I often say nostalgia is the luxury of those who've had the benefit to live long enough to remember better days and the older I get the more I believe this as sentimental feelings about past times tend to visit me more often as the years go by.
Almost instantly sweet feelings of nostalgia flood my soul whenever I return to the neighborhood where I grew up or visit the church where I first encountered God or eat some good baked turkey wings and collard greens that remind me of my great-grandmother's dining room table. But most often I get reminiscent feelings when I'm listening to music.
It doesn't happen all the time but occasionally I'll hear a song or encounter the work of an artist whose music has a vintage quality that opens up the memory channels of my soul and invokes familiar vibes of melodic good times. This is what I experienced when I recently had the opportunity to listen to an album titled Transparent Reflections from the talented rapper known as NoFlesh.
When I tell you this album is a legit reminder of hip hop's golden age, I'm telling you no lie. Every one of the album's 17 tracks is filled with lyrical cleverness and hip hop musicality that reminds you of some of the 90's best urban music. In many ways the album puts you in the mind of the conscious, jazz influenced, eclectic music of Boogie Down productions, Eric B & Rakim, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr.
There are those who might describe the album as Gospel rap and/or Christian Hip Hop due to the fact that NoFlesh's lyrics are laced with the language of faith and Christ centered consciousness. Personally, I don't find these labels fair or appropriate. Just because an artist has significant lyrical content on a particular topic or issue doesn't automatically merit their entire album being labeled in those terms. For example, rapper Future has heavy "dope game" content but his music isn't formally labeled as "dope dealer hip hop" and rappers who spit heavy about their real and desired sexual encounters don't have their music labeled as "sex rap." So why is it rappers who give lyrical attention to matters of faith and inspiration are labeled in some special category?
From my viewpoint, Transparent Reflections is simply a soulful rap album. It falls in the long line of albums that use rhythm and rhyme and strong beats to tell a story about what it means to be human in contemporary time and space.
Without question, NoFlesh makes no attempt to hide or shy away from his clear faith commitments and Christ centered beliefs in his music. After all, in addition to being a recording artist and MC, he is also a Christian scholar and long time pastor of a vibrant church in Carrolton, Georgia. On the album's 15th track, titled "Money", NoFlesh brings together all of these identities and shows his skills as a rapper/urban theologian with his lyrical critique of prosperity gospel preachers and their message. You can check out the track below.
What I like most about NoFlesh's album is its ability to weave matters of faith and empowerment into his music without being corny and/or too preachy. And very possibly the hottest thing about Transparent Reflections might be the broad range of subject matter that it manages to cover with style and hip hop groove. With extreme ease NoFlesh brings together in his lyrics diverse topics that stretch from weed smoking, the temple of Dagon and the Lord of the Flies to Christian discipleship and socially marginalized families.
In a real sense, Transparent Reflections can be described as a really good attempt to help reclaim the heart of Hip Hop in a time when many feel contemporary Hip Hop is saturated with music that amounts to little more than a bumping beat, ratchet lyrics and a catchy hook; and as someone who admittedly listens with a happy heart to what is often called "trap" music, I can say that NoFlesh's album is a welcomed addition to a hip hop scene too often lacking in substance and depth.
For all these reasons I hope you'll check out this album given to us by one of the rap game's freshest and most talented voices. I guarantee if you do you'll find yourself on an enjoyable musical journey through the struggle and strivings of the human heart which is among the highest praise I can offer about any album.
You can purchase the album on itunes by clicking this link "NoFlesh itunes page"