Review by Samson
A lot of guys rap. Some guys produce. A couple sing. It’s rare to find a person that can do more than one with competence. When you find someone capable of all three, people notice. Enter Jordan Santana. After dropping several Bandcamp mixtapes over the past year, Jordan Santana, Arizona native, has finally released his first hip-hop album, All Killer. The album may not be flawless, but after one listen to All Killer, you’ll walk away convinced that Jordan is all talent.
All Killer is about relationships and the many risks and complications they carry in today’s day and age. In visiting these themes, Jordan not only flexes his vocal chords, but utilizes varied production styles that offer something for everyone, as well as a unique blend of heartfelt lyrics and biting sarcasm to drive the messages home. Throughout the album Jordan touches on relationships with acquaintances, friends, girlfriends, and even God. Although, often Jordan’s take on these relationships is less than encouraging, he offers an air of honesty to the album that is not only refreshing but also relatable.
Jordan opens the album over brooding instrumentals where he reminds listeners to “be a peacemaker/ ’cause peacekeepers are nothing against the peace-takers/and we need haters to weed out all the fakers/ this is not a game, Christianity is not for fakers” among twenty-plus bars of intro, putting listeners on notice that the gloves are coming off. And while the listener is introduced to Jordan’s more-than-capable vocals on Certified Angus (Remix), the album really hits its thematic stride on next track, Please. On Please, Jordan skewers the arrogance of those around him with a double-barrel blast of sarcasm and a neck-snapping sample that marches in step to a crisp snare and a well-calibrated auto-tune hook that has the listener smiling and crooning along, “Please, you really think you’re something/You’ve got that thing we’re loving/ So glad you’re in this world, just to make it better.” On Wrong One, Jordan drops another gem that explores the complexities of inter-personal relationships, particularly those of single people dealing with the opposite sex, where he raps “She told me she really hates being lonely/I said, you’re nineteen, where’s your girls and your homeys?/ She said she’s too empty, so she’s not waiting/ I’m thinking, girl, I’m 24 and not dating/ She gave me a hug, and it was longer than the last/ You could raise the speed limit, she’d still move too fast.” It’s the honest soul-baring, warts and all, that Jordan does on these tracks that really sets the tone for All Killer. Suckerpunchdrunklove is another perfect example. Jordan starts with a baseline and a set of percussions that he continuously builds upon to a manic climax as he tells a painful and personal tale of his relationship that spiraled out of control thanks to the volatile and destructive effect of physical intimacy outside of marriage. Many Christian artists could consider this kind of honesty to be a potential career-ender, but Jordan earnestly tackles the issues with the candor and seriousness they deserve. Finally, in The Ring, Jordan navigates the dangerous waters of wayward spouses who flirt with extra-marital affairs as he croons over a whaling guitar riff and breaks into a meticulous, double-time verse as he drops daggers like, “she don’t really love/ she had the men by the jaws, no need to question her cause, I check for rings on her claws” and “she don’t really love/what we gonna do with her, there ain’t a man in the universe/ that she ain’t down to conquer, should you choose to flirt/ she’s an expert gardener, move this dirt.”
While Jordan has a knack for relating authentic emotion and sincere feeling, he stumbles when he moves away from that in an effort to drop your typical “hype” rap track. “F.I.R.E.,” “Comfortable,” and “Let Go (Remix)” are examples of this as they lack the air of authenticity and conscientiously crafted lyrics Jordan exhibits in tracks like “The Ring” and “Please.” In “Comfortable,” Jordan raps about how he has learned to be comfortable in all circumstances, but the track feels contrived. The first verse opens up with the cringe-inducing, “I kill suckas like poisonous pacifiers.” In the second verse, he raps about dealing with cops: “I’d rather eat some thrown-up jam, than have another conversation with ‘the doughnut man.'” With its non-sensical lines, Comfortable, a track about what Jordan calls “green paper presidents” (or lack thereof), comes across as an oddly-placed example of good-ole fashion rap-posturing on an album where Jordan distinguishes himself by tackling real-life situations without resorting to cliche rap tough-talk. “Let Go (Remix),” a really poor choice for the album’s outro, sounds like something that was tacked onto the end of All Killer as a way to get it up to fifteen tracks as the song devolves into silly cued up and slowed down samples of the track’s signature line (you guessed it) “let go.” All Killer would have probably benefited from an outro where Mr. Santana spit a few bars that gave the listener a little more insight to who he is as a person and artist. Finally, “Miss Rap Music,” although a competent song, suffers from more rap-isms, like rhyming about hip-hop like she’s your misguided lady. To his credit, Jordan does this better than many others have, but at this point, the whole concept is just tired. Another collab, like the trippy “Take Me Home,” where Jordan flips his flow and trades verses with guest, Conduct Lionhardt, would have contributed to the album in a far better manner. Its worth mentioning however, that Jordan is a master at crafting catchy hooks and despite the shortcomings in the album, every song has the listener singing along by the third listen.
No review of All Killer would be complete without mentioning what is the most powerful track on the album, 2011, a moving love-letter to God where Jordan bares his weaknesses in the past year and his hopes for the next one. 2011 starts with two laid-back verses where Jordan lays out where he’s been and then rides a mounting piano to accompany a goose-bump inducing, hair-raising crescendo and proclaim:
“I’ve shaken off snakes and demons/but never by my own hand
You’re greater in my weakness/guess that was Your whole plan
I’m not my own man/I wasn’t meant to be
Only when I am a slave to Christ can He set me free
What could You use in me? I’m not who I used to be
I feel so futile, tag me up and say the eulogy
Don’t need no room to breathe/just gotta do it, please
Kill off my flesh and let Your spirit come to move in me”
Again, Jordan shines on this track by showing vulnerability, peeling back the curtain, and letting the listener worship God alongside him.
All Killer is a solid album. Jordan shows versatility as a rapper, creativity as a producer, and that he can sing with the best of them. The album’s shortcomings do little to take away from devastation that All Killer‘s signature tracks leave in their wake. You cannot help but take the headphones off after listening to All Killer and get the feeling that Jordan Santana is something special. If this was all-killer, there’s no doubt that with a little tweaking, his next projects will be nothing short of vicious.