Album Review: W.L.A.K. - Collision Records
|Reviewed and Written by Josh A.O.N. Kriese|
We Live As Kings
So the other night I was checking my e-mail at some obscure hour of the night, and I received a message from Revolutionary Ink. The subject line read, “W.L.A.K Review,” and it immediately grabbed my attention. Usually I get albums a couple weeks before they come out due to leaks on the internet, but as far as Christian rap or hip hop, I usually have to wait until the day it comes out on iTunes to grab it. I opened the e-mail, and they asked me to review the upcoming W.L.A.K album, and provided a link for immediate download. Can you imagine my excitement? I had been waiting for months for this album to come out, and now I get to listen to it a week earlier than anyone else. What a blessing.W.L.A.K is a group consisting of all the members signed to Collision Records. It is somewhat of a posse cut including Swoope, Christon Gray, Alex Faith & Dre Murray. Now, over the past year I have heard a lot from Swoope, Christon Gray & Dre Murray and I have grown to be big fans of all three, but up until this point I have not heard much from Alex Faith.
At this point in time, I have listened to the album numerous times, so let’s get into it.
1) Intro (feat. Swoope & Wit)
The production on this track is great. Being that it is more of an instrumental intro, I didn’t feel comfortable giving it a rating. I do feel that it is a strong prelude to the next track, and a good way to start of a highly anticipated album.
2) Imagine (feat. Dre Murray, Alex Faith, Christon Gray, & Swoope) – 4/5
The track starts with Christon singing about this fallen world that we all live in, and then the beat drops and Dre Murray comes in swinging with rock hard bars like:
Kids sell their crown just to be a king/ hit the block and lose sleep just to get a dream
Alex Faith is then next to go and I must admit I was not a fan of this verse the first couple times I heard it. It sounded a little rough in comparison to Murray’s verse, but over time it really began to grow on me. This seems to be Alex’s style throughout a lot of the album.
Christon then comes back in for the hook and the verse following the hook. Mr. Gray is a great singer, I absolutely love his voice, and he has definitely come a long way as a rapper, which makes him even more of a threat. His verse here shows the truthfulness of the statement above. When Swoope eventually kicks in, the beat drops down and slowly begins to build back up. Swoope kills his verse, but the problem I found was this, when the beat begins to build, it can be really hard to hear what Swoops is saying because the build really drowns him out. All in all, this is a great opening track for the album, and it was the first single that was released for the album as well.
3) Long Way Down (feat. Christon Gray & Dre Murray) – 5/5
What an awesome track! The minute Christon kicks in I knew I was going to love this track. It has an older retro feel to it, with dated sounding production, which was no doubt the intention. Dre Murray and Christon Gray make a great team and it is easy to see when you listen to the chemistry the two have together here. The track is then ended with a guitar solo, which almost reminds me of something that Joe Budden would do on the outro of a track.
4) All In (feat. Alex Faith & Dre Murray) – 3/5
The first time listening to this track, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I have to admit that the first verse was definitely the high point of the track for me. Alex delivers an amazing verse, and some of my favorite bars on the entire album spitting:
We say/ welcome to the royal family/ God is my Father/ do you really understand me/ huh?/ He’s really the best example/ cause we could search the whole earth and only find a handful/ of righteous men and I ain’t talking kings of nations/ I’m talking heads of households/ fathers who are patient/ the sacrificial husband who leads his wife in a loving way/ and as the head/ knowing he’s responsible in every way/ wakes up and dies/ plans his funeral/ everyday/ for the man/ this responsibility should carry weight
Sadly, Alex seems to outshine his counterpart Dre Murray on this particular track. One could not say that Murray’s verse was weak by any means, but it is hard to match up to Alex in comparison here in my opinion. When we finally get to the last verse, Alex and Dre trade bars, spitting 8 each until the end. The final verse leaves a little more to be desired, and ends on somewhat of a low not I found.
Sadly, I was not really a fan of the production either, which is why I gave the track a lower rating compared to the rest.
5) Coward (feat. Alex Faith & Christon Gray) – 3.5/5
“Coward” is filled with complicated drum patterns and a very different production sound that Swoope and Wit have become known for. Alex and Christon mesh very well, both delivering solid aspects to the track. Although it is not a personal favorite, one can understand the appeal and see why it would be a banger for a lot of people.
6) Reign Is Coming (feat. Swoope, Dre Murray & Christon Gray) – 5/5
The second the track starts you can already feel that this is going to be an epic track. Christon and Swoope are the first to kick in. Swoope weaves his rhymes in between the drum kicks delivering perfection, and once Murray comes in, he follows suite. As a reviewer, it is hard for me not to share a lot of the bars from the artist that I enjoy, but I do not want to ruin too much here for the listener. Christon also delivers an awesome verse in the second stanza of the track. This also happens to be the longest track on the album, and sounds a lot like an anthem in certain aspects of it, including the harmonizing in the background during the verses. This is definitely a high point in the album.
7) YHWH (feat. Swoope & Dre Murray) – 5/5
Oh snap, an Eshon Burgundy sample. The track kicks in with dirty south bass kicks, so make sure you pull out the subs for this one. When I heard this track, I was sitting on a bus and I wanted to dance SO BAD! This is definitely going to be a hit for the south hip hop heads. The only thing that I think could have made this better would be having an actual feature from Eshon. Swoope and Dre are both at their best here, and leave no question that this is a banger.
8) ABNY (Marty McFly) (feat. Swoope & Alex Faith) – 4.5/5
This is definitely the track that I think a lot of Christians are going to identify with. Basically going into detail about how we can’t wait to go home and be with the Father, I can definitely agree with the message here. The production contains a great piano loop, and in the end the track switches from a banger to somewhat of an epic track as the sound totally switches up. Both rappers are on point as well, delivering hopeful and meaningful bars. All I can say is, “I’m at home already.”
9) Broken Kings (feat. Alex Faith, Christon Gray & Swoope) – 4.5/5
Alex is the first to come in, and he spits about some really dope topics including the recent killings in Chicago, abortions etc. Bringing world issues to the forefront, he then brings in the Gospel message, exclaiming that we are kings, and tries to reach out to a fallen people. Swoope spits the last first, and exclaims that “if our eyes aren’t on the King then our focus is off.” All in all, this is a really touching track about reaching out to the lost who continue to fall in vain.
The only downfall to the track in my opinion would be the production. Although there is nothing wrong with it, I am just not a particular fan of it. That is the reason for the half point loss.
10) Eyes For You (feat. Christon Gray) - 5/5
This track is simply a prelude to the following track, yet and still I gave it a prefect rating because I absolutely love it as a whole, the content, production and the vocals. This is an awesome way to lead into another track. I could probably be totally content if there was no next track, this is just an awesome addition to the album. Christon sings about the love in his life, seeming to be his wife and daughter. Any father or husband will definitely be able to identify with this one.
11) WLAQ (feat. Christon Gray & Swoope) – 5/5
This is another perfect addition to the album. It may be personal preference, but I truly can identify with this track. This is something that I would play for my Wife. Not only is it a great track to just bump, you can also get a great message from it as well. Christon spits over the first slot, and then Swoope comes in next. The hook is amazing with Christon singing:
I only have eyes for youAny man can identify how hard it can actually be to make this statement. My favorite section of the track comes from Swoope who exclaims:Patient with your king even when I get heated/ you’re in love with another man/ and I don’t feel cheated/ Jesus
This track is a perfect addition to the album, and will be one to affect men everywhere who are married, dating or hoping to pursue a relationship in the future, no doubt.
12) Arena (feat. Dre Murray & Christon Gray) – 5/5
The production is totally atmospheric. It sounds as though the background vocals are being sung in a stadium, which makes the track sound like an epic type of anthem. Dre Murray and Christon Gray come together to speak about the risen Christ. Murray dives into our waiting for the coming of Christ, and the hope that we have in waiting for him. Christon then goes onto sing about “the stone they all rejected,” and how he stepped down from the throne to save us, and how no one else could have done it but him. This is a track that will bring tears to your eyes based off of the sound alone. Once digging into the lyrics, one cannot help but be humbled. This is an awesome track.
13) King In Me (feat. Swoope & Christon Gray) – 5/5
Now, I personally would have ended the album with the previous track opposed to this one. That being said, this is still a great track. Swoope comes in with bars like:
My Fathers Liam Nieson/ his children never get taken
The second Christon Gray comes in one cannot help but be taken away with the hook. It is an awesome addition to the track and in many ways, makes the track as good as it is. The outro really brings the album to a close nicely. But as I said, it is not what I would have ended on, but it is still an amazing addition to the album.
It has truly been an honor to review this project, especially since I have the pleasure of listening to it early. With very few weak points (if you could call them that), this album could very well set the tone for this next year’s hip hop projects. Without a single doubt in my mind, this will be worth every penny that you pay for it. So be sure to go and pick it up.
And lastly, I WANT A FEATURE FROM YOU CHRISTON!!! Lol.
Categorical Ratings & Breakdown:
Beat Selection/Production: 4.5/5
All In All: 4.25/5
The project will be available via iTunes March 5, 2013.