[review.] Shai Linne — Lyrical Theology Part 1: Theology
Shai Linne; without him there would be no Lamp Mode Recordings as we know it. He discipled Timothy Brindle after his conversion and, after DJ Essence also became a Christian, Lamp Mode put out their first Christian release “The Great Awakening” by Timothy Brindle, heavily featuring Shai Linne. Now 5 Lamp Mode released albums deep into his career Shai is one of the few rappers most likely to be referenced by your church leader – I’ve had middle-aged, white, British pastors waxing lyrical about Shai’s skills and songs.
Whilst lyrically and theologically “Attributes of God” was very good, it left some listeners desiring more of a “classic” Hip Hop sound. Shai Linne and Lamp Mode have ensured this time that this issue has been addressed – Theory Hazit, Braille, Die-Rek and JustWord, amongst others, all lend a hand on production. Described as “throwback” this album certainly plays to no current trends and as a result sonically is very authentic – the type of beats Shai should be flowing over. I hesitate to say this is a return to his roots as these beats bang harder than those on Shai’s older albums – these are the beats his old beats were trying to be.
Controversy on Christian Hip Hop albums seems to be a popular theme this year (Propaganda’s “Precious Puritans”, Lecrae working with secular artists, Sho Baraka using the “B” word…) and Shai’s “Fal$e Teacher$” was destined to make waves. It’s been featured on just about every Christian blog and website along with various communications between him and said false teachers as well as videos of gracious justification and explanation from Shai himself. I only hope that those who are offended by this track take seriously its claims and accusations. Less controversial, yet still likely to cause division, is the track “The Millenium” on which Shai carefully and graciously teaches on the confusion and beliefs surrounding Christ’s second coming.
The rest of the album is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Shai: theology through lyrics (hence the title!). Explicitly taking a reformed standpoint on biblical issues, Shai teaches clearly from bible passages, packing in a few sermon’s worth of truth into 4 minute-long bites. Christ as both man and God, the work of the Holy Spirit, original sin and many of the bible’s core themes are explored in an accessible way: the gospel is presented clearly for non-believers whilst containing enough sustenance for believers – a hard balance to strike. In some ways the themes are unoriginal but then, so are so many crucial sermons preached week in week out – we need constant reminders of these truths and we need to hear them in different ways.
Guests are well chosen: J.G. of ISix5 is a perfect choice due to his unique voice and Shai’s recognition of the group’s work (Omri also features) should provide his fans with more good music to listen to. Unsurprisingly, label mates Timothy Brindle and Stephen the Levite feature as well as Shai’s wife Blair. Prolific artist Willie Will and Joint Heirs also provide vocals.
Whilst this album doesn’t exactly re-invent the wheel it is good, solid listening; pleasurable and educational. With better beats than ever before, this is a very high quality release from a well-respected label. Shai Linne shows no signs of slowing and this is one that will definitely get repeated spins alongside “The Atonement” and “The Solus Christus Project”.