Don’t you love when you get to hear something that is totally different from what you’re accustomed to? I know I do. Of course, different music doesn’t mean intrinsically better and having your own “sound” doesn’t mean you have a good one. But, that’s not a problem we’re going to have in this review. Hazakim’s “Theophanies,” is the most unique, diverse hip hop project I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s also one of the best.
For those not in the know – they haven’t dropped an LP in eight years! – I’ll give a quick introduction. Hazakim is a messianic Jewish (or, Jews that recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, peep Romans 11), apologetically minded hip hop duo, consisting of two blood brothers, Michael and Anthony. Think Ravi Zacharias meets the worship of a Davidic temple , mixed in with some dope DJ cuts, and you will begin to have an idea of the direction of their music. At any given time throughout Theophanies you may hear a more common sample driven track accompanied by a shofar in the background (“Salvation Plan”), while on the next track hear some tight emceeing supplemented by Hebrew chants and a Middle Eastern loop. Their infectious medley of east meets west is something that you need to hear to fully conceive. These brothers truly have an ear for music, elevating the instrumentals above the formulaic hip hop fodder we tolerate too much.
The two brothers never fail to come correct on their instrumentals. Their emceeing is just as varied as their musical direction. “Uncut and Raw,” sure to be a fan favorite, has Anthony giving great critique on the decline of rap music. In it, he weaves some insanely clever wordplay “forget the wack sound the worst thing has gotta be/ the utter filth and debauchery they promote constantly/cheesin’ for the crowd while they grit their grills/ demeaning all the gals they flip their bills/ on that Amos and Andy tip/In the rent candy tricked ride they floss while their brandy drips.” Most importantly, he keeps it a cut above the typical mainstream griping that most secular backpackers can’t seem to get away from. Rather, Hazakim conveys that God hates the destructive nature of the message more than Anthony may personally hate the mediocre music.
Another highlight is my favorite track, “Heavy Laden.” Man, there’s so much going on in this song, that telling you too much might give a spoiler. I’ll let you know that it’s Michael’s intimate parable about the struggles we go through when “carrying our cross.” A must listen for all that are goin’ through it.
The album is named after the theological term defined as “the visible manifestation of a deity to a human person”. In the context of the album, Hazakim gives an incredibly tight exposition of various theophanies throughout the Biblical Old Testament. The presentation of doctrine is so fresh and the portrait of Jesus so captivating, I think a lot of listeners will be scanning their Word to better understand. That’s a good thing. They break down several key examples of Jesus’ visitations while mixing in interludes of various reverends discussing the person of Jesus. The last song on the album, “Kadosh (Conclusion)”, masterfully intertwines all the evidence for Jesus’ lordship. I really can’t conceive a Muslim or Jewish person giving this album an honest listen and leaving without questioning their conceptions of who God is and seeking Y’shua (Jesus) for the answer.
Maybe the best way I can describe “Theophanies” is its effect on me. I found myself humming the beats, quoting the rhymes to my friends (getting on their nerves in the process), and being inspired to soak up my Word after giving the album a few listens. Further, I find myself wanting to find more ways to convey Jesus’ identity as Lord, Messiah, and truly God. Is there anything more you could want from a Christian hip hop album?
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Review by: Bradford Davis
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