‘The Divine Storm’ by Ty Brasel Offers Hope in a Coronavirus World [Album Review]
When it was announced Drake was going to release his album Dark Lane Demo Tapes, there was no doubt the famed rapper and his album would once again steal the mainstream spotlight on May 1, 2020. But another promising talent shouldn’t go without due recognition. The Divine Storm: An Audio Narrative by Ty Brasel is a hip hop album that combines unique melodic vibes with witty lyrics and a streamlined tracklist that fits together in a way many modern-day hip albums are unable to accomplish. Furthermore, The Divine Storm is marked with an incontestable authenticity that fills the soul with timeless content and socially sumptuous production well worth a linear listen from start to finish.
Ty Brasel noted that most of the songs are from last summer (2019), but “the message is as timely as ever,” and he couldn’t be more right. In a year that will indelibly be marked by COVID-19, Brasel’s project sounds like it was engineered specifically for this moment of social distancing, widespread protests, deep political divides, and alarming death rates.
From the opening track, “Sweet Misery (Intro),” Brasel acutely observes “So many people been losing they sanity…All of the tragedy the world felt,” and asks, “Where do we go from here?” The title of the track and the lyrics beg the question: Why, or even how, can misery be bittersweet?
As we feel the effects of our lives being put on pause in some way or another, some find being stuck in the house a state of misery. But in that misery, we find the sweetness of recovered time with God in prayer, family dinners, games, nature, and friendships. Even Lecrae recently told Forbes Magazine that he was able to have a two hour Nerf gunfight with his kids. It was, “Something that we otherwise wouldn’t have had the time and opportunity to do,” he said. In our misery, God is always working something better, even if we can’t always comprehend it. Jesus died (misery) for the joy set before Him (sweetness).
And even in this same vein Brasel acknowledges the darkness of this world on the track “Whirlwind.” “It’s a evil world it get dirty/But everything happens for a purpose.” But instead of shaking our heads or hiding out in our safe circles, we have an obligation to, as Brasel raps, “move through the rain…thunder…forest….[and] jungle,” and show the world what it really needs.
Believers can exemplify an everlasting hope in God in the ways we respond to tragedies, despair, and pandemics. Christians aren’t exempt from feeling—and showing—the effects of the whirlwind of this world. We, too, lose sleep, face economic hardship, and feel like we’re on the edge of collapsing. But it’s what we do with all this pressing calamity that testifies of the glory and faithfulness of God.
My wife and her sister just finished working in New York City hospitals, a hotspot for the coronavirus outbreak, for virtually 27 days straight. They witnessed emotionally taxing circumstances for patients and their families. Days after their arrival back home the emotional toll still weighs on them like many other healthcare professionals. With some help from a counselor, my wife learned these feelings are natural. But as believers, we have the benefit of taking our natural fears, depression, and sadness to the supernatural—God. He invites us to do this just as the psalmists do throughout the book of Psalms. And that is what Ty Brasel also encourages in the track “Paid for It,” telling listeners that he looks to God every single time, because “I know You saved me.” Truthfully, though, it’s difficult to remember this while we’re overwhelmed. And that’s why Brasel uses the principle of gratefulness on The Divine Storm to nudge the necessary perspective shift in our circumstances.
Gratefulness, primarily rooted in salvation, is the key element in a heart that is able to weather a divine storm. Brasel teamed up with lyrical gymnast J. Monty to rap on the extravagance of God’s goodness in their lives on the song “I’m Grateful.” “I went through the storm/I wandered around the wilderness,” is the story of every Christian—no matter how clean or grimey the story. And that is reason enough to lift our head to the heavens some days. But most days we need only to take a deep breath and absorb where we are and give thanks to God for the added blessings of family, friends, and nature. Sometimes it is enough to simply remind ourselves the true words from philosopher Josef Pieper, “It’s good that you exist; it’s good that you are in this world.” In the storm, a heart of gratitude begins to exude The Light of Christ within us. As a result, we start to “…put effort/To show the world [our] heart/Been overflowing from the God who/Delivered [us] from the grave,” as J. Monty raps.
Any honest critique of The Divine Storm is nitpicky but worth dissecting for a fuller experience of the content rather than its sound. Brasel’s insistence throughout the album that “everything happens for a purpose”— even though the “World [is] going crazy” and “on fire”— often feels like an oversimplification of what sometimes feels like complex matters for both believers and unbelievers.
In her book, Everything Happens for A Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, Kate Bowler, a professor at Duke Divinity School, describes how scriptures like Romans 8:28 and Matthew 6:33 were lobbed at her as quick-fix maxims and prescriptions for her pain and plight by oftentimes well-meaning Christians. As Bowler observed her life, though, she found, “Each day has been a collection of trivial details—little intimacies and jokes and screw-ups and realizations. My problems can’t be solved by those formulas—those clichés—when my life was never generic to begin with.”
When the world doesn’t make sense it’s difficult to address the chaos head-on. It takes time. It takes work. Sometimes the aim of that work—attempting to rationalize senseless turmoil—is unnecessary. This is why author N.T. Wright, in his article “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus”, encourages Christians to practice lamenting instead of incessantly attempting to explain suffering as “happening for a purpose.” “As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell,” Wright explains. “And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope.”
However, when we press into The Lord in our seasons of uncertainty, suffering, and doubt, we can testify like Brasel, “I’m a product of the mountains and valleys/But in a spirit sense/God wrote the story/I came out of it a lyricist.”
In this way, our life becomes the testimony that everything does indeed happen for a purpose. It is not a false statement, especially when we can go back and trace where God was and what He was doing in our circumstances. And it’s in that vein that we can believe Brasel’s intent with The Divine Storm is to encourage the hopeless that “One day [you’ll] hear that trumpet sound” and “One day we’ll be free at last” (“When Worlds Collide [Outro]).”
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