WHATUPRG’s ‘Pleasant Hill’ – A Prodigal Return
WHATUPRG has been chasing his dream of becoming a hip-hop artist since childhood. Inspired by veterans of the industry such as Lecrae, J Raul Garcia has released several songs going as far back as 2016, recently joining the collective known as indie tribe and signing with Reach Records.
On May 25 2018, WHATUPRG presented the world with his Reach Records debut project, Pleasant Hill. Since the project’s release, RG has reminded fans of one simple truth. Pleasant Hill is a story of grace. As RG confirmed, the story does not begin with Pleasant Hill, but instead starts with his hit 2017 single, “Aquafina.”
Aquafina and Glow
On “Aquafina,” WHATUPRG wrote of his desire for a deeper relationship, a sense of contentment, and an end to the superficiality he was experiencing. The final verse of the single stands as a reminder to RG and fans alike, as the artist emphatically declares, “…only you [God] can fill the void I keep within…”
“Aquafina” gives fans a preview into the psychosis of the 21-year-old, as he battles with a lack of fulfillment in worldly relationships, and thus strives for more substantiality. Unfortunately, RG’s search for satisfaction leads him on a dangerous path of self-destruction and doubt.
“Okay, this a thing that I struggle with/ I want you to see my accomplishments/ I guess I’m a feen for the compliments/And if I ever fall off, please no comments, no no comments,”
…proclaims RG on “Glow.” In this moment, RG has confessed his struggles of a desire for validation, arrogance, and comfort. Garcia, or perhaps his alter ego, “Lil Holy” lusts after the applause of others, but balks at the idea of receiving correction, even from the God he claims to serve. The pre-chorus and chorus of “Glow” reads, “Talk to God, he said boy you in the way… Nah homie let me glow right now…”
God Himself has told RG that the young artist is in the way of His glory, and yet Lil Holy rebels, telling God to let him glow instead. As “Glow” ends, a voicemail from RG’s mother plays which, translated from Spanish, states, “Oh, my son, that pride is not going to lead you to anything good. Remember that ‘The exalted will be humiliated, and the one who will be humiliated will be exalted’.” This reference to Matthew 23:12 will become key to the story of Pleasant Hill.
Lil Holy’s Going Home
YellowPaint – “Finally home, finally home on our own”
“YellowPaint,” is the listener’s introduction to the Pleasant Hill project. It introduces the idea of a home. The place where one can find peace. The one constant in an infinitely random life – Home.
An interesting note on RG’s lyrics here is the plural term, “our,” implying that RG or rather, Lil Holy, is not truly alone. One may assume that this is a reference to RG and God, but in a tweet on the track, RG clarified that the song was titled “YellowPaint” because “YellowPaint is about sin…”
This clarification does not necessarily eliminate God from the picture but leads listeners to believe that RG is not referring to God in this present moment. It is more likely that the artist is referring to either himself and his alter ego Lil Holy, or himself and sin. The latter is given additional credence in the second verse of the track as RG raps,
“Little did I know, she came in straight for my soul/And I hid from the truth…”
These lines could be seen as a moment of reflection in the aftermath of Pleasant Hill’s story. Perhaps more terrifyingly, it could also be interpreted as an acknowledgment of his decision as RG/Lil Holy chooses to embrace a sinful lifestyle, thus fleeing from the One who blessed him with his artistic ability, much like Jonah on the road to Nineveh. However, like Jonah, WHATUPRG will never be far enough from God’s power, God’s will, and most importantly, God’s love.
Lil Holy – “They be spitting like the city but this not even home”
The track named after him gives listeners additional clarity into the nature of Lil Holy. WHATUPRG’s alter ego is brash, inconsiderate, and has a chip on his shoulder. When a woman asks him not to bring her up in his art, he states, “I told her baby you wylin’/I get inspired by memories.”
Despite all the ego infused into the song, Lil Holy’s heart is also present as he speaks of the responsibility he feels to his county, minors, and his own friends. Lil Holy is not one-dimensional, he is a conflicted character who is beginning to realize, he is not home yet.