Lamp Mode Recordings – The Church: Called & Collected

Lamp Mode (June 8, 2010)
Reviewed by Agent J2

When you hear the name Lamp Mode, a few things immediately come to mind: Philly, shai linne, Timothy Brindle, Deejay Essence, lyrical theology, and the like. More recently, this label has brought us hits like shai linne’s Storiez, Hazakim’s Theophanies, and Json’s Life on Life. The one thing that holds true for his label is that they are known for making authentic hip-hop music that is spiritually weighty. Now, having joined together with Mark Dever’s ministry 9 Marks, Lamp Mode Recordings is back with their latest offering titled The Church: Called & Collected, a compilation album aimed at bringing the contents of a healthy church to the hip-hop community.

The Church: Called & Collected is an interesting project. It’s one thing for this type of label to hook up with a notable Christian ministry (i.e. Reach Records & Desiring God), but it’s another thing entirely for the label to create an entire album centered around that ministry’s objective. Well, take what this ministry says are the nine marks of a healthy church, and you have a project that does its best to communicate these concepts through the medium of hip-hop. Taken at face value, one has to wonder how well this type of project would communicate. Yes, you have artists like shai linne and Hazakim who are fluent in expounding upon biblical truth, but how well can they communicate subjects like expository preaching or church leadership in rhyme and simultaneously make it a head-nodder? In many respects, this is the quandary that this album is in, balancing the necessity of conveying these concepts without losing the listener.

This project is truly the first of its kind, and there is a lot to like about it. First, the entirety of the subject matter isn’t your everyday run of the mill spiritual rap that talks about getting people saved or making disciples. Instead, it is finitely focused on edifying the church, which is very refreshing from a listener’s perspective. From a musical perspective, The Church: Called & Collected is a breath of fresh air because you get a nice variety of style ranging from Stephen the Levite’s witty underground lyricism to Hazakim’s funky old school styled rhymes. Deejay Essence did a solid job of catering each of his beats to fit his artist’s style, and it’s clear on many tracks. One such track is Flame’s “Leadership,” which is the lead single. Flame offers up gritty Midwest rhymes over a rugged beat with lots of movement. If there is an artist that truly shines on this project, it would have to be Stephen the Levite. Both of his tracks (“Membership” & “Church Discipline”) are homeruns, as the beats perfectly fit his delivery and subject matter, and his lyrics were right in your face and heartfelt. A close second and third would have to be Tedashii (“Discipleship”) and Evangel (“Beautiful Church”), as both brought a zeal that puts their love for the church on display for all to see.

While there is a lot about this album that works, there is quite a bit that doesn’t. One thing that stands out most is the overly simplistic rhyme schemes and less than memorable hooks. Taking into account the pedigree of the emcees featured on this project, you would expect for them to bring their A-game, but that just didn’t happen. Right from the gate, it was hard to get on board with the opening “Take ‘em to Church” by God’s Servant and Azriel; it was on the bland side with a beat that leaves you wanting & lyrics that have a hard time drawing the listener in. Both of shai linne’s songs were forgettable (“Expository Preaching” & “Biblical Theology”), which is sad given the fact that he’s a wordsmith & the face of Lamp Mode. His rhymes were too simple, his delivery felt half-hearted, and his hooks felt forced. It wasn’t just shai linne, as several artists seemed to exhibit a bit of difficulty in executing on the level that they’re accustomed to. You can’t help but wonder if the project could have been stronger if some of the songs were assigned to different artists (i.e. if shai linne & Hazakim had switched topics).

All in all, The Church is a compilation effort that seeks to provide valuable information about what the church should look like. This is a project that will probably not garner a lot of acclaim. Those that like these kinds of theological raps will probably be happy with this project, but it’s hard to see others having the same view, given the overtly churchy subject matter. Musically, it’s really a hit & miss album; there are plenty of bangers, and a few that could have used more work. It’s safe to say that this album at least hits the mark for what they intended, and they have to be applauded for stepping out and doing a project of this caliber.

For fans of: Lampmode album drops, shai linne, Timothy Brindle, Deejay Essence


  1. Could not agree more. Expository Preaching is one of Shai Linne’s best. It’s got some very clever rhymes and is similar to his other work, not amazing beats, but tight; Lyrically it’s the bomb! Love Trips conversion..and the bits and pieces i’ve heard really make me want to get it.

    We can’t expect everyone to release their absolute best work with every release…that being said this comes close, and I can’t wait till mine comes in!

    Grace and Peace!

  2. @ matt, agree with you! expository preaching is a hard joint! i have had it on repeat for the last few days! i thought flame could have done a better job but overall solid effort.

    Gotta disagree on many points with the reviewer. U (seems to me) dropped the ball on this one!

    Great album! Cop it!

    Grace & Peace

  3. I’m a huge Lampmode fan and I agree with the review. Dope concept album. I was hoping for better. Definitely NOT shai’s best. Praise God for these brothers. I think Stephen the Levite outshined everybody with his lyrics, rhyme schemes, delivery and beat selection. Everything else was eh… But hey, we are all entitled to our opinions! Still glad to hear Hip Hop for Christ just the way the Lord meant it! Even it isn’t phonetically what I prefer.

  4. Buy this album!
    True story: Wife says… “Do you know what your son is listening to??? he downloaded an album, I think you need to be on top of what he’s listening to” Yeah I know; so we go for a ride; hey Brandon – put on that album you just got… I kid you not… on comes Expositional Preaching! Can a dad be more blessed? I was blown away about how RIGHT and TIGHT that song is – T-Bone may make some tight grooves and ‘stanky’ tracks but these CMR guys just keep amazing me about how they can take dense theology and put a GROOVE to it! I have not been dissappointed ever since the day that I walked into a Christian Bookstore and prayed – Lord, I want something edgy; maybe rap but not junk. I scanned the shelves and a somber face with smoke and the verse: Jeremiah 17:9 imprinted.
    Ever since that first Flame album I’ve been an rap advocate – ironically being a 46 year old white repressed wanna be rapper (dont L to OL…) I brought rap into the life of our Jr. High pastor – he had abandoned rap with the world he came from…

    Keep it up guys!

  5. I am a big fan of holy hip-hop and was heartbroken when I heard that Cross movement would no longer put out albums after HISTORY our place in his story which I think was a good album. I was kinda worried because I thought who will do us the service of preaching over amazing beats I mean i do also love the albums that the cross movement members produced but i have always liked compilations and I think rappers bring their best when doing team work.
    My friend gave this album to me and I was blown away i finished listening and started the cd again as I could not believe what I was hearing further more I had no knowledge that it was based on a book but I was just impressed by the ability of these guys to expound on these matters. To avoid typing an essay I think this was a brilliant album mainly because of the topics and though one or two songs didnt quite cut it for me its an album I can play over and over kinda like 116 cliques 13 letters.

    Also looking for friends who can help me grow spiritually and or discuss matters of the faith with me please email me at with the title christian friend and I will be grateful.

    May the grace of out lord Jesus Christ be with you

  6. when i got saved,everything was goin right apart from the music library,i still struggled with the type of music i should listen to. I knew i had to stop with all the lil wayne n the rest of those guys. thats when i was introduced to TRIP LEE,SHO, LECRAE,TEDASHI, and i fell in love with gospel muzik from that day.two years in this rase and am being introduced to more crezy cats who are boy S.O, SHAI LINNE and the rest of gospel dudes. i just want to say thank you to every gospel minister in rap and in poeatry your work is not done in vain

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