Ambassador’s Stop the Funeral record and after a few spins this weekend, here are my thoughts:
• The Scarlet Letter on the Sleeve:
After admitting a “non-sexual but very inappropriate relationship with a woman other than my wife” and stepping away from the spotlight for spiritual restoration, we’re all no doubt curious how much space that topic takes up on his first album since it all went public.
The answer is: Some, but not all.
Throughout Stop the Funeral, Ambassador often references his fall from grace. It’s not in terms as clearly muddy as his official statement from April of 2010, but those who have followed the artist know exactly what he is talking about.
And months before the release of this album, he dropped “For Your Love” that hit upon all of those topics. In my opinion, it was a great way to speak to the obvious and get it out of the way. But honestly, I’m wondering if he shouldn’t have still included it and more songs that discuss this issue on the album.
Is that my carnal nature looking to feed the flesh with music derived from pain? (Often, the most artistically satisfying sort.) Do I really need to know all the down dirty details?
Or has what William Branch II offered on Stop the Funeral more than enough to let me see him as a sinful human who, like me, doesn’t deserve the redemptive grace God offers through the sacrifice of his only son - Jesus the Christ?
I’m still wrestling with that one.
• Sonically, the project is professional. Glossy production abounds; mostly in a robot-like, radio-friendly direction. Unfortunately, there are times when that sound dominates with very little distinction. Sequenced back to back, can you really tell where “Get With Us” ends and “Mind Made Up” begins?
• Although professionally executed, it can all begin to sound pretty bland. But then you’ll stumble across the oddly compelling flow of “Pop, Pop, Pop” or “Put It Down” and be reminded that Duece can still spit.
• “Bring You Out” rings true with callbacks to both the Jay-Z-tag-turned-T.I.-hit and the Biblical story of Jesus asking the previously-dead Lazarus to come out of his tomb. (Again, another excellent employment of the Stop the Funeral theme.)
• The “controversial” Canton Jones collaboration is pretty much wasted. With so many other over-produced singers on the choruses, it’s difficult to tell the Domionaire is even riding the hook. It’s not until you hit the last few bars that CaJo’s voice actually bleeds through.
And Canton’s not doing himself any “Favors” in deflecting his he-talks-too-much-about-money critics with silly lines like: “I don’t even worry cuz I know that You are able / You even blessed my neighbor / he didn’t even have TV, but now he has cable.”
• I find it an interesting contrast (artistically, not theologically) that on Ambassador’s last album (The Chop Chop) he was screaming “Gimmie Dat” in regards to all of God’s blessings and goodness and now he’s willing to settle for just the “Crumbs” from His table. Here again, we hear the heart of a man who has been humbled before his Creator.
• “Your Love” featuring KJ-52 and Michelle Bonilla isn’t a club banger, but could certainly fit into your church’s Sunday morning worship set.
• “The Reunion Cypha” with God’s Servant, J.A.Z., shai linne, C-Lite, and Cruz Cordero will definitely get you hypa.
• In the late 90’s and early 2000’s Cross Movement (Ambassador’s former group/label) was the face of the Christian hip hop movement. They were what Reach Records is today.
So it’ll be interesting to see how this album sells now that the 116 Clique fanboys largely determine iTunes’ chart positions on drop day.
Stop the Funeral released on Tuesday, July 12 and can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon.com, or at xistmusic.com.