R-Swift “Apply Pressure” (album review)

Rhyme Council Music Group (June 25, 2013)
Review by LaRosa Johnson
Buy this album
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For many, R-Swift is a household name in the Christian hip-hop scene. Many recognize his name because of his proximity to the Cross Movement. Over the years he has gone from being an indie artist to being signed to both Lamp Mode & Cross Movement Records, but now he’s back on his indie grind. With his latest musical effort, Apply Pressure Rodnie Graham gets back steps back on his soapbox to share his heart on a myriad of topics.

Let’s start with the cover art for this album because it is a visual depiction of what you can expect from this album. If you don’t know the story behind the album art, it goes back to 1956. It was in February of 1956 that Martin Luther King, Jr. (27 at the time) was arrested during the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts. A mugshot of King was discovered in July 2004 by a deputy cleaning out a Sheriff’s Department storage room. Replace King’s face with Swift’s and you have the album cover. Just like MLK was a social activist demanding change and civil rights, R-Swift is on the same grind as he seeks to be a voice for his community. With this album, Swift hopes to Apply Pressure so as to effect change.

When it comes to the music on this album, it can be summed up in a single word: R-A-W. It has been a while since we have heard R-Swift come this hard in his music and he doesn’t hold any punches. The album starts with a manifesto of sorts in the title track; it’s on this track that he says he’d rather be in chains (whether physical or metaphorical) for speaking freely so that people can be made aware of the prison that exists outside of the four walls of a prison cell. From that point forward the flood gate is open as he shares his heart, unafraid of being silenced for his words. In “Don’t Go” Swift takes on the role of an unborn child as he speaks against the ills of abortion and his desire to see people decide against it, even if it means personal sacrifice on the end of the expecting parent. “Dear Mr. President, Part 2” is a follow-up to a track he released a few years ago on his Anthem album; it’s here that speaks on behalf of the people to President Obama. This is a very well done track that speaks toward being socially active in our communities, even as Christians.

The vibe of this album is very soulful and in many ways is a throwback to the soul music that you’d find in the 70’s. Given the seriousness of the subject matter discussed on this album, it fits really well and allows for each bar to become very introspective for the listener. Even a song like “Raindrops” that you’d expect to be hype because of Social Club’s presence is toned down and leaves you wanting to hit repeat while you let the words make their way into your soul. Even the tracks that aren’t particularly soulful take you back to that East Coast boom bap era, which still fits right into the overall feel of the album.

As a whole, R-Swift hits a home run with Apply Pressure. From top to bottom the content accomplishes its goal of applying pressure to your soul to effect spiritual and social change. You cannot listen to this album and not feel different. About the only thing you can complain about with this album is that it’s only 11 tracks (10 songs + an interlude), but even that’s not a problem. These are ten quality tracks with zero filler. If you want more, you simply spin the album again. This is the R-Swift that listeners became fans of, and it’s good to see that he’s still on top of his craft.