Collision Records (March 20, 2012)
Review by Aidan Severs
Hailing from Akron, Ohio, it seems that perhaps Swoope has taken his state’s motto to heart: With God, all things are possible. His first long player The Zoo dropped back in 2009 and, true to its place of origin, it had a decidedly Midwest sound despite the fact that in that year the Southern sound permeated the Hip Hop charts.
With a piano arrangement to begin proceedings, hopes of a musical album are raised, and by and large, the listener who perceives this as a positive thing will not be disappointed. The production is very polished and professional, and slightly right of poppy – this is an album that sonically will have a wide appeal. Despite his previous album being mostly untainted by the down-South vibe, tracks such as “Schizo” featuring Tedashii definitely bear the marks of that style of Hip Hop. Cleverly though, the same track merges directly into “Hollow Dreams interlude” where the beat is switched up in a left field manner. “Aesthetic” kicks off with a great beat and surprisingly becomes a very RnB tinged mellow track that still begs for the listener’s head to nod.
Swoope appears to be a more lyrical rapper than those he may be compared to; a fact that may endear him and his music to the more traditional Hip Hop head. It is the content of his music which has the most impact and which defines this album’s stand-out tracks. One such track is “Blind Eyes (The Good American)” – a track that will really impress with its (fairly shocking and stark) message and challenge. It’s that challenge too that perhaps will leave the most lasting memory as few artists truly manage to convict their listeners of their own, and their culture’s shortcomings.
Guests are well utilized, some as singers on hooks, and others to supply extra raps. A fine example of this is another of the album’s high points “Dreamslave” where Christon Gray provides the sing-along, almost hymn-like hook (“To live is Christ, To die is gain, I ask myself, Am I Slave?… I don’t ever want to lose control, Gain this world and lose my soul…”) and Eshon Burgundy storms the track with a too-cool but open and honest verse.
The album’s unique selling point is definitely the inclusion of the interludes and preludes which flow seamlessly out of one track and into another, almost tracks in their own right, although always incorporating elements of the prior or forthcoming track. The addition of these elevates this album above others in its category.
Wake Up is an album that will be welcomed with open arms by fans of Sho Baraka, Trip Lee and Lecrae. It’s an album that may be wrongly ignored by fans of boom bap, underground, lyrical type-Rap – I would advise that if you fall into this category, you at least check it out so you can make informed decision, you never know, you might just like it.