Turn My Life Up is the first Reach Records release by Sho Baraka. Canadian-born and California-raised, Sho Baraka grew up during the peak of the gangsta rap era and began rapping, himself. After witnessing the troublesome effects gang life had on his close friends, Sho Baraka turned his life in a new direction and attended Tuskegee University where he became a Christian. There, he continued rapping but changed his lyrical content to mesh with his newfound spirituality.
In terms of lyrical content, the four albums reviewed in this issue (by Sho Baraka, FLAME, Phanatik and shai linne) are all laced with countless Biblical, theological, and ecclesial references. The rappers, in fact, cite many of these Biblical allusions verbally by noting the Biblical book, chapter, and verse. Along with using Biblical language in these citations, each artist conveys general Biblical themes in colloquial and vernacular language. Sho Baraka, while referencing many Biblical verses, has a particular aptitude for incorporating secular references to convey images of Christianity and seems to be the most invested in making his theological perspectives understandable to a general audience. Through a plethora of secular references (to movies, music, and current events), Baraka expresses ways for people to overcome personal trials and “exalt God to his proper place” (from “Slow it Down”) and ultimately, to revel in the goodness of God. In alluding to the death of Jesus, Baraka says that he “died harder than Bruce Willis” (from “100”).
One of the more soulful, R&B inspired tracks on the album is “Turn My Life Up” which features production techniques reminiscent of The Neptunes, and melodic singing by guest artists during the choruses. “Rebuild the City” employs a vocal production technique achieved through the manipulation vocal effects that has recently been popularized by artists such as T-Pain.
In “Overrated,” Sho Baraka raps, “The youngest quote 50 Cent but can’t count to fifty cents” and screams the chorus: “The money / the power / the fame / the lies and the game / it’s all / it’s all / it’s all / overrated.” This track can be compared to FLAME’s “It’s All Gon’ Pass,” where he attacks worldly materialism by rapping, “you can have it all / the cars and the cash / it ain’t gonna mean nothing when the Lord comes back.” This firm critique against materialism and references to hip-hop culture, in general, are consistent threads between each artist’s lyrics.
Posted by Mike Lee