Tag Archives: R&B

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Sort Out Your Emotions With Nikki Lerner Therapy

With her latest record, recording artist and worship leader Nikki Lerner is aiming to get some things off her chest.

Not in the I’m-angry-and-I-just-need-to-vent sense, but in the these-are-the-things-I-think-about-all-the-time-but-now-I’m-actually-going-to-say-them-out-loud sense … hence the album’s title, The Things We Never Say.

And my sense, after both listening to the record and talking to her directly (FULL DISCLOSURE: she and I have been friends for years through our connection with the Multicultural Worship Leaders Network) is that by being so frank and forthcoming, she wants to give others permission to do the same.

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If You Love American Music, You Have Andraé Crouch to Thank

(Editor’s Note: Yes, the title is a bit clickbaitey, but hang with me. I’ll back it up.)

 

Yesterday, Andraé Crouch slipped into eternity, present in full with the Lord, in perfect peace.

I’ve been half suspecting, half dreading that this day would come for a while now, and yet now that it has, I still feel completely unprepared — probably because it’s hard for me to imagine a musical landscape where Andraé Crouch was not still creating such soul-stirring, inventive, revolutionary music.

Part of the reason why it’s always profoundly bothered me when I hear someone make the blanket declaration that “Christian music sucks” is that it never tracked with my reality.

Because how could it? Sure, my parents played Earth Wind & Fire like any self-respecting Black people did, but my childhood musical diet consisted mostly of Christian music, from luminaries like The Winans, Walter, Edwin & Tramaine Hawkins, The Imperials, and then much later, Commissioned (then eventually as a teen and college student, Fred Hammond). But towering above them all was Andraé Crouch, a man who I would later come to realize was a musician’s musician — that is, the kind of musician that other great musicians consulted, collaborated with, and gathered around.

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Hey Baby What’s Your Sign? Your Church Sign, I Mean.

So in the last five to ten years, as hip-hop culture has continued the march from being simply popular from becoming a downright universal lingua franca — and if you think I’m overstating that at all, consider that right now, at this second, The Roots are now the house band on The Tonight Show — there have been so many terrible hip-hop parodies by Christians aimed at Christian audiences.

So, so many.

Most of them were content to simply ape a few hip-hop mannerisms and call it funny because of the obvious contextual and cultural disconnect — look, it’s that violent ghetto music being performed by non-stereotypical hip-hop people! Normal people, like us!  It got to the point that even a bunch of guys rockin’ mics in an ode to Christian side hugs could get 100K views, just because the rest of the competition was so lame.

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.