Indie (March 15, 2010)
Reviewed by Garrett Richie
From a heavily tattooed face comes a distinct sound that tells the story of Darwin James. With little available in terms of Internet biographies and information on his personal life, Violent Salvation serves as the primary source for telling the story of Darwin James. Violent Salvation is James’ debut album, telling his story from recklessness to a relationship with Christ, escaping his former lifestyle as a violent California gangster, living his life as he claims most people only see in movies. However, after realizing that he had run out of places to go to seek happiness, he turned his life over to the Lord, leading him to tell his story through rap music. Aside from one other project, The Def Collection, Violent Salvation tells the story of the man behind the music.
To describe this album as a whole, Violent Salvation serves as a medium of self-expression for James to tell his story from violence to violent salvation. With occasional profanity and a great deal of personal testimonies and anecdotes, it’s difficult to classify the album as “Christian Rap” when put into perspective with projects from CMR, Reach Records, and Lamp Mode Records. This in no way takes away from the album’s merit as a testimony of the saving power of Jesus Christ, however. The transparency with which James approaches this album gives it a higher level of sincerity that is very relatable for all Christian listeners, especially those who feel that they’re backed into a corner with nowhere to go. With decent lyrics, solid and consistent production, and excellent hooks, Violent Salvation carries an overall sound that elevates the album’s musical quality.
As just mentioned, the album’s overall sound stands out as one of the better characteristics. James has unique, nitty-gritty vocals that transition to a cleaner tune on hooks that is reminiscent of the sounds of DMX. Although his lyrics lack the depth of complex punch lines and internal rhyme schemes, the message that he’s conveying comes across with an authenticity that is easy to believe and embrace. “This is Darwin” is the standout song of the album, capturing the essence of his personal testimony. The hook also stands out as one of the better self-sung hooks that doesn’t rely on the crutches of auto-tune, synthesizers, and flanger effects.
Despite the album’s consistent overall sound, Violent Salvation lacks the sophisticated lyricism that many listeners desire in their music. This is the price James pays for coming across with a simple, genuine approach to his story telling. However, for those who aren’t hung up on higher levels of lyrical ability, James’ simple, unorthodox flow is more than satisfactory. No songs stand out as significantly subpar, but the lack of any “hit” song leaves the album lacking that punch that will draw in listeners to check out the album as a whole.
Considering the various ups and downs of the project, Violent Salvation stands as a decent debut that introduces Darwin James as a unique-sounding artist with plenty of potential to realize on future albums. The album’s worth a spin through to see what Darwin James is really about; there may be bigger things coming from him in the future.
For fans of: Hard edged West Coast rap