Released: December 2013
Yarayahu is mad. He has an issue with the state of the world, and he is here to save us all. With the standard power entrance of "Sound Off," Yarayahu beats his chest to prove he is the greatest emcee in the game. He has the chops, and the beat is pretty great (as are most on the album), but there is a well-worn feeling to this type of song-- sort of like beginning credits to a movie. A standard credit sequence is perfectly acceptable, and it won't cause anyone any grief; an amazing opening credits is much more rare, but it isn't needed.
But that is also the issue with most of the other songs on the album: he is perfectly acceptable. He is a good emcee, with a great ear for beats, but some of the songs sound like knock-offs of brand name rappers. MoneyChangers starts with a Tyler, The Creator style spoken word opener; Memory Lane is a laid-back southern Cali g-funk straight out of the Snoop Dogg play book; Flipmode's loopy flow, background noises, and jazzy-flute influenced chorus transforms Yarayahu into a less verbose Busdriver. These are just the most noticeable instances, and there are moments sprinkled here or there in each song (Kanye influenced up-pitched soul samples, anyone?). This is nothing new in hip-hop, or music in general, but sometimes waving your references around so flagrantly can become distracting and detract from the music.
But, when Yarayahu comes through his influences, he can create some pretty arresting music. The aforementioned MoneyChangers, with its loose, minimal beat warns against the charlatans in the world that want nothing more than to steal your money. And then the three song suite about the past: Kings, The Past, Memory Lane, all about different views of the formative years. Kings and The Past are about overcoming your past. No matter what you did, who you hurt, or how you lived: you will be forgiven and you can become a better person-- which is an important lesson to learn in life, for anyone. Memory Lane is diametrically different than the previous two songs, though. It offers a more rose-colored view of the past, which Yarayahu just spent 8 minutes telling you was a personal hell to live through. But that is life, isn't it? You have to remember the good times, to keep you sane, and learn from the bad to keep you going.
Yarayahu also has some thoughts on the community and state of hip-hop as well. Take It brings the heat onto other emcees for losing sight of what is real and becoming self-indulgent and ignorant to the plight of the streets they made millions off of. Reqiuem slashes and stomps its way through a jungle of weak emcees. Auction Block suggests that we are all slaves: to products, drugs, social pressures perpetuated by the hip hop culture, and society at large. Prodigal Son gives a first person view of the fast lifestyle lived by one who tried to play the game, but was able to be reclaimed by his faith.
Which is where this album excels: the message. Yarayahu's faith seeps through every facet of this album, but it isn't necessarily a religious album. He talks of his god, and his faith in almost every song, but these aren't lessons that need a religion to understand: pain, hurt, struggle, regret, the longing for love and redemption-- these are things everyone has dealt with some way or another. His voice might get lost in his own influences at times, but the message always comes through, and that is the most important thing.