Despite not being godly on the mic, Sho Baraka proves he is a good emcee by releasing a Christian hip hop album that tries hard not to dwell on its religious material. Benefitting from raw, crashing production that possesses a tribal quality, particularly on the controversial “Jim Crow”, Sho delivers an accessible album let down by the odd self-indulgence.
Similar in style to fellow preacher Brother Ali, “Mahalia” is a confident piece that wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio had the content been less about Christianity. The production often stands out, most notably on “Peter Pan”, a more traditional Kev Brown-influenced number you could imagine Blu rocking to. “Denzel” sees Sho Baraka mocking ‘swag’ rappers, and when not talking religion is where Sho excels most. The lyrical content isn’t what lets “Madoff” down, but the spoken word manner it is delivered, thankfully saved by a great Caribbean-infused chorus. The album closer “Nicodemus” may well be the pick of the bunch, a real goosebump production from J.R. that fails lyrically due to being so engulfed in biblical references that it feels like a church reading.
If you want a well-produced piece of modern hip hop with a strong Christian message, you’ll do well to top this, but for the less devout, the rhymes are too focussed and take away from what could have been a great record.