THIS IS HOW LEGACIES ARE BORN
2015 / 6 Tracks / 19 minutes
The Christian hip hop scene is more vibrant than it has ever been. Artists are emerging at an incredible rate, many made possible by the advances and conveniences of modern media. It is a blessing to behold. Christian hip hop is no longer pigeonholed or confined by stereotype. Like all music genres, rap in general has morphed over time, and to exquisite effect. Freestyle has taken many forms, syncopation many complexities, genre-mixing many deviations. It is refreshing to know that this generation of hip hop artists has taken in the reins of the classics, blended their best qualities, and consistently put out fresh variations of a unique, and very difficult, craft.
Nehemiah, a young hip hop artist from Chicago, is one of many who are blazing a trail for the upcoming generation of urban rappers. Nehemiah’s performance on “Remember” is wise beyond his years. In six tracks, he offers up a wide variety of sounds to create a cohesive one all of his own. It flows, it’s strong, it’s crystal clear, and it wildly succeeds in firing you up.
Nehemiah toils with his own future – his own legacy – with openness, honesty, and humility. He wrestles with signing onto a bigger label or remaining independent. He questions God’s motives for using him with his ministry when he knows of several who, in his eyes, would be better suited for it. In the opener “Remember Him”, he pontificates his own faith, comparing the “Sunday” Christian stereotype with marriage: “My God is worth dying for / Anybody who died for me I can’t ignore” and “Is this how I’m gonna be to my wife? / Love her on Sunday; Monday think twice? Maybe I need to take my own advice.” It’s a haunting track about keeping Jesus at the forefront of life and not just as a piece around your neck. We Christians are often too quick to not practice what we preach. But, Nehemiah is acutely aware of the issues he calls out. This is smart, hard-hitting stuff.
Fans of the popular Eminem/Rhianna pairings will smile at “With Me”, which takes a similar format with Mercadize on chorus vocals. Secular tales of abuse are traded for real yearnings for Jesus to be by our side during struggles, to even greater emotional effect than the over-dramatic pop songs it borrows from. The hook on “With Us” is infectious, and is perfectly accentuated by Mercadize’s angelic voice. The mood is lightened for a moment on “Feeling Good”, which begins with a throwback bluesy Motown swagger before erupting into foot-stomping inspirational rap.
But let’s not get stuck on thematic elements. “Remember” is highly listenable, catchy and quite radio-friendly. Take “Giving Everything”, which offers a chorus that will get stuck in heads for days: “I’m giving everything / I’m giving everything / Even when they count me out I’m still gonna give everything”. This track begs to go viral, to be a poster anthem for a generation of ambitious Christians. It’s fist-pumping, blood-boiling, and demands attention.
“Remember” briefly slows down with “Turn Out Alright”, a quieter, more contemplative track about finding light in darkness. It showcases Nehemiah’s rap technique: multi-syllabic rhymes, word bending, and clear enunciation that swell into fits of emotion. For all of Nehemiah’s motivational positivity, there is an underlying despair. A longing for people to live for Jesus, as He intended us to. A calling to transform the ever-present apathy that consumes most of society into a choral galley for Christ. This is what makes Nehemiah special. His message is sincere. It’s clear. And the way he presents it, the visceral craft that he is mastering, will take him as far as he wants to go in the music industry.
“Legacy” closes “Remember” with guitar and strings, and summarizes what Nehemiah is about: “The great thing about legacy is that you have the opportunity to leave it / Could be good or bad / Happy or sad / Only you can believe it”. Nehemiah is succinct, direct, and has a remarkable clarity for his mission and purpose. His rhymes are taut; his rhythms complex; his delivery spot on. “Legacy Intro” is all about keeping focused and working hard to achieve our goals no matter what. It gets under your skin, motivates you, and is uplifting without being preachy or cliche. The choral arrangement that mounts with intensity as the track progresses is perfectly placed. This is honest, fast, and heartfelt. Kind of the MO for “Remember”. This is music that doesn’t just need an audience — it is music that needs to be heard.
Review by Jason Ramsey