Sho Baraka’s “Talented Xth” is a work of art that embodies so much more than music. The concepts and ideals portrayed throughout the album are serious ones that often get overlooked in Christian culture, including racism, hypocrisy, relationships, etc. Sho breaks down his album into “chapters”, with each song being named after a popular cultural or artistic person/character/place to represent what the corresponding song will address. Having missed “Lions and Liars”, this is the first full length album of Sho Baraka’s that I have heard, and I went through the album track-by-track multiple times to provide an in depth breakdown of Sho’s latest project. Before we get started, I don’t give “stars”, “mics” or “thumbs up”. My unit of measurement? “Props”. Here’s my review of “Talented Xth”
Bethesda” Track 1:
“To all my people who grindin’, what up, tho/To all my people who dyin’, what up, ghost”
“A vegen avoiding the beef that started in the garden”
I LOVE the “Wade in the Water” ending. This is honestly one of the best opening tracks I’ve heard. Most artists use an intro, a skit, or poem, but Sho grabbed my attention from the jump. The track itself has so many elements to it. It truly prepares you for the entirety of “Talented Xth”. Awesome track.
“Michael” Track 2:
“Off the wall, moonwalk, no need for a drug/I been bad, I’m just tryna find my other glove”
“They may have heard about God, but they think ‘Why Bother?/They heard ‘Hail Marys’, but never knew ‘Our Fathers’”
The song is so immersive musically. It draws you in. From the instruments, drops, samples, I hear something new every time I listen to the track. The lyrical content carries over well from the opening track. No drop-off what-so-ever. Great work.
“Get Happy Intermission/Mahalia” Tracks 3 & 4:
“Trying not to lust for them clothes I can’t spell/If you don’t live behind your bars, you and I don’t jail (gel)”
“Yea, Blackbelt in a bad way/ Ju don’t (you don’t) know? I did what my Sensei (sin say”
“I got the church with me/I’m tryna be like the Bible, not a bad verse in me”
Three for three. The track is musically genius, one of my favorite productions on the album. The drops and breakdowns are in great spots, and the samples give the beat character. BUT….As strong as the beat is, as strong as Sho comes on lyrically, as catchy as the hook can be, the feature (Duce Banner) is weak to me. This isn’t an attack on Banner (I don’t know him personally), but I have to be honest. “Mahila” fell off CONSIDERABLY once Duce came on. Sho Baraka’s strong verse only further highlighted the weakness of Banner’s verse. Truly a shame; on an album with no true weak points, this song would have easily been my favorite. Would have.
“Mrs…” Track 5:
“I don’t need to lay eggs with another chick”
“Yea, they think you fly, but they only want to bug you”
I love the Neptunes feel this track gives off. I’ll say this now, Sho is one of the most creative artists I’ve come across, secular or Christian. I believe his creativity comes out on this track. Many artists make songs about their wives; Sho delivers a unique masterpiece. While their were some quotables, Sho’s lyrical content wasn’t as slick as the first few tracks. He focused on the feel of the track and the message, which comes across clear and concise and compliment the track perfectly. No problems here. Great track.
“Ali” Track 6:
“Let it be told, all that glitters ain’t gold/Life is a slam dunk when you’re living with low goals”
Sho again chooses to utilize less punchlines and metaphors, and instead focus more on the topic at hand. He delivers the message with an unmistakable realness. The music perfectly sets the vibe of the song. Musically, it’s as immersive as any track on the album. The feature “Ali” delivers a very fitting performance on the bridge and hook on this song.
“Denzel” Track 7:
“To my fathers on their home work, because class don’t end”
Class vs. Swag. If you listen to the song, the music utilizes many jazz and beat boxing elements to represent class. Chantae Cann and Suzy Rock bring great performances as features, and I love the concept. Didn’t really connect with the deep vocals used on the hook, though, but the track grew on me overtime. That’s always a good sign.
“Madoff” Track 8:
“We’re tryna bloom in the city lights/I think we ask ‘whats up’ because we’re scared of heights”
“The same person addicted to caffeine/Likes to look down at the person who does smoke weed”
Once again, the music perfectly supports the theme of the song. “Madoff” is another example of the off-the-charts creativity “Talented Xth” portrays. This song, like many others, feels completely original. A very complete track.
“Jim Crow” Track 9:
“I guess I’m stuck on n***a island/Where n***as be wiling/Where color is violence/A moment of silence”
“That lady that you call ‘hoe’, that’s my lover/That women you call b****, that’s my mother/Them boys that you killed, them my brothers/Send a ship to the island, we can rescue some others”
You read that right. Sho Baraka pushes the envelope with “Jim Crow”. You may have heard all of the controversy surrounding the track, so let’s address the track and the controversy. The song has A LOT of quotables, but the hardest lines are also the ones at the center of all of the debate. Sho intelligently tackles the issue of racism head on in a time when many artists (and very few Christian artists) address the issue at all. Now for the controversial aspect: While I can’t fully agree with the cursing, because it can be a distraction to the message (which it has been, unfortunately), the truth is, this is the language that used by our celebrities, our musicians and our kids. When I first listened to “Jim Crow”, I literally played the song back to back for about 20 minutes. At first because I wanted to hear the conditions in which the language was used, but it eventually became deeper than that. This song is extremely REAL. I asked myself this question: If Sho had used a different word, or had said “That woman you can ‘B’…” instead of saying what he said, would it have caught my attention as hard, and would it have had as strong of an impact? The true answer to both questions is no. It takes a lot of courage to do, but I fully respect Sho’s decision and I applaud his courage. My prayer is that the message out shines the controversy.
“Peter Pan” Track 10:
“They never had a father that could walk them through the content/Teaching them the skill to discern all of the nonsense/That he’d extended adolescence so they can blow up/Hip-Hop, you’re close to 50, when can we grow up?”
This is a nostalgic story track. Musically, it uses old school sounding instruments and samples. This is another song that Sho ditches punchlines in order to make sure that the rings through clearly. The concept and story progression is awesome, even took me back to my middle school and high school years. Great track.
“Cliff and Claire” Track 11:
“They’ve given up on the portrait, so it’s back to the drawing board/They need the right frame of reference so they can paint some more”
“Cliff learned to cheat his job and not cheat his wife”
“Claire learned that small things can cause great fights/She’s tryna to serve in spite of and not serve in spite”
Sho follows up one story with another, and delivers the relationship story song “Cliff and Claire”. This is my favorite song on the album. Sho paints a full story over the course of the track. Each verse progresses the story, and the transitions are clean and smooth. A lot of that has to do with the feature, Christon Gray. Gray delivers an excellent hook, and I mean excellent. I’m becoming a Christon Gray fan based on a couple other features I’ve heard him on. The music is the glue that completes the puzzle, further setting this track apart.
“Me!” Track 12:
“The know the Lord sees my greed, it’s so appalling/I spent my phone money on clothes, so I missed my calling”
“My sexual past just brings more scars/I’m trying not to compare my wife to porn stars”
Missed the punchlines and metaphors? Here they are! Sho brings back the dynamic lyricism on “Me!”, a song that mixes elements of both rock and blues. Lee Green, the feature who sings the hook, gives a good performance. Green’s voice is soulful with an old-school. Theory Hazit holds his own with his verse, but I feel that it could have been a little stronger. However, Theory drops some great concepts. Good collab.
“King” Track 13:
I love the concept of this song. However, I didn’t really have any quotable lines that stuck out to me. Sho and features Tedashii and Lizi Bailey paint a picture over “Dream styled” beat. The intro seemed long to me, and I must say, this is the only song where I feel that the feature (Tedashii) outperformed Sho. Decent song overall, but with such a dope concept, I feel it could’ve been better.
“Nicodemus” Track 14:
“Nothing could restrain us, from walking with our Maker/Then we decided to be gods, and now we’re so dangerous”
Final song of “Talented Xth”. Sho closes the album with a reflective, feel good track. Like most of the album, the music again compliments the theme and ideals expressed perfectly. I enjoyed the fact that the feature came in at the end. Some parts of the feature’s performance shook a little too much (I understand the feel she was going for) making her words harder to understand, but decent vocal performance overall. This is a great closing track to end an album.
Overall: 4.5/5 PROPS
– Music production was on point the entire album.
– Creativity and originally was off the charts. Didn’t feel like I’ve heard any of the songs before.
– Lyrically dynamic album. Other than a few songs, Sho brought awesome lyricism track in and track out.
– Most features held their own and enhanced the songs they were on, especially the singers.
– Quotables. There are lines in on this album you can share with anybody and catch their attention.
– Attention grabbing hooks.
– Feature on “Mahila” limited the effectiveness of what could have been my favorite song on the album. The song went from a track that I would bump nonstop to a track that I would play the first half of before skipping to the next song. With a better feature, this would’ve been a five-prop album. On my first review, too haha.
– King. Think the concept could’ve been portrayed better, and while I wouldn’t call this a bad song, every album has a “weakest link” so to speak.
I’ll re-review the album in 3-6 months for the my very first “Still Standing Review”, a retrospect look into the album to see if I was just a fan boy caught up in the moment, or if this album has staying power with it’s listeners.
What are your thoughts on the album? What did you think about the review? Weigh in.