Saturday, December 29, 2007

List: Top 10 HHH Videos of 2007

Granted errrbody and they mamma got a "Top X" list (hey, it's the end of the year and, as journalists, we're feeling just as lazy as you) but I ask that you induldge me on my first bullet ranking.

Without further ado, I propose these are the best holy hip hop videos of 2007.

10. T-Bone – “Name Droppin”

Nashville’s CCM scene gets some love via cameos and moniker mentions from The Redeemed Hoodlum.

9. Othello – “Let’s Just”

Live action and animation with colorful backgrounds and wordplay comprise a clip that would make Common jealous.

8. Ras – “Bank On That”

The veteran gets to floss like a boss while braggin’ on his Daddy. (Side note: This clip set off a rash of H-town video recordings. Sometimes you just need a spark.)


You didn't really expect me to do a video blog without plugging my very first cameo did you?!?

S.O.M. – “You Don’t Know Me Like Dat”

Creativity, humor, and great cameos (Bushwick Bill, Shei Atkins, CY, Bruce Bang, DJ D-Lite, Gifted, and yours truly) artfully conceal the low budget of this bold cut.

7. Pigeon John – “Freaks”

If you need an introduction to PJ, watch this cut for a great summary of his silly, artsy, dope form of Christians doing hiphop.

6. Pettidee – “I’m A Vet”

Respect due and respect earned with this highly professional clip. Listen in for the old school HHH names dropped in the last verse.

5. John Reuben – “Word of Mouth”

Another excellently animated video (see #1 for the first) that takes us off the beaten path to Johnny Reubonic’s new sound.

4. Da’ T.R.U.T.H feat. Tye Tribbet – “Who Am I?”

Although not as visually impressive as some of the others on this list, it was undoubtedly the most successful, (gospel market) crossover cut of the year.

3. Knine – “For You”

YouTube at its greatest: “The Passion of the Christ” recut scene for scene to match the Dog’s hiphop spin on the Easter story.

2. Mr. J Medieros – “Constance”

Gut-wrenching illustration of the dark realities of the porn and sex slave industries. One of (if not the) most important videos in HHH history.

1. Theory Hazit – “I Just Wanna Go Home”

Simple, shape-shifting black and white animation communicates the soul-bearing personal story of Theory Hazit to near-perfection.

Honorable mentions:

Agree? Disagree? Feel like I overlooked someone (your crew's cut obviously)? Lemme know in the Commments section.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"The Word became flesh..."

"The Word [God] became flesh and made his dwelling among us." - John 1:14

Ponder that and worship.

Merry Christmas from Sketch the Journalist

Promo: Crunk Christmas Carols and "The Perfect Christian Rap Album"

Just because December is almost over doesn't mean you can already get out of the Christmas spirit.

So, if you've grown tired of the traditonal holiday tunes, give k-Drama's "Crunk Christmas Carols" a spin.

A bit silly and outdated? In the words of Lil Jon - Yeeeaaahhhh!!!!!! But still, can't we all use a little laughter during the hustle and bustle (is that even a word?) of this time of year?

This four track EP reworks the classics with a thump and smile. Cin-City's k-drama provides both the beats and the vocals that remind us of family and faith.

Thankfully he also has a good sense of humor about himself and the project and seems to present it all with a wink and a smirk.

Pick it up and play it for your Grandma. I'm guessing both of you will at least get a giggle.


And if you haven't seen this already, check out my most recent column at

It's already stirring up some good conversation on message boards and comment threads.

Let me know your thoughts as well.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Recap: Bushwick Bill / Icece Listening Party & B-day Bash (12/14/07)

All I can say is “What a night!” I haven’t been to a holy hiphop event this unique in a while.

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More than just a concert, Friday’s jam at The Brighter Side CafĂ©/Club also included celebrations of several birthdays and the surprise announcement that Much Luvv Records was losing one of its team members.

Oh yeah, we also got sneak previews of tracks off of two upcoming albums from Icece and the legendary Bushwick Bill (of the Geto Boys).

Happy Birthday to…

  • Bushwick Bill
  • Icece
  • Mrs. Tre9 (aka Maria)
  • Mrs. Bless’T (aka Linda)
The small $8 cover charge went to support The Brighter Side and included a full fajita dinner (con aroz & frijoles) - plus we all got to grub on the cakes.

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Tre9 and Maria show off the goodies

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As the crowd filtered in, DJ Chill manned the music booth and got all the kids dancing to the some old school hip hop classics and the latest gospel rap heatas.

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DJ Chill and Tre9 behind the scenes

Shortly after that, Tre9 took the Master of Ceremonies mic and explained that evaluation forms were being handed out to the audience to rate and rank tracks from Icece’s upcoming album. Each song got a minute and half of play time and then the crowd was asked to give each title an:

  • Industry Rating (A-D): A. Radio Single / B. I’d Buy It / C. Might Buy It / D. Wouldn’t Buy It
  • Personal Rating (1-5): 1-Trash It / 2-Needs Lots of Work / 3- Good / 4- Feelin It / 5-Bangin
  • Dislikes (optional): Ex: Beat, lyrics, delivery, sound quality (mixing), feature artists, etc.
Such market research is a common practice in the mainstream music industry, but it’s a rare occurrence in the holy hip hop world. And it’s such a win-win for the audience (previews of new tracks) and the labels (advance feedback before making any final decisions) that I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of it.

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X-Thug (of The Brighter Side) and Stephen Oran (fka Stikk)

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Testimony with producer Bruce Bang and his wheelchair athlete brother Kevin

Before and after Icece’s listening session, several acts took the stage for a quick set. Those that blazed the mic included: AFC, Gifted (Bound 4 Glory Records), Chosen, Bless’T, and 007 (formerly of the 5th Ward Boyz).

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Gifted on the mic

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007 comin' fierce

Next, we got to hear and evaluate songs from Bushwick Bill’s “Testimony of Redemption” album. Man was there some fire here!

Seventeen cuts in all, from the anti-Chucky, rock screamer “No More Child’s Play” to the remake of the classic “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me” called “My Renewed Mind.”

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Charles, Pastor T, and Joe from A.O.G. Clothing

The album has several guest features from local HHH cats like Gifted, Bless’T, and Lil Raskull who were in attendance that night and later took the stage with him.

I gotta tell ya that Bushwick is serious about his change. At a side table during the listening session he chopped it up with Lil Raskull and said he wasn’t satisfied with just doing this one album. He said God had laid it on his heart to do a triple album tentatively titled “The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

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Gifted, Ras, and Bushwick engage in some real talk.

He said he didn’t want people to see him like KRS-ONE who dropped “Spiritually Minded” and then went back to his typical material (and was thought to have only done a gospel album to pimp sales from the church crowd. )

Instead, Bill said he has done and said so much evil in his old lyrics and that he needed to set things right with his new content. He said he wants to touch everyone with his music and even include tracks done entirely in Spanish or Jamaican slang.

A drop date for “Testimony of Redemption” has not yet been set, but look for it in 2008 on the G-Spot Productions label.

After the BB listening session, Colcutz and Tre9 took the stage followed by Von Won, S.O.M. and Icece.

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Tre9 and Colcutz (in the Lupe Fiasco-like hoodie) get the crowd moving without any Souljah Boys

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S.O.M. - They some real "Fiyah Startas"

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Icece is 6'3" flowin....

At the end of Icece’s set, Tre9 asked that everyone from his label join him up front for a major announcement. He reviewed the history of his Much Luvv Records label and how Icece was an old high school friend who reconnected with him over the past few years. Icece was intended to be Much Luvv’s first mainstream artist (still positive and clean, just not so Scripture heavy) but that a bigger opportunity had been presented to him that he had to take.

Never one to hold his artists back, Tre9 gave his blessings for Icece to sign with J7 Records out of Baton Rouge, LA. J7 has a relationship with Universal and can possibly put Icece in front of millions and millions of listeners.

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The Icece presentation and prayer

Both sides embraced and prayed as T-Trax (J7’s main man) thanked Much Luvv for their above-the-board business ethics and for grooming Icece’s career up to this point. A cool feature of this move is that Tre9 will actually continue that relationship as a manager/advisor for his former artist.

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Tre9, Icece, and T-Trax

Finally, the Little Big Man took the stage to perform some of his new material. He said he was nervous about the performance and still getting into "show mode" with some of his new lyrics. Nonetheless, he did it all with a smile and his trademark giggle and humor.

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Bushwick blasts off

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"What's up Party People?"

The “All Eyes On Me” TV show camera crew was in the crowd in addition to some guys filming for an upcoming documentary on Bill’s life.

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Tre9 assisted on the hook for “Takin’ It Back” (Bushwick Bill / takin’ it back / to the days when people actually learned something from rap) and AFC and Gifted joined in to perform their parts on “Work It Out.”

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Gifted, AFC, and Bushwick break it down

Bushwick closed out the night with a prayer for the families of Houston’s fallen recently deceased rappers (Fat Pat, Hawk, Big Mo, and Pimp C) and took the audience through a recitation of the Sinner’s Prayer confession of faith. He also asked people to lift him in prayer as he continues to try and follow and imitate Jesus the Christ in his daily life.

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The always animated Boyce

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As I said, it was quite a night. Look for more details on both Icece and Bushwick Bill’s albums in the near future and check out The Brighter Side on any upcoming weekend for a chill, Christian social environment.

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Mr. Morris of The Brighter Side

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Bushwick with his G-Spot Records partner

Hear Bushwick's new music at:
Hear Icece's tracks at:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Recap: Hydrate Hope launch party (11/29/07)

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Market Street advance promo poster

A week ago tonight I was doing a little bit of sweating. It was for a great cause though.

It was the launch party for a global clean water project called Hydrate Hope. HH is the first push from a non-profit organization started by two friends of mine (Shep & Coley) from Montgomery County.

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Shep takes the stage.

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Coley on the mic.

i am change exists to challenge people to “step outside of themselves” and do something to help solve some of the world’s greatest needs. First up: Clean water in Africa.

From the Hydrate Hope website:

Hydrate Hope is a movement that began out of asking the question, “with so many needs in the world, where can we begin to make a difference”. Our answer…start with the biggest. With water being the #1 killer in the world, our passion is to engage this preventable global atrocity head on.

Over 1.1 Billion people in our world have no access to clean water. That's basically 1 out of every 6 people on our planet. More than 2 million people, mostly children, die each year from preventable waterborne illnesses.

2.6 Billion people are without basic sanitation. Many women and children walk over than 2 hours each way to often fetch more than 40lbs of dirty water for their families. This creates an absence of time and energy necessary for education or small business.

The heartbreaker...4 children die every minute...that means that every 15 seconds another child dies....we want this to change. This has to change!”

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Clean water getting to people who need it most makes Kim and me smile.

So what happened last Thursday? Basically, we raised awareness and money. i am change took over the Central Park area of the Market Street shopping center in The Woodlands. While people were buying XBoxes and iPods we were trying to engage them in a conversation about one of the world’s biggest issues.

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Market Street lit up.

I know it sounds all dark and heavy, but it was actually a lot of fun. My man DJ Millhouse spun some Christmas tunes and we had Nashville band Love and Theft (recently signed with Lyric Street Records, home to such artists as Rascal Flatts and SheDaisy) take the stage for several sets of their talented folk-rock.

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Love and Theft brought the crowd in.

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DJ Millhouse (aka Noe) with his wife Vanessa and daughter Mia Mor.

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L&T close out the night.

We had hot chocolate, hot coffee, brownies, and other assorted pastries. We sold raffle tickets, Christmas tree ornaments, T-shirts, and bottles of water.

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Water bottles were sold for $20 each. Outrageous right? Not when you know that the cost of that bottle can/will provide clean water for an African for the next 15 years.

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Whitney and Jess handle the merch booth for those sweet T-shirts.

In all, I think it raised about $9,000 for clean water projects in Sierra Leone. Probably 400 – 500 people passed through the park during the two-hour event and i am change successfully launched its first project and event.

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Joyous dancing around a fountain of water. Make the connection?

To learn more about i am change and Hydrate Hope hit these links.

i am change:
Hydrate Hope:

And to see more, much, much better photos of this fantastic night check out my man Chip’s blog from studio563. Look for my bald head interviewing some of the attendees.

Chip’s pics:

Grace and peace this Advent season.


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As I was helping the i am change team clean up I ran across this store not three doors down from the Hydrate Hope awareness event. Crazy irony, no?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fun: What's in your iTunes library?

Here's a fun little quiz I got from my man Adam P. Newton on his Dryvetyme Onlyne blog. Feel free to fire up your copy of Apple's jukebox and play along.

How many total songs?


Sort By Song Title: First & Last

"A.C. Bates" by Bone Circus
"?" by Outkast

Sort By Time: Shortest & Longest

0:05 - "Public Service Announcement" by B.L.U.E
2:49:56 - An mp3 file of Damage Control Radio show with UGK as studio guests

Sort By Album: First & Last

from The Bible Experience audio Bible
7th Avenue by KJ-52

Sort By Artist: First & Last

A.B.F. (Alliance By Faith)
832 Movement

Top Five Played Songs

"Yes You Have" by Leeland from Sound of Melodies
"I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" by John Mayer from Continuum
"So Hard" by The Dixie Chicks from Taking the Long Way
"Beautiful Lord" by Leeland from Sound of Melodies
"Easy Silence" by The Dixie Chicks from Taking the Long Way

* This surprises me. Not that I don't dig these songs, but I also don't think I have iTunes or my iPod set up to track this accurately. Guess I'll have to take it up with Mr. Jobs.

Find the following words. How many songs show up?

: 18
Death: 22
Love: 209
You: 536
Home: 40
Boy: 155
Girl: 48

I'm adding a few to the list just for fun:

: 52
Devil: 33 - PWND!
Houston: 3
Thug: 49 - Hmmm.... more than Satan, but less than Christ...
Me: 1,569 - How self-centered are we?
Belshazar: 1 - Johnny Cash + Old Testament Bible stories = Awesome!

First 5 Songs That Come Up on Party Shuffle

"This Is How I Rock" (chopped & screwed by DJ Mex) by Icece from Thawed Out Volume II mixtape

"Better Days" by Robbie Seay Band from Better Days

"Youth of a Nation" by S.O.M. from The Journey Revisited (Believe me, them San Diego boys do it better on the original.)

"Gotta Have This" by Applejaxx, Cash Hollistah, Probly Pablo from Best of the Submissions Mixtape Vol. 3

"Truth Be Told" by Eric Cross from The Message Mixtape

So mixtapes rule my digital world. Funny.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Promo: The Listener Project - Nov 28

This is a show you need to attend. Definitely one of the most creative that I've ever seen.

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Listener is an old school Christian rap dude (Labklik & deepspace5) head now doing something he calls "talk music" with a live band. It's a mix of hip hop, spoken word, and performance art.

His "Ozark Empire" album revolves around the concept of a traveling knife salesman from Arkansas. Really.

Be thurr and prepare to be impressed.

"Talk Music" live:

Pics from his last Houston stop:

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Find him online at:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Review: Jovan MacKenzy - Jihad

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September 11th. The date is forever etched in American hearts.

It’s the day our world changed and we woke up to the very real threat of global terrorism. Shamefully, just six years later, the memory of nearly 3,000 lives is pushed aside in the name of hip hop consumerism.

It wasn’t just 50 vs. Kanye - although their well-orchestrated competition did spur album sales. Wine-0 (fka Nuwine) pimped the memorial day with an expletive-laced diss track video for Ye, Curtis, and his former gospel rap brethren so that listeners would know his new album would be in stores on that date.

Godchaserz Entertainment also saw the 9/11 anniversary as a prime opportunity for pub by dropping Jovan MacKenzy’s disc titled Jihad* and carrying the idea to its cover art with Arabic font faces and Crusades-era battle imagery. This from a [gulp] Christian MC.

Fortunately (?) this offensively brash and exploitive theme doesn’t go much further than the packaging and title song track. However, it’s not the first time J-Mac has courted controversy. His “Shot To Ya Soul” track on the Dat’s Gospel Mixxtape also struck nerves by calling out mainstream rappers (Mobb Deep, 50, Jay-Z, R Kelly) and explaining how their public words and actions appeared to contradict or conflict with modern Christian practices.

Pushing aside such distasteful promotion tactics to evaluate Jihad’s overall content is admittedly hard to do. But there is substance underneath.

MacKenzy has rhyme skill talent and delivers a solid Biblical message about the struggle to lead a sacred life throughout the project. However, this spiritual strife is not the same thing as the “holy war” referenced in the title. “Jihad” and “sanctification” are not synonyms!

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On the album Jovan employs a throwback East Coast type flow over serviceable synth-heavy beats by Godchaserz artist/CEO Brinson. Early tracks like “Capital G” with Dae Lee remind the listener of golden-era mic tag teams and up-tempo party flavor. Later, “I’m So Glad” utilizes Uncle Reese’s soulful pipes on the hook to make a nice, smoothed-out praise joint that is ripe for radio.

Jovan also attempts some concept records with “39 Lashes” and “Class of 08.” The effort is appreciated but the execution could be improved.

“39 Lashes” recalls the beating Jesus took before his crucifixion by illustrating each whip with a description of sin that we, as a global people group, have committed against Him. However, it seems like many of these offenses are external and in somewhat of the same category.

For example, masturbation, fornication, adultery, and prostitution are mentioned but aren’t they all sex issues? What about gossip, rage, greed, envy, pride or other, more internal, transgressions? A few are noted, but it seems that the obvious, exterior behaviors have them outnumbered despite Christ devoting equal, if not more, of his words toward the internal struggles we face.

“Class of 08” brings a bold “spirit of Joshua” from young voices MacKenzy, Rigs, and Readywriter as the new holy hip hop (HHH) torch bearers. The fire and drive is encouraging, but while there are passing mentions to those that came before them, it would have been cool to actually hear a few “Moses” names dropped.

Shout out cats like Fred Lynch of P.I.D., martyr D-Boy Rodriguez, Sup the Chemist of SFC, or even more modern legends like Lil Raskull, T-Bone, and Cross Movement who are still adding titles to their discographies. Perhaps the young cats are simply ignorant of their musical genealogy. If that’s the case then maybe they get a pass. Still, a more overt acknowledgment of gospel rap trailblazers would have been a nice addition to this message.

The inclusion of a live “Freestyle” track (over a HHH beat no less) is great, as is the smooth wordplay of ingenious Knine atop handclap drum kicks on “Red Carpet Treatment.” The “UFC Cypha” with Excelsius and other MCs is also a fun, pass-the-mic insight.

There’s real meat on Jihad to be sure. One just wishes the way it was delivered was more palatable.**


* “Jihad” is an Arabic/Islamic word used in the Qur’an. Today it is typically used to define a Muslim holy war against unbelievers or campaign against doctrine, policy, etc. One could say that the New York and D.C. attacks on September 11 were part of a Muslim terrorist jihad.

** Am I making too big of an issue out of the album’s marketing?

I can honestly say I never got a real Christian vs. Islam vibe from the project, but I definitely got a "Let's-exploit-their-terminology-and-imagery-in-our-promo" feeling.

Maybe that's the issue.

It's tacky and exploitative – particularly from one who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus.

It doesn't even make sense. Once you get past the cover and suspicious drop date you don't really get the "Us vs. Them" or "conversion-by-force" thematic sense from the rest of the album.

The packaging (not just the physical thing, but the whole concept, 9/11 date, etc.) doesn't match the content. When that outer wrapping is offensive and distasteful to boot, you're just doing yourself a disservice.

It would be like a CD titled The Abortionist Killer Chronicles with cover art that featured rifle crosshairs on a clinic and was released on the anniversary of one of those tragic shootings.

But what if, inside TAKC, when you actually listened to the lyrics, you didn't hear that vitriol? Instead, you got a personal story song about an unwed father who regrets letting his lover abort their child (an actual HHH song I recently heard that really moved me). What if you got lyrics about love and respect for the emotional turmoil these women are going through? That's the true message of Christ.

However, who would know that from the outside? Would they be willing to buy this CD with that kind of outer shell?

And what about the people who WOULD want to purchase a project called The Abortionist Killer Chronicles? What would that say about them?

I guess with Jihad I feel there's a bit of a bait-and-switch going on. And the bait, as it often does, stinks.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

(PRE)view: S.O.M. - The Journey Revisited

NOTE: This album isn't available nationally yet (I think the official release is set for 2008) but I got a copy a while back and wanted to offer my opinion. Enjoy the "pre"-view.

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The cliché says you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

However, Soldiers On a Mission (S.O.M.) is hoping you’ll bypass triteness for tightness with a freshened “revisit” of their Journey LP you might have missed a few years ago.

While the first run was purely independent, this version has the backing and budget of the larger Much Luvv Records label and adds high-profile guest spots to reworked tracks from Journey 1.0. Thankfully, for fans who feel they are being asked to make an unnecessary repurchase, there are also new heat treats added to it.

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Here again, the four-man Houston collective continues their purpose-driven hustla music* There are lots of chants and soulfully sung hooks that no doubt lend themselves to energy-packed, crowd-participatory live performance versions.

Fans of self-feuding rappers from the A-T-L will become S.O.M. enthusiasts after a minimal amount of spins.

The newness includes “Certified Grinders” with underground mainstream legend Lil Keke, then “Real,” and “U Don’t Know Me Like Dat” that both feature Much Luvv’s strategic lyricist Icece. All of them can be considered blazers (with polished production from the likes of Bruce Bang) that could easily find a home on any modern rap playlist. (Take notes radio DJs!)

Other songs are updated versions of solid tracks from the first Journey. The beat backgrounds are occasionally tweaked, but most of the changes come in the addition of a guest verse.

Harmonizing thug Bizzy Bone drops a spiritual bomb on “Jump Back Remix”and Pettidee gets gully on “We Ain’t Leavin’.”

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But like any voyage, there are a few minor missteps along the path. The radio skits with D-Solo are more informative than entertaining and don’t add much overall value. And the rap/rock attempted remake of P.O.D.’s “Youth of a Nation” is simply a limped biscuit that shouldn’t have made the final cut.

Soldier fans that enjoyed the first Journey will love this. To feel ripped off by purchasing this re-vision is preposterous. And anyone who missed out on the first expedition should secure a ticket and enjoy this new ride.

* AUTHOR’S NOTE: I had considered calling it “intellicrunk” but that fad seems to have passed. I also realized it was more of an attempt by this writer to employ some cutesy wordplay instead of providing an accurate description of the sound. In the end my intellect overpowered my ego. I’m sure you (and S.O.M.) are grateful.

[ FULL DISCLOSURE: Yep, that’s me playing the role of a court reporter (a stretch for Sketch, I know) in S.O.M.’s video for “U Don’t Know Me Like Dat” and yes, I do consider the fellas friends.

Nonetheless, I reviewed the first Journey before that relationship gained its present depth and it seems only fitting for me to provide an opinion on the album’s “rerelease.”

I’ve attempted to be as fair and impartial as possible. If your interpretation of my words above leads you to believe this is a hot project it’s because that’s the plain truth and not any sort of preferential bias.]

Find S.O.M. online at:

Tha video: