A founding member of The Cross Movement, Phanatik has been involved with Holy Hip Hop/Christian Rap since the inception of the genre. Cross Movement Records released Crimes & Consequences, Phanatik’s second solo album, in November of 2007. While not technically a concept album, Crimes & Consequences, addresses the negative effects of “sinful” behaviors in a pattern that loosely follows the structure of the Ten Commandments from the Hebrew Bible (a fact made most explicit in the track “Top 10”).
The opening and predominately spoken word track, “World’s Largest Prison,” is ominous, dark, and frames the CD in the extended metaphor that life on earth is like living in a prison. The metaphor builds on Phanatik’s evangelical perspective: “certain inmates” are dedicating their time to speaking to other inmates about “justification” because of “one uniquely qualified inmate who came from the outside” who is willing to switch places with the inmates who are “currently serving death sentences.” This metaphor extends throughout the CD as Phanatik addresses specific issues-obviously directed at mainstream hip hop culture-such as snitching, violence, materialism, and sexual promiscuity. At times this is broadly presented but on specific occasions, Phanatik’s wordplay offers a harsh corrective to mainstream rap artists. In his track “Ready to Go,” Phanatik raps, “makes me wonder / why is it that young bucks / are so quick to untuck / the gun at someone?”
The music of the entire album is hard, with booming, dark beats accompanied by minor key synthesized orchestral vamps. Phanatik’s rapping style is direct with simple, yet direct, hooks. The production quality is solid, equating to that of mainstream rap. In fact, aside from the lyrical content of the album, one would be hard-pressed to differentiate it from most mainstream hip hop.
Where Phanatik appears most insightful is in his broader social commentary. In the track “Mason Dixon,” Phanatik cleverly weaves his hook “just cause the whips done stopped / don’t mean you’re free to go / boy pick them crop…what up homie, ain’t your culture for sale?” He alludes to Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois and urges people in multiple geographic regions to do something he views as worthwhile rather than simply “being profitable.” Similarly, in “Pyramid Scheme,” Phanatik addresses the trappings of the “American Dream” which he equates to excessively buying material items.
While not every track relates to crime, Phanatik is most direct when addressing the prevalence of violence in the urban environment. He refers to his hometown as “Killadelphia” (in “Ready to Go”) and urges listeners to hear his positive gospel message instead of resorting to violence. Governed by the extended metaphor of the world as a prison, Phanatik articulates his evangelical perspective and critically engages the larger hip hop culture while employing hip hop’s own musical medium.
Posted by Mike Lee