Review by Dustin Griffin – 4.5/5
I try to keep my finger on the pulse of hip hop’s beating heart. I keep an eye on the up and comers and an ear on the airwaves. But I have to admit that somehow, like many, I have managed to sleep on Cyhi The Prynce these past couple years.
Then all of a sudden, everyone was sharing this video of Cyhi banging out a crazy freestyle on Sway In The Morning. And then came the single ‘Dat Side’, featuring Kanye West. And then came the announcement for Cyhi’s debut album No Dope On Sundays. And then a week later the album was here.
To me, it feels like Cyhi just appeared overnight and became one of the most exciting new artists in hip-hop. But to those in the know, the excitement surrounding Cyhi has been a long time coming.
According to Wikipedia, Cyhi singed his first major label deal with Def Jam imprint Konvict Muzik in 2009. A year later, he signed on with Kanye’s GOOD Music. He even appeared that year on Ye’s Dark Twisted Fantasy album on the track ‘So Appalled’. A track I’ve listened to a hundred times and never thought to question who that gravelly voiced rapper was who spits arguably the best line in the whole song: “If God had an iPod, I’d be on His playlist”.
Since then, he’s released nine mixtape’s and guested on a number of high profile hip-hop releases.
On No Dope, Cyhi, like Kanye and Chance the Rapper before him, paints a vivid picture of two conflicting ideologies. Religion and gangsterism.
For a guy who uses a clerical collar as a fashion statement, it shouldn’t be surprising that many of Cyhi’s lyrics are filled with prayers and rumination’s on God and church. These are infused with a healthy dose of street rap, creating an illuminating, if at times strange, dichotomy.
No Dope On Sundays isn’t handcuffed to these topics though. One of the album’s best tracks is the airy, jazzy, ’80’s Baby’, which is a story that is told entirely from the perspective of an in utero fetus growing inside of its mother’s stomach. It’s a song unlike any I’ve heard in hip-hop or anywhere else.
Another of the album’s best tracks ‘Nu Africa’ speaks of tearing America down and building a new Africa in its place, effectively returning humanity to its ultimate roots. The narrative speaks of making Obama the president of this new motherland and having Michael Jordan provide new shoes for everyone. Sounds good to me. This song is also one of the best examples of Cyhi’s ability to marry complicated rhyme schemes with his uniquely smooth, yet gritty, flow.
‘God Bless Your Heart’ sounds like a mid-90’s Common track. All jazzy horns against a boom bap backbeat. It’s an autobiographical story of Cyhi coming up in a rough area of Atlanta and clawing his way up to Kanye West’s good graces and music stardom.
Cy plays around with the ever-present-in-today’s-rap-music auto tune effect on the love song ‘Looking For Love’. It’s a nice song with a cool sounding, reversed playback beat. But I wish he would’ve left the auto-tune alone. Cyhi’s voice is unique and his flow is impeccable. Auto-tune adds nothing to his delivery and takes away from what makes it special. But that’s probably my only real complaint with this entire album.
At times, No Dope sounds like another mixtape. Which isn’t a knock. All of the Cyhi mixtapes I’ve heard are amazing, particularly 2014’s Black Hystori Project. And this album definitely sounds more expensive, on the production side, not to mention the laundry list of upper echelon guest spots. And it bangs and slides and grooves in all the right places from beginning to end.
No Dope On Sundays is a near masterpiece in my opinion. Don’t sleep on it.
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