Xist Music (2011)
Review by LaRosa
When you think about people who have had a significant influence in the Christian hip-hop industry, one person who undeniably has to be named is William Branch, aka The Ambassador. As one of the founding members of the Cross Movement he helped to bring Christ to the forefront in hip-hop, and his debut solo release, Christology, serves as a classic by which many other emcees have patterned themselves. Also serving as a pastor & mentor to many, his notoriety has garnered him much “fame” within the community.
With such a great platform, there is also a great responsibility and burden to maintain a set standard of excellence, especially when representing the name of Jesus Christ. So, after spending an entire career with the Cross Movement and hearing him speak against the perils of falling into sin, it was a shock to the entire Christian hip-hop community to hear that this emcee and pastor had fallen into a sin that caused him to have to step down from being a pastor & performing as an artist. Now two years since his prior release, the Ambassador is back and is telling anyone who will listen to Stop the Funeral.
The Ambassador is an emcee’s emcee & wordsmith, so putting together a thematic album is a piece of cake for him. Once you read the album title, you can rest assured that he’s going to carry out that theme from start to finish. Stop the Funeral is no different, and is probably this album’s strongest selling point. In many respects, Deuce is using this project as a comeback and a means to speak on the deliverance that God allowed him to partake in. The lyrics that he brings on every song point directly at God’s grace to forgive & restore us, so we can stop the pity party & move on. One of the other things that really shines in this album is that the Ambassador allowed his experience to soften his heart and opened the door for him to work with artists that he wouldn’t have worked with back in his Cross Movement days. In particular, it was nice to see a collaboration between the Ambassador and Canton Jones, an artist whose theological background had previously presented a barrier.
While the Ambassador paints a vivid picture of God’s grace throughout Stop the Funeral, from a purely musical standpoint, this album is very hit and miss. Given everything that Deuce had experienced in the past couple years, you would expect there to be a lot more passion and effort put into a project like this, but it’s just not there. The rhymes are typical Ambassador, but outside a handful of tracks, it lacks the punch & flavor that his fans are used to. His choice of beats didn’t help his cause either. Now, Amba isn’t one to shy away from stepping out of the box and trying new things, but he’s a classic east coast emcee at heart. So, in trying to keep up with some of the more popular styles, he wasn’t able to rock the beats with passion because they were too far out of the box. The sounds that were clearly down his alley, he ripped; but, there weren’t enough of those to carry this album. Not to mention, some of his topics became a bit repetitive because the album’s overarching theme was very heavy handed.
Taking this album as a whole, it’s probably the Ambassador’s weakest effort, which is sad to say. After his hiatus and experience, you come in expecting an album with a certain level of passion, for both ministry and music; but, it was sorely lacking on this album. While the message that he was trying to convey comes through loud & clear, at times it feels as if you’re listening to an emcee that is past his prime, while there are glimpses of the emcee of old. Hopefully this isn’t the last we hear from the Ambassador; but, let’s hope that he can find the kind of passion that he had in his Cross Movement projects & early solo albums. As for Stop the Funeral, it’s worth a listen on Spotify, but many will probably find after giving it a listen that it’s not worth purchasing.
For fans of: Xist Music, Cross Movement, Da Truth