Released by ShadowFacts Records
Emerge, the debut album from hip-hop collective ShadowFacts, initially proved promising for an indie release because it’s abundantly laced with nostalgic-early-to-mid-’90s beats. As the album progressed, however, the beats fell to the side as the tally of religious references began to mount and—suspiciously to my vehemently agnostic self— take on more significance than acting as part of an overall theme. Halfway through was when it finally clicked that I was listening to (and, kind of, enjoying) a Christian rap record. Praise must be given (pun un-intentional) to the four-deep ShadowFacts crew for writing songs that allude to their faith without alienating listeners who are non-religious or of another faith. Sure, Jesus is mentioned and there’s an abundance of biblical imagery but chances are that if you’re listening to ShadowFacts, you’re probably; a) Christian, b) into metaphorical, allegorical, super lyrical-type raps, and/or c) interested, and open-minded, enough to put personal belief aside. The lack of overtly religious content is intriguing (and perhaps intentional?) because it means that the record can appeal to both Christians and non-Christians. Emerge has an everyday relevancy to it as well, using rap to inject realism into faith rather than asking listeners to live within strictly Christian parameters. (“I Wanna See,” one of the most introspective tracks, is probably the most overt example).
Unlike the flows of the four emcees—decent at best—the production is not bad. There is an organic, ominous, old school sensibility surrounding Emerge, reminiscent of Hi-Tek’s production on Doom for Cincinnati’s Mood crew. The minimal, yet layered, “Godspeed” and scratch-punctuated chorus on the floaty “Relax Ya Mind,” are revelatory of ShadowFacts proficiency in choosing beats that work.
Emerge has the potential for universal appeal. Not only because the album touts good values (albeit in a Christian context), but because it does so without the condescension and sermonizing that scares some away from religion.