Sho Baraka
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Sho Baraka

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | INDIE

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | INDIE
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"Soul Train Album Review"

Album Review: Sho Baraka’s Talented 10th
JANUARY 28, 2013

I’ve always been a little apprehensive of “Christian rap”. Attending church, I made a decision to throw out all of my secular CDs with the aim of clearing my mind of anything ungodly. To my disappointment, the Christian alternatives didn’t quite live up to my expectations. As somebody who cannot go a day without hearing good music, I found my way back to the secular music and never looked back. So I handled this album with great a sense of caution.

Canadian rapper Sho Baraka’s album Talented 10th (which dropped January 15th) made its way to my inbox twice. Sho Baraka is not new to the scene. His debut album, Turn My Life Up, managed to reach into the US Billboard Gospel charts’ top 50. Then, in March 2010, his sophomore album Lions And Liars not only managed to break its way back into the charts again, this time at #3, it also charted in the US Billboard rap charts at #15.

The theatrics of Talented 10th kick off immediately just by looking at the tracklist, with each of the 14 tracks being listed as “chapters”. The album was apparently inspired by W.E.B Du Bois’s essay “The Talented Tenth,” a clear indication that Sho Baraka in no way intends to shy away from his religious beliefs, but rather audaciously stands side by side with his faith. “Bathsheda” is the intro of the album and sets the tone rather well of what to expect. “Michael,” a cool, fusion of rap and soul, tells a story of a young man growing up in the world and tragically losing his life. “Get Happy” is a cool, Pentecostal-vibed ditty exploding with organs, tambourines and vibrant choir vocals, leading rather perfectly into the next track, “Mahalia.” In “Mrs.” (featuring JR), the album moves away from the church organs. “Mrs.” is packed full of drums and synths with a nice upbeat tempo. “Ali,” featuring Ali, is one of the standout tracks of the project, as well as the following single “Denzel,” a type of grown and sexy ode to classiness. Chantae’s sultry vocals weaved through are like honeycomb to the ears. Sho Baraka then breaks us off with some spoken word on the song “Madoff” before launching into another standout single, “Jim Crow,” which has the interweb alight recently. The single is a social commentary through the medium of hip-hop where he ponders everything from civil rights, slavery and the powers that be. And in the track, Sho Baraka even uses the word “N*gga”.

“Well I’ll be stuck here on n*gga island/ Where n*ggas be wilin’/ And color is violence/ Moment of silence…”.

In the context in which the word is used, its use was necessary to drum in a very powerful message. “Peter Pan” is a very relatable story to many. It paints a vivid picture of a young boy growing up and idolising his favourite rappers and the influence they had on him. But we can’t be young forever. The young man eventually grew up and found God, and his idols are still on screen years later talking the same talk, never growing up. On “Cliff and Claire”, Sho tackles the subject of marriage in a multi-dimensional and quite intriguing way. “ME!” is the track every artist is going to make sometime during their career, allowing us a look deep into the looking glass as he bares his soul. “KING” follows and the album wraps up with “Nicodemus”. Sho Baraka gives this track all to God. Unashamedly and thoroughly, he is a Man Of God.

Talented 10th was definitely an eye opener for me personally. Sho Baraka is a Christian rapper who makes dope hip-hop music. As a Christian rapper, it’s refreshing to hear an artist be both lyrical and relatable, and this is what makes Talented 10th such a great album. Sho is extremely gifted with the art of storytelling without coming across as being. He also demonstrates a very keen ear for production, and there is great chemistry between Sho and each feature on the album. Talented 10th is not exclusively for Christians. His ability to translate modern history and current social issues alongside his love of God as well as what he stands for as a man is impeccably done.

“I’m usually in a creative place because of the type of individual I am. The tension is being able to balance my anxiety of working with others, who are also creative, while we work towards a common goal. Once the musical direction of the album is set, the lyrics come pretty easy because they come from the outpouring of my heart. It’s me and not something I have to fabricate.” – Sho Baraka

Purchase Talented 10th on iTunes.

–Ayara Pommells

Ayara Pommells is Owner of UK website Rawroots.com and a music writer for Soultrain.com, stupidDOPE.com &Badperm.com . Ayara also handles PR for several artists and is the Co- Founder of the #Lipgloss&Sneakers – Women In Hip Hop Movement. Follow @iAmaButtafly. - Soul Train Holdings


"CNN Interview"

Christian rapper's raw lyrics about racism stir controversy
By Keith Lovely Jr., CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - Christian recording artists often shy away from controversial subjects in their music and cautiously avoid the use of harsh language, but Christian hip-hop artist Amisho “Sho Baraka” Lewis wanted to do just the opposite with his latest album.

The Atlanta-based 33-year-old’s latest album “Talented Xth” champions not just a picture of Christian salvation but also focuses on education, relationships and social change - all filtered through a biblical worldview.

He told CNN the goal of the album is to challenge listeners to “be exceptional for the benefit of others.”

The album’s title is based on a principle championed by activist, professor and sociologist W.E.B DuBois.

DuBois wrote in an essay titled "The Talented Tenth" the "best, or the talented tenth of the black community, must be elevated and cultivated, to in-turn guide the mass away from the contamination of the worst in their own race and other races.”

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Though DuBois used Christian principles in his calls to uplift the black community, he was widely considered to be either agnostic or an atheist at the time of his death, as Brian L. Johnson writes in his biography "W.E.B. Du Bois: Toward Agnosticism, 1868-1934."

Lewis makes it clear it’s the Christian principles DuBois championed and not his beliefs about God that inspired his album.

Still, the DuBois connection isn't what has ruffled feathers among some Christian listeners, but the subject matter of his song “Jim Crow” aka “N*gga Island.”

On the song, Lewis addresses the negative effects of racism and ignorance. He uses the "N" word and profanity to get his point across, a move too close to secular hip-hop for some Christian rap enthusiasts.

Fans have flooded the comments sections of Christian hip-hop blogs saying they won’t listen to the rapper anymore because of the harsh language and what they believe are divisive lyrics. One blogger has even questioned whether the song “harmed the gospel.”

A common argument in Christian circles centers around the idea of Christians separating themselves from the world as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD...”

Lewis agrees with the scripture but doesn’t believe it means Christians have to totally shut themselves off from the world.

He doesn't think it matters that his album gains inspiration from those outside the Christian faith. In the end he said, “Wisdom is wisdom and…that all wisdom comes from the Lord” and that “creativity, education, and all things good are not monopolized by Christians.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Lewis says the goal of the album is to create an urban revolution. He said he wants to go beyond just pointing people to Jesus in his music and remind them that "Jesus stood for more than keeping people out of hell; he wanted to change their lives here on earth."

The controversy certainly hasn't had a negative effect on sales. The album debuted on the top of Billboard’s Gospel Album charts in February. - CNN


"Sho Baraka with Lions and Liars"

This is a release for Sho Baraka most recent project. - Reach Records


Discography

2007 -Turn My Life Up
2010 -Lions and Liars
2012 -Circa MMXI: The Collective (High Society Collective)
2013 -Talented Xth

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Bio

Amisho Baraka Lewis is an artisan whose trade for the last decade has been Hip Hop music, which has served as a platform to communicate truth—be it the plight of the disenfranchised or hope found in Scripture. Recognizing the power of media to influence culture, he’s sought to have a hand in its shaping by directing music videos, acting in several feature films, and writing and directing his own short film. Dedicated to service, home and abroad, Amisho has traveled to Indonesia to aid in developing music leadership programs; labored with an organization providing clean water to villages in Guatemala; participated in race reconciliation seminars in South Africa; and performed in Brazil for community outreach.

Educated at Tuskegee University and the University of North Texas, Amisho has become a philosopher, academic, activist, artist, and one of the great thinkers of our time. He now desires to blend his artistic platform with his academic leanings to contribute a unique perspective in both arenas in hopes of raising the standard, thereby raising the culture.