with a Rakim-esque barrage of colorful images. Over the span of eight bars, Swoope makes an extended metaphor of the wolf disguised as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. In doing so, he reveals the paradoxical truth about the enticement of sin – it looks well and good on the exterior, but on the inside its yield is death.
The song which most accurately showcases the theme of the album is “Faith Walk.” Swoope backs down on the metaphors for this song and opts for a more direct delivery, expressing a hope in Christ with lines like “I’m workin’ to earn me a crown, I’m marchin’ straight up to the clouds.” Over synthesized chords that sound as though they were pulled straight from the Daft Punk ‘Tron’ soundtrack, Swoope eloquently and biblically gives “a reason for the hope that is within him” (1 Peter 3:15).
“Aesthetic” is bound to bring forth uncomfortable feelings by its intimate and diary-like lyrics, shining the light of God’s grace into the darker areas of Swoope’s life, such as his mother’s fight with cancer or his friend’s near-deadly car crash. Like the inner workings of a grandfather clock, the track’s percussion shifts along over warm organ chords:
“Car wrapped around the pole, but the Lord had his arms wrapped around his soul.“
It’s hard to walk away from Swoope’s album without feeling a sense of encouragement. Seamlessly alternating between a variety of tonalities, ‘Wake Up’ emulates the highs and lows of life like an autobiographical narrative. After the highly acclaimed ‘Circa MMXI’ High Society album, it was interesting to see whether Swoope would continue with the social evangelism that was so prevalent on that album. Instead, ‘Wake Up’ shows his growth as an artist, encompassing both tracks of the splendor of Christ without ignoring the issues of the world.
There is so much content on ‘Wake Up’ that a single review could never do it justice. This is the type of album where some new lyric or nuance is attained even after the thirty-sixth listen. Swoope manages to leave an impression of the commonality of the human condition with this album – one actually feels as though they know and can relate to Allen a little better after listening. They have a sense that total depravity might not be as isolated a situation as they have imagined – maybe we all experience similar joys and sufferings along this journey of life?
Jesus asked his disciples to stay awake while He went to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, but Peter, James and John could not keep watch for even a single hour. Swoope’s ‘Wake Up’ begs a similar question of its listeners:
Are you awake, or are you asleep?
Release Date: March 20, 2011
Label: Collision Records
1. Ideality Prelude
4. Schizo / Hollow Dreams Interlude (feat. Tedashii)
5. Blind Eyes [The Good American] (feat. Christon Gray)
6. Mirage (feat. Bleecker)
7. Dreamslave / Murder Me Prelude (feat. Christon Gray, Eshon Burgundy)
8. Murder Me / Eulogy Interlude
9. Faith Walk (feat. Nicole Serrano)
10. Time / Lullaby Prelude
12. No Impostors (feat. G. Skinn, Malachi)
13. Aesthetic / Beautiful Rise Prelude (feat. Christon Gray)
14. The Beautiful Rise (feat. Sho Baraka)
15. Wlak (feat. Alex Faith, Christon Gray, Sho Baraka)