Gold Rush Maybe One Day-Golden Age of CHH
Today we have a guest post from Laurent W. He’s been on Tha Well before. Laurent is a writer and poet out of Detroit. Check him out at www.I speaklogos.com or follow him on Twitter at @ispeaklogos.
It’s finally here. What we’ve been waiting for. The golden era of Christian Hip-Hop. I’d suspected it was upon us with Lecrae’s pioneering Church Clothes release last year, however the subsequent CHH releases, especially from the Collision Records crew, has undergirded my premise. Christian Hip-Hop has arrived and Dre Murray’s Gold Rush: Maybe One Day is an album that should and will be considered a definitive masterpiece of a previously also-ran genre.
Dre Murray, the Houston, TX born, Tulsa, OK transplant has been plugging away in the CHH underground for quite some time. His debut release Manumit, produced a quality gem in hit single “My Lane”. After which he released to stellar mixtapes in Hell’s Paradise 1 and 2 with Wit, who is now one of Christian Hip-Hop’s top producers and also has production credits on half of the tracks on GRMOD. When news was released late last year that Dre had signed on with fledgling Collision records to join other premium emcees Christon Gray, Swoope, and Alex Faith. I knew it was only a matter of time before the quality music flowed forth, and the four put together a balanced and lyrically amazing crew album in We Live As Kings. However, none of those offerings, as great as they were, are close to matching the quality, balance, lyricism and ambition of Gold Rush:Maybe One Day. It is indeed the definitive album of an era in the genre. It is also, a Hip-hop classic.
While there are a few middling talents out there plowing away to make names for themselves, as well as the veterans still putting in work, most of hiphop tends to get it’s per diem mostly on throwaway LP’s and singles. Here today, gone tonight kind of music that you puts you through the motions for a few weeks and leaves you dry heaving after the hangover. Most hip-hop today is like food that you would only eat at a State Fair, overpriced, overrated and unhealthy specimens that are good for the moment but eventually leave you nauseous. There were however in the last year a few great albums, classics if you will that I’d like to compare GRMOD to. Kendrick Lamar Good Kid, Maad City comes to mind. As does Nas’s Life is Good, and The Roots Undun. These albums have a few things in common. Excellently focused,razor sharp, driven lyricism; Balanced,emotional and moving production; and concepts that are tightly constructed and vehemently adhered to. Dre Murray with the release of GRMOD deserves to be in the category of these emcees and these albums. He upholds every one of those characteristics.
The album leads off with “Sutters Mill”, which is actually one of the (only) weak tracks on the album, an invitation to the listeners into the perspective and trappings of the life of riches and those who chase them. But it quickly takes off with the ambitious, Christon Gray “Maybe One Day”, an intricate track where Dre lays out the pressures that push people into chasing quick cash,”blood on the door just so we can feel safe and sound/ but there’s a body on the ground/ they hit him in his face/ they hit him by mistake/ they hit him in my place/ but i step right over and pay em no never mind/ get on this broad path and slowly avoid the signs/ tellin me turn around but he tryna still shine/ plus i aint got time i’m outchea on the grind” and the feelings of hopelessness knowing that deep down inside, we’re not even sure what we’re looking for or whether the things we’re looking for can be solved with money. Chris Gray provides excellent vocals over Swoopes production, and it really sets the tone of the album from there.
The entire premise of Gold Rush is one that flies in the face of today’s pop culture, and especially hip-hop’s aspirations of money, power and respect. The things that we chase, mostly in vain, why we chase them and how many end up missing the mark and losing everything truly valuable to them, in lieu of chasing riches. It is quite an irony, and almost paints the lavishes of this life as “fools gold.” This premise is especially keen on the the track “Ramesses the Great”, a spoken word by poet/rapper Propaganda who states “who would thought that your math professors, literature writers, and architects had the actual national treasure. The crown jewels that won’t rust, that’s what’s still living; and that gold you so worshipped is in some dumb rappers mouth now” Powerful stuff. And incredibly reflective. The hit single “Pharaoh” continues on this premise bringing to face how we idolize gold in our lives.
The two best tracks on the album are produced by Dre Murray’s long-time producer Wit, and the chemistry here is incredibly obvious. One of the tracks is a sad tale that doesn’t sound it at all on first listen, “Benjamin’s Curse.” Here Dre is at his storytelling best as he describes growing up without the silver spoon, being fortunate to choose the positive path, only to return home to animosity over his success, being despised for making it out of the hood, “see its like a fine/ that you pay when you say/ ‘oh my family? they doin fine'” and told he’s no longer welcome there. And finally in the end, sadly being robbed and having his life taken by those who despised him for making it out. It is a subtly piercing message when you realize the outcome of the young man, who has had to deal with his own demons and temptations to chase fast money, decides to do right, and is rewarded with a bullet to the head. For some reason it made me think of Wallace, from The Wire. A tale that isn’t really cautionary as it is Shakespearean and really just a tragic truth.
The second best track, IMO is Hollywood Heist. My hat goes off to Wit who provides another excellent soundtrack to this light tale of drugs, sex, love and money. The highlight of this song is not only Wit’s genius intuitive sampling, or Dre and Christon Gray’s lyrical dexterity and picture painting,(Chris Gray steals the show here) but also Sean C Johnson’s subtle writing and singing that brings the song to life. Sean C Johnson may be the feature voice in Christian Neo Soul, and he’s ready for the spotlight. His writing is consistently amazing, (“jumping off bridges, won’t give you wings”) as well as his vocals are captivating. He has shown great flexibility and versatility and should be given more platforms like this to showcase.
That is what the entire album does to you. It makes you reflect on your priorities, your ambitions, your sense of self worth in comparison to that which is projected on you. all of this coupled with talks of addictions to the drug life, those who buy and sell, in “Fiend”, dealing with alcoholism in “Letter in a Bottle”, reenactments of suicide in “Alchemy”, or the effects of fatherlessness on children and families in the black community in “All Alone” Dre Murray is a master storyteller who weaves through tales of woe, braggadocio, despair, and even love with a poignancy and a candidness that can only be described as a gift. It’s not music that can be ingested and thrown away easily, but it has to be digested slowly, over time with multiple listens to catch all of the depth and subtleties.
As deep as the subject matter is, though, you never get lost in the message. Dre’s lyricism is never over the top or dumbed down. He doesn’t focus on meaningless punchlines here and there are no Christian youth group chant songs, NTTAWWT. It’s all extremely focused, laser pointed, even microscopic look at the trappings of the “baller” lifestyle so many promote, and the things that truly go along with it. That being said, there really are no falters on this LP. Every track holds it’s weight,and even those deemed lesser, maybe in just in comparison to the other more excellent tracks. At a short, but complete 14 tracks Gold Rush is primed with replay value. This is grown man’s hip-hop. It deserves to be mentioned in the overall category, not just the sub genre. With Gold Rush, CHH has indeed arrived and Dre Murray proves that this medium of the message Christ is ready for mass consumption in hip-hop culture(this is just a statement to the improvement of musical quality, not the message, don’t crucify me). Gold Rush: Maybe One Day is a hip-hop classic.