Reviewed by Trey Palmisano
When a reviewer is asked to appraise an album in a sub-genre of hip hop that he doesn’t particular like, the charge is always a challenge but also a call to duty to be as neutral while keeping in mind the audience for whom it is intended.
The latest release from 2Edge carries with it a distinctive southern hip hop flavor, even when it suffers from the same old caricatured heavy synthesizers, whining loops, fast percussion taps, bass-modulated background vocals, rousing cheers, and screaming. But this of course is Southern hip hop, and rather than agonize as another gospel MC takes a crack at the genre only to fall two steps behind its secular cousin, it’s safe to say that 2Edge is successful in making us believe he’s at the forefront of the movement.
What’s good here is the production value. Rich, multi-layered beat instrumentals accompanied by inspired vocals flourishing over every track. Stand out tracks include “Lord Forgive ‘Em,” “Gracy & Mercy,” while “Jericho” (the single that’s received the most hype off the album and features Mark J and Mac the Doulos) truly is off the hook. I was also pleasantly surprised by “Feel Good Music” which boasts a Caribbean sound that shows it’s not all about dance-hall reggae south of Florida.
At times I had trouble with 2Edge’s delivery. Sometimes the verses were too static and wooden to match the faster paced instrumentals. Other times, he seemed laden by a sense of pleading in his voice, especially the way he vocalizes and stresses some of his words. “Hear My Prayer,” while heartfelt and deeply personal, was syrupy and the vocals seemed strained. 2Edge is definitely primed for the task when the tempo is quicker. The slower stuff was less structured rhythmically.
Other than a few tracks sounding similar, I did think there was enough variation here to keep the average listener occupied. My only concern is I just don’t know if you lined up 100 albums with notable Southern influence in front of me, if I would hear anything here that hasn’t been done before. Artists not only have an obligation to produce music that speaks to the people, but I also think that requirement extends to pushing the envelope towards both shaping and evolving their own genre. As I mentioned earlier, I think 2Edge is right there in the fray, rather than playing the back. And I’d like to see him move from creating a solid album to one that’s over the top. Nevertheless, I’d recommend While I’m Still Breathin’ as an album that can stand with much of what’s out there.
For fans of: Mark J, Pettidee, J Remy, Mac the Doulos