ERICA MASON: SEEK LIFE (EP) REVIEW
Authentic, Transparent and Consistent... are the words that adequately describe Erica Mason. You only need to follow her on social media to catch her vividly sharing her thoughts, event clips and more to get the punchline that she is just real and "Erica as God made her."
While she has been on the scene with releases since 2013, Her EP Pretty N Radical in 2016 was much more than an EP. She more broadly shared a message about accepting and embracing your authentic self through a lifestyle that every woman and girl is empowered to live. As she says in her own words, "PNR helps to unlock individuality and authenticity by teaching women that they are not defined by the labels of society, socioeconomic status or their past mistakes; but they are defined by how God sees them. Erica Mason’s desire is to bring healing to broken girls and women who struggle with their identity and to awaken them to their true identity in Christ."
Since Pretty N Radical, Erica has released four singles, Work It Out (2017), Baysiks (2017), Drip on the Devil (2018) and Talks with Loneliness (2019). Certainly, those that follow her are ready for this EP.
As it relates to this new EP, from a content perspective, this EP is very timely. Let's just consider the two generations, Millennials, and Generation Z, that comprise the majority (roughly 48%) of the U.S. population.
The millennial generation has reached the highest rates of job depression, generationally, at 20% and is reporting the highest levels of clinical anxiety, stress, and depression than any other generation at the same age. Without belaboring this, Generation Z, while on the search for the truth, is exposed to the same.
The EP opens with the song, The Conversation and opening words that set the stage quite well,
"What happens when I choose to confront the darkness in my heart? A place where fear and anxiety consume me, and vulnerability is uncovered. Where I find myself questioning the creator of knowledge and wisdom, wondering if I'll ever survive."
Erica shares her innermost concerns and quickly transitions to a thoughtful stream of appreciation for what God has done in creating her. The lyrics are strong with a mid-tempo (BPM in the 70s) track that builds in a complimentary way with kicks, strong bassline and percussion. The production is very intentional, continuously leading you to a point where you feel it is going to begin to be a head-bobber and then pulls back, to make you sink back into the lyrically content.
"But who am I to criticize how you created me
I see brokenness, but you see beauty in how you're shaping me
You gave this breath of life and yet I know that I keep blowing it
But in my imperfection, you get the glory you are supposed to get."
Erica lays out a narrative that includes her interpretation of external criticism and pressure, the expectations of others and even those of herself, but the struggle that many have between knowing what you are supposed to do during those challenging times and actually doing it. She transitions to what is hearing from God,
"See in the battle of my mind I hear your peaceful voice
Daughter, I choose way before you even had a choice
And I accept you when you can't accept yourself
You'll never be perfect that's why I defeated death
See when you cried your tears, I was the one who bottled them
And when you popped those pills, I am the one who swallowed them"
The 2nd song, The Whirlwind, drops the tempo (BPM in the 50s) and leads off with smooth vocals backed with nice strings and instrumentation that lays back in a nice groove. Erica puts the voice of God on display, expressing His support for us even as we go through the "whirlwind" of life and may not be seeking Him.
Please don't get it twisted, you're the reason why I did it
Not to just have churches and religion
Having you is what I envisioned so even when you're distant
I'll still go the distance, listen….
The 3rd song, Talks with Loneliness, picks up the tempo (BPM in the 70s) and Erica jumps straights into the topic, sharing the challenges of knowing that God should fill that gap of loneliness, but past memories and feelings overcome that at times. Erica shares personal challenges from her youth, the difficulty of letting go of those memories and the barriers that many have such as the fear of being vulnerable. The rest of the song pays tribute to what God provides…
"I can't make it rain unless I let you reign in my life
And I can't open up my heart unless I have you inside
All I ever really wanted was someone on my side
But loneliness is not the one coming along for the ride
I don't always have the answers, so I question your love
I don't always measure up, but still, you say I'm enough
All I ever really wanted was somebody to love
You've been knocking at my door, but I can't open it up (1st chorus) / You've been
You’ve been knocking at my door so I'm going to open it up (2nd chorus)"
In the 4th song, No Regrets takes the tempo back down (BPM in the 60s) as the band plays on :). Erica opens with smooth vocals (reminded of Lauryn Hill for a bit). Less about the tonality, but more of that vibe and versatility of Erica singing and rapping, mixing it up tastefully and seemingly, effortlessly. Erica talks to the Lord in this song, sharing her experiences, so of which pulled her away from the Lord, expressing her thankfulness for His faithfulness in the chorus - part of which is just a chant in the making.
"You loved me, when I couldn't love myself
You loved me, when I couldn't love myself.
You loved me, when I couldn't love myself."
The last song, Wake Up Call, (watch the video here) caps of the EP and feels different than the prior songs. Nice melodies and old school record crackle start the track as Erica begins to spill. Kicks knock with snare rolls, but no constant 2nd and 4th snare - - this is an anthem stand up type song. The content is unmistakable. After having transparently shared her heart, her challenges and how has and continues to turn to God as THE answer, this song now addresses a more global issue. Erica challenges herself and the state of our current society. More specifically, the use of words such as "conformity," "contentment," and "hypocrites," make it clear.
"The American dream, we work hard so we can live it out
But God can't bless America if we kick him out
What's the point of standing up if we ain't standing out?
It's time to start living this life that we're preaching 'bout"
In summary, without a doubt, this is an EP worth purchasing or streaming. Further, in a time where we tend to listen to singles, it is one to listen to straight through. The first four songs, whether intentional or note, almost come across like Erica is with a band, doing a set in a cozy venue. The musicality is thoughtful, non-programmed or repetitive … details and choices matter, some good ones were made here.
The visuals that many of the lyrics draw forth compel you to slow down and self-examine; and if you have children, to consider the challenges they are dealing with. The last song closes "the set" (if you will) as if the lights are slightly coming up and it is a rallying cry.
Creatively, you might be reminded of Bizzle at times while listening in terms of the fluidity of Chorus chanting, singing and rapping. It is worth noting that for those who are expecting to catch more a hyped performance from Erica as you may have seen online, you will not get that on this EP. That said, you will not be disappointed otherwise.
Without a doubt, we need more female voices in Christian Hip-Hop. Erica's continued maturity shines through and this EP stands the chance to be a tool in helping others bring their voice to the forefront.
Listen and Enjoy!
Songwriting: Erica Mason
Production and Vocal Arrangements: Quentin Watts
Lead Guitarist: Ronnie Lewis Oliver, Jr.
Engineering: Quentin Watts