Category Archives: Jam of the Moment

Jam of the Moment

Jam of the Moment: #putyourloveglasseson

Beckah Shae

#putyourloveglasseson (Single)

Shae Shoc Records

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There are so many things that I love about this song.

And let me be clear. This song is probably not going to be considered by anyone as “great art.” It is not rife with moral ambiguity, or a profound sense of personal identity, and it doesn’t make any statements about any of the defining issues of our day, unless a general lack of love qualifies.

(Actually, now that I’m thinking about it… yes. Yes, it does.)

Because this is a song about love, wrapped up in a modern R&B/hip-hop shell and adorned with the most original and gimmicky song title in years, complete with Twitter hashtag for maximum trendability.

And maybe on a subconscious level, part of what I respect about this song is that it knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t try to do more. The style of the song, especially the hypnotic rhythm of the chorus, suggests a lyrical paradigm that doesn’t ask much of you, other than to nod to the music, and agree with the general premise, that we all need to put our love glasses on — whatever that means.

See, I’m already getting ahead of myself.

First, I really dig Beckah Shae’s voice. She has the voice of a modern R&B diva — playful but assured, smooth but still powerful. It carries enough punch that you want to hear what she has to say, but not so much that you can’t enjoy the delivery.

The playful vibe is augmented by her husband Jack “Shoc” Shocklee, who has a good feel for production. His synth chords and 808 beats are evocative of classic hip-hop, but unlike the more famous Shocklee duo (The Bomb Squad of Public Enemy fame), he eschews the overcrowded sampling or overly aggressive beat subdivision. Rather, he establishes a groove and lets it variate throughout the song. His instrumentals might not be that interesting by themselves, but he wisely gives room for Beckah’s expansive voice to fill the aural space.

And also, let’s just be honest, I love the chorus itself. It is, very, very catchy and fun to say — almost the evangelical equivalent of the classic woodchuck tongue twister, with all the “love”s and “putcha”s moshing around in your mouth. This is the positive version of the ridiculous pimpin-pimpin-pimpin-murder-murder-sell-drugs song from that Don’t Waste Your Life promo video. Catchy enough to spread.

The last, and most important thing, of course, is the meaning of the song. In case the above hyperlink to Beckah’s blog failed to interest you, I will just tell you. The meaning of the phrase “put your love glasses on,” is to abide in Christ to such a degree that you begin to see the world around you more like how he sees it, through a lens of love.

And I’m not ashamed to say that I need more reminders to do this, to walk and live in this way. Someone inconveniences me, someone gets on my nerves, and I need to be like, “RIGHT… love glasses… got it.”

Really, this song is one of the best examples I’ve seen recently of “Christian music,” that is, music by believers in Christ intended to virally spread His worldview. It’s not soul-wrenching emo, it’s not going to bring anyone to their knees or be the rock-you-to-the-core catalyst for a dramatic life conversion (at least, not that I can tell).

But it’s sticky, and according to Seth Godin, idea diffusion means that the sticky ideas rule. Well, in this case, sticky songs rule.

Which is why, “#putyourloveglasseson” is today’s Jam of the Moment.

 

 

Jam of the Moment

Jam of the Moment: So Free

Artist: DJ Maj
Album:
Speckled Goats II
Track:
So Free

DJ Maj, one of my favorite producers and personalities in music today, penned a great song in 2007 about relaxing, enjoying the ride and being free. And it’s still one of my favorites.

It’s great during the summer, of course, but also helpful in the dead of winter when you need to fantasize about being in warmer climates. Like most great hip-hop music, there are general hints of deeper thematic material, but it’s buried under a catchy hook, interesting production values, and a fun, carefree aural framework.

And, like many of my favorite jams of the interval, there’s a story that goes along with it.

Awhile back, I was doing some shopping at the grocery store with the hook from this song stuck in my head:

If you want it, you can get it, come get it, come get it
We gonna show you how to riiiide toniiiiiiiiiight
We chop it up from city to city to city
So free, like laaa-di-daaaaahhhhhhhh

So I’m doing my thing, being free, handling the produce, bagging up my canned goods, the whole nine. I finally make it back to the car, unload my stuff, and now I’m taking the cart back to the front of the parking lot where all the carts are stowed.

This particular grocery chain has a system whereby you stick a quarter in to release your cart and then when you put it back, you get your quarter back. Their way of cutting down on cart shrinkage, I guess.

Well, as I’m walking back to the front of the parking lot getting ready to redeem my quarter, I’m yellin’ out the first line of the song, (“if you want it, you can get it…”), loudly and to no one in particular, and this lady walks up to me and says, “oh, okay,” grabs my cart, hands me her quarter, and leaves me standing there dumbfounded.

That wasn’t what I meant, but… uh… okay, sure.

Maybe you’re not really into hip-hop, or maybe you’re like me and you love hip-hop but aren’t that enchanted with what gets played on the radio and on TV. If so, this song could be to you what it was to me in that moment — a pleasant surprise. “So Free” — today’s jam of the moment.

Jam of the Moment

Jam of the Moment: Only Help

Tye Tribbett, Fresh, “Only Help”

So I’m going through some things.

Like, the kind of “going through” that you might hear from one of the saints who’s been around the block a few times and is waiting on the Lord to get their breakthrough… that kind of “going through.”

One of the things I’ve noticed is that when I’m going through something big, or maybe not even anything that’s a super-big deal, but if I’m just in a bad mood or whatever, the music I’m playing tends to fall into one of two camps.

Either it’s…

1.) I’m really not doing okay and I want to listen to something languid and full of melancholy and ennui that expresses a measure of the blah feeling that is plaguing me… or,

2.) I’m going to be a grown-up, practice what I preach as a professional Christian and worship-leader-type, and listen to something that will encourage me and/or help me to worship, despite whatever I happen to be feeling.

Many times I’m quite aware that the right thing to do, the thing that will promote the most edification and be the best for me long-term is option number 2, but sometimes I just can’t stand doing option number 2, because sometimes it just feels so doggone FAKE. It’s like, no… I don’t feel like being a happy, shiny, good Christian. My life sucks right now, and *I* suck right now, and I feel like garbage, so I’m not trynna hear all that bless-the-Lord crap.

Into the void comes, “Only Help,” this tune by Tye Tribbett, from his 2010 release, “Fresh.”

I love it because when it starts out, it’s a great confessional tune. Like David the psalmist laying his soul bare before the Lord, Tye holds nothing back:

I can almost tell you each time I’m gonna fall
Devil always paint the same picture, sweet frame and all
I wanna change
And you would think by now I’d catch the scenario
Sorta like a old sitcom playing the same show
I wanna change

I’m listening to this and I’m like yep… that’s me. THAT’S ME. *I* feel that way, yes, thank you. Thank you for voicing these feelings!

But he doesn’t stop there. As a response to his own futility and brokenness, a desperate plea of praise and adoration wafts out…

I lift my hands to You

You’re my only help.

And just like that, Tye Tribbett has done what few songs can do for me… help me to get from where I am, to where I need to be.

 

What a tremendous gift.

 

And apart from the emotional and spiritual dimensions to the song, I like how the accompaniment really sets the mood. The verses are sparse, with a few bass notes and a few chords and sound effects scattered about, like hardwritten scribbles in a journal.

But when the chorus comes, the vocals usher in a soft, floating ascent into a different musical space, and even though it’s auto-tuned, it’s anything but cold or antiseptic. And at the end of the tune, the Hammond organ swells and takes over, providing the only accompaniment, and after the vocals fade, it keeps going, like a testament to the rock-solid faith of saints who have gone before and made the same plaintive cry… yes, Jesus, you are our only help.

I had to put that one on repeat for awhile.

And that is why it’s today’s jam of the moment. You can listen here, buy it here.

(And by the way, if you’re really blessed by this song, don’t just use the first link. Use the second link, too.)

You can listen  to Tye Tribbett talk about the song here:

Jam of the Moment

Jam of the Moment: Pizza Party

image

Put away your money, I’ll buy you a slice / you ain’t gotta worry how high is the price / don’t dine with this world, you’ll die on their diet / they’re like, “sit down, eat your slice of pizza, and be quiet”

Put away your money, I’ll buy you a slice / Who you think we  with? Christ / He gives peace without worry, joy with no regret, wealth that won’t fade, life beyond death


Sick lyrics from an emcee consumed with mental and spiritual health, this is the chorus from “Pizza Party” by Phanatik, from his 2010 album, “Party Over Here.”

This tune draws fundamentally  from the Biblical text of Isaiah 55:1-2, where the reader is asked, rhetorically, why spend money on things that won’t satisfy?

That, of course, is the purely scholarly and/or theological reason why if you’re a Christ follower and a fan of hip-hop, you should be feelin this song.

But if Scriptural references were the only qualifications for good music, then emcees would trade their rhyming dictionaries for Strong’s Concordances. What really makes the song work is the combination of the urgent orchestral sounds and the boom-bap ringing out.

That, and the fact that despite a serious subject matter (faith in Christ) it’s not super serious. Like, the way he says “sit down, eat your slice of ‘pizzer’ and be quiet.” What is he, some Philly cabdriver channeling Coach Z from Homestar Runner? It’s a little odd.

But I dig a little odd. And I like pizza. And I like hip-hop. And I love God.

So there you go… today’s Jam of the Moment.

 

 

Jam of the Moment

Jam of the Moment: HeeSun Lee, “Open Your Eyes”

Brooklyn's HeeSun Lee embodies the rarest of emcee traits: female, Korean and Christian

Right now my jam of the moment is from Korean-American emcee HeeSun Lee featuring vocalist Shanelle Gabriel, entitled “Open Your Eyes.”

There are two great attributes about this tune, essential for any song to reach Jam Of The Moment status: how it sounds, and what it says.

First, how it sounds. When it comes to smooth hip-hop mixed with R&B, it doesn’t get much butter than this… Thanks to DJX-Ray, listeners are treated to deep basslines matched with a classic relaxed boom bap drum pattern, accented with a few synth licks… all of this sets the stage for the featured main course (forgive my mixed metaphor) of assured rap flow from the Seoul-born Lee and her musical partner, Shanelle Gabriel.

Their two voices mesh well together, aided by what appears to be a dusty sample of some rare gem of a bygone era… possibly an old Burt Bacharach tune. Here I give the producer extra credit, for manipulating the sample in a way that probably retains the essence of the original, but gives it enough of a rhythmic twist in the arrangement to make it feel fresh and new. The end result is the best of both worlds, equally appropriate for a club or a coffee shop.

More important than how it sounds, though, is what it says. The message is clear for women stuck in bad relationships: you are worth more than you’re being treated. Open your eyes to what is truly happening, and allow God to set you on a path to healing and wholeness (my paraphrase).

I’m normally a bit leery of “positive music” because a lot of it is full of pseudo-spiritual self-help cliche that has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But here I’m willing to make an exception. Though there are only passing references to God, I believe there is true conviction in this song. The storytelling vibe that Lee emits in her raps is gentle enough for people to relate, but strong enough to serve as a cautionary tale. This is the perfect tune to play in the background at an after-school center or while you’re picking up kids for youth group.

Which is one reason why “Open Your Eyes” is today’s Jam Of The Moment.

Download the song here, and check out the video:

EDIT: So obviously I’m late to the party when it comes to HeeSun Lee, but catch her interview on Sean Slaughter’s Ham Sandwich Show from March of 2010, where she shares more of her story.

Jam of the Moment, Music

Introducing: Jam Of The Moment

So I decided my site needs a regular feature besides the longer-form stuff that I do either for UrbanFaith or for sermon adaptations.

Once upon a time, I fancied myself a blogger extraordinaire when I started my last blog, Mixing It Up. But I never quite figured out how to do shorter posts. Even when trying to do something less epic than my normal thing, I still ended up banging out 500 words before I even figured out my major themes or anything.

So I decided to go back to my roots, so to speak, and get back to doing what I did when I first started writing on the internet — yakking about music.

(For the record, I wrote that sentence using Swype on my Android phone, and it converted “talking” to “yakking” automatically. That time was no big deal, but I’m afraid one of these days, it’s gonna get all Freudian on me.)

So yeah, this time, I’m just going to keep it simple. No album reviews or artist interviews. I’m simply going to take a song that I’m loving at the moment, for whatever reason, and talk about it.