Today I will be reviewing the Christian rap artist and producer DUB's latest album entitled Ignition, which was released in September of 2011. DUB, which stands for Do U Believe, is focused on producing relatively mainstream rap/hip-hop music with a heavy pop sensibility (especially on this latest album); and is driven to spread the message of Christianity and just plain positivity in his lyrics. One major goal DUB has for his music is to bring the genre of hip hop to the youth, and open up churches to the idea of hip hop as a formidible tool to reach a new generation of people.
Interestingly enough, if you have read any of my previous album reviews here on InfoBarrel; you may recognize some of DUB's music if you checked out my album review for The Legend of XERO - VS (verses). On that Christian rap album, the rapper DUB was featured on the track he also produced titled "Let the Music Play." In a twist of fate, Xero is also featured as a guest artist on DUB's album Ignition. This leads me to a major point about Ignition before I get into the real "meat" of my review of DUB's music: the sounds a varied, and many guest musicians take to the mic to expose their talent alongside of DUB's rapping skills. If you are a fan of Christian rap, pop music, or just "regular" rap/hip-hop you will certainly want to read on for the full review of DUB - Ignition.
The sound found on this album from a technical standpoint is excellent. The music was mixed and produced by DUB himself at his home studio, and it is very easy to compare this with many professional sounding albums. While there were a few occasional flaws in this department, they are all easy to look over and still find music that is heavily enjoyable.
The first thing that came to my mind while listening to this album was just how diverse it is in the sound department. When it came to my attention that I would be reviewing DUB's Christian rap album, I was under the impression that I would be essentially hearing standard rap/hip-hop fare; however there is more than enough going on to maintain interest from both casual listeners and serious musicians (like myself). For example, on the second track on this album titled "Good Morning" one will hear the expected hip-hop styled beats; however a variety of techno/electronica flavored melodies move the song ahead in a very unique way. There is a certain undeniable pop sensibility behind the sound on these tracks, but by the end of this 17 track album I felt there was as much diversity to be found as there were things expected.
COMPOSITION AND INSTRUMENTATION:
The music on Ignition contains some very interesting instrumental qualities, and the compositions while primarily very poppy in nature are very easy to get into. The variety of sounds found on this album instantly caught my attention. It seems to me that no track on this album does the same thing twice.
Honing in on the instrumental qualities of this album will provide some insight into the music on this album. Synthetic instruments are a major feature, however different synth tones are used from track to track. On the first two tracks, "Good Morning" and "Rock the Party" there are lead synths that sound similar to 64-bit video game music mixed with melodic techno bits. The track "Everyday Joe" then moves the album in the direction of live music, with the incorporation of a piano. While these are only a few of the tracks that start off the album, the movement from electronic to live music; then the continued blend of these instruments is just really well done and leads to a very concise and diverse album. Other instruments to be found on this album include electric and acoustic guitars, live drums, and various horns. Some tracks that particularly stood out to me were "Let the Music Play" (which reminds me heavily of major label pop bands like N*Sync mixed with rap music), "Shooting for the Stars" (for the great piano and orchestral segments), "Don't Stop Believing" (which is a cover of the song of the same name originally performed by Journey, but DUB makes this track his own with unique elements and some new lyrics), and "Where Would I Be" (which takes a turn for reggae with some great electric guitars).
On the whole, I felt many of the tracks on Ignition by DUB were excellent; with tracks that could easily fit into a variety of radio friendly settings. With that said, there were a few tracks on this album that I felt were lackluster in certain regards. These specifically are the tracks "On Fire" and "I Believe." In both of these tracks DUB attempts to stretch out his music to touch on alternative rock and even more modern Christian contemporary music to some degree, which I felt was a little bit out of place on this album (even with the rapping segments). Additionally, the production on these tracks did not feel "full" enough to my ears, even in studio headphones. These tracks have potential, and may translate better into a live setting; however I felt they were underwhelming when compared to the 15 other really great tracks on this album.
The last point that should be made on the composition aspect of the album Ignition is that I wish one or two tracks were a little longer then the average ~3 minutes. It would be great to in the future hear a track of epic length telling a lyrical story of some sort. This is not necessarily a flaw with this album or with the songwriting of DUB persay, but is ultimately a bigger flaw with the genre of pop music in general (in which DUB frequently dabbles). I would love to see something like "progressive rap" taking the many musical and instrumental ideas of DUB to whole new heights. Of course, there is always room for these great, club friendly hip-hop tracks though as well on a future release!
VOCALS AND LYRICS:
Talking about vocals and lyrics on a rap/hip-hop flavored album is literally just opening a Pandora's Box. The focus of this genre of music is primarily on these attributes, as well as on a good sense of rhythm. Fortunately, on the whole, the vocals and lyrics contained on this Christian rap album are very well done.
First, the vocals are just great all across the board. DUB is a great vocalist, and his guest vocalists often add a lot to the album. One thing I love about the music of DUB (as well as the previously reviewed rap artist XERO) is the diversity on these albums. In some ways this reflects the religion of Christianity, which in itself is supposed to be one of many people coming together for one purpose. On Ignition, we are treated to guest musicians including Tiffany Bryson, XERO, Zito, ICRIS, and many more. While there are occasional flaws to be found in these guest vocals, they are not even worth discussing because on the whole every guest artists performed very well; and as a result contributed to making DUB's album Ignition really great to listen too.
The lyrics contained on this album were wholely enjoyable, even to someone who is not a Christian (or religious) by any stretch of the imagination. When it comes to Christian rap/hip-hop as a lyrical style of poetry, there are often two complaints I have with the genre in a general sense. The first is the religious themes tend to be very overt and border on being excessive, which ultimately isolates potential listeners (such as those who are not Christians). Additionally, rap music in general, such as what is often heard on the radio; often only deals with a few lyrical concepts such as money, girls, drugs, and similar.
Fortunately, the lyrics on Ignition by DUB do not condone the latter lifestyles (of just wanting to get rich, just wanting to see women as sex objects, or just wanting to do drugs, and similar). The lyrics are generally very easy to get into, with some tracks like "Rock the Party" being minimally related to religion and primarily targeted towards people getting up and, well, having fun! Most of the tracks though do heavily deal with the topic of Christianity, but fortunately in such a manner that is not often excessive or annoying. This point allows the music to be heard and enjoyed by a range of people from a variety of lifestyles, and also allows DUB to share his intended lyrical messages as well! To give you a taste of the lyrical content contained on DUB's album, here is a segment from the track "Shooting for Stars":
"Now tell me who are you
And what are you made of
Are you going to run when the going gets tough
Cause some days rough but you gotta keep faith
And boy Lord knows I've made my mistakes"
In closing, the vocals and lyrics contained on this album are solid. Pure and simple.
My overall impression is that DUB is a talented rapper, musician, and producer. While there were certainly a few problems I found on this album, they were predominately very small; and almost entirely easy to overlook because of just how many songs are contained on this album (a whopping 17!). The music is extremely diverse, both in terms of the sound and instrumentation; as well as when you consider the many guest musicians and vocalists found on just about every track. Listening to this album feels like I am listening to several mini-albums, but just about every track makes perfect sense being on one release that is Ignition. In the end, the musical work of DUB (and the previously reviewed XERO) is renewing my faith in the genre of rap and hip-hop.
Overall, I would give this album a 8 out of 10 rating. It is highly enjoyable to listen to, many of the tracks would fit well on the radio or in a club setting, the production is great, and it is really just an awesome batch of songs that you should think about picking up if you have not already.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
DUB's Website (you can purchase this album here)