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.