My first Bar Exam of 2021 is for a very respected and familiar name to CHH, Eshon Burgundy. His newest project, Don’t Shoot The Messenger charted on iTunes this last week at No. 4 for Hip-Hop Albums, so I’m excited to share my thoughts on it this week with you (and if you haven’t listened, you’re probably in the minority).

Eshon Burgundy

For those of you unfamiliar with my bar exams, I am sharing all of my notes from my true first listen to the project. I provide in-depth thoughts and commentary on anything from flows, rhymes, beats, creative direction, track placement, and concepts.

Don’t Shoot – Starts with an intense cadence to the flow but a walking pace to the instrumental.

“To the King you’re either Mordecai or Haman/All my repentance eating up my violations/Yah gave Street the beat then gave me all these fly statements/Only those with the holy ghost will know what I’m sayin”

Sheesh. This type of Eshon track takes me back to when he was dropping tapes 10 years ago. He’s on another level, man I really dig this opening track.

Belly – Eshon starts out singing. He doesn’t have the best singing voice, but honestly, as the song progresses it becomes more appealing. Really mellow piano loop with a driven beat underneath. “Me and the devil will always be at odds… in the belly of the beast” It’s biblical bars from here on out. It’s a pretty quick flow, so many punchlines he’s got me wanting to rewind it. There was a baseball reference about a pitch in the stands. He’s calling God’s people to stop following the traditions of the world.

I Knew You Loved Me – These beats sound like Kanye at his peak. Really free-flowing but musical loops and intricate layers. He’s just spitting through the fence on this one, but the way the beat pauses at times it makes his rhymes even more dope. Through it all the Most High never lets us forget who we are.

Nothing But The Blood – The interpolation of the old hymn here is so cool. Eshon’s voice sounds so smooth over this beat. He’s obviously spitting about all that Jesus’ blood has done for us.

“Blood on top of the doorpost/Death passed me over, my former life Casanova/On water like Captain Noah, headed to the shore/My body is the temple, just know He the door” 

His passion just oozes off of every line he’s ripping off here. Tremendous. The track closes out with explorer Ron Wyatt’s recounting of the DNA test of Jesus’ blood that was found on the Ark of The Covenant. The emotion in that clip is bone-chilling.

Sins Of Omission – This one features fellow Philly emcee Japhia Life. The beat is pretty pepped up. This hook is just okay though. “How did we obtain the blessing through this violence” This rhyme scheme in this verse is crazy. He bends words to fit but it works. Yeah, I’m not feeling the hook. Japhia brings that classic authority to the booth and takes the track up to the bar.

Israel Thoughts“Colored people are the only people who don’t have an idea of where we’re coming from.”  This is an interlude with a profound thought about people of color creating their own identity because “they don’t have an understanding of their own history.” I never really give critique to interludes, but I will say this is worth a thoughtful listen. It’s important for all of us to gain perspective from listening to other perspectives that are not our own.

Fall Away – We’re back with a soul sample, and a simple “Hallelujah” to start the next song.

“You think that telling truth will bite the hand that feeds ya/Scripture say the Holy Spirit is gon be our teacher/Everybody waking up the Church gon have a seizure/Your 501c3 belongs to Caesar”

Eshon hands off the last verse of this track to his wife, who as usual brings some dopeness to the mic as well. The premise of the song is that they’re going to stay persistent in their faith. It’s an encouraging song for a believer, a reminder to get to work and stay faithful in trouble, building endurance and strengthening our character along the way.

Staircases – Alright I really felt like this one started off like a Griselda track. Eshon comes at it with thoughtful tenacity. He’s got some personality that shows in the performance of this one, and he just keeps going. This is just one long verse with a hook at the very end.

Goggles – The beats throughout this are pretty simple. I think somewhere online I saw Eshon refer to this project as a “tape.” The instrumentals seem to be all loops, so that makes sense in that context. Honestly, the subtle changes in the production throughout keep the listener hungry, and there are zero slumps so far. No hooks on this track, just flow. We’ve got the pedal to the metal at this point.

Angelic – This track is captivating because Eshon commands the first verse and the hook without drums really kicking in at all. Even Fern takes the baton without a beat laying in. There’s so much tension underneath this track, but these rappers go and go. Wow. There’s not any more?

Eshon approaches every song with this quiet confidence. Each rhyme is sharp and tactful, and each message dense and challenging. This project comes in at 38 minutes including an 8 minute interlude, so it may be a quick listen, but because of the reasons I just listed, this is no easy listen. There’s so much to chew on, rewind, and ponder throughout Don’t Shoot The Messenger, but it’s also a great hip-hop project and a perfect way to kick off 2021.

Overall Rating – Above The Bar

What do you think? Have you listened to this yet? Comment Below: