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SevStatik: Speak Life

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Even if you’re not especially religious, you can’t help but appreciate the uplifting messages SevStatik packs into his songs.

Incorporating religion into rhymes is the ultimate anti-gimmick, a nearly fail-safe assurance of rejection from the hip-hop community. Take the Boogie Monsters, indisputably dope emcees who were routinely slept on and ignored because of their Christian undertones and reluctance to utter dirty words. There is a fine line between positivity and preachiness, and too often religious rappers err on the extreme side, thus alienating the majority of fans who look to music for an escape, not an hour of Sunday School.

SevStatik’s first full-length album, Speak Life, does a fine job straddling the two sides of the religion fence. “Meds” and “Invisible Bars” are probably the most blatantly religious, but at no point does he cross from personal testimony into sermon. SevStatik’s message is more latent on other songs, but a general positive vibe buoys the entire album. On “Right Now,” he unites three moral-providing narratives with the chorus: “Yesterday is gone with the wind/days to come have yet to begin/and the only thing you’ve got the power to change is this day—right here, right now.” Even if you’re not especially religious, you can’t help but appreciate the uplifting messages SevStatik packs into his songs.

Of downsides, though, this album has a few. Take “Global,” which sounds like it could have been produced by a one-handed orangutan with ADD. As if the song weren’t bad enough already, there’s a horrendous chorus that breaks down a lame message into syllables. Crap of the most potent variety.

The rest of the production varies between synthesized vibes and chopped-up keyboard beats. Nothing is exceptional. “Mic” is the closest thing to a radio hit, with its nauseating combination of acoustic guitar, dance-hall bass line, and the sterile kind of scratching that could show up in the next Hanson song. And vocally, SevStatik sounds like El-P on Valium: much calmer and lyrically dulled. All in all, not the best combination.

A positive message and moderate lyrical skills do not a good album make, and in today’s flooded market of underground hip-hop, you’ve got to come up with something more unique than Speak Life for anyone to listen.

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