In a genre that is marred by the blurred line between what is popular and what is considered gospel rap, Allen Swoope, an artist from Akron, Ohio, manages to blend the two well.
"Sinema," the follow up to 2012's "Wake Up" and released on Aug. 5, is a story about addiction and dealing with its consequences. From top to bottom, it is a solid effort in storytelling and conveying the struggle all believers have with sin.
The album flows well, from the inception of the interaction with the woman of Swoope's desire, and progresses from each stage until she ends up as a scorned lover, infuriated with the fact he ends up ignoring her. The journey goes from confidence in the skills and gifts God bestows, to the doubt and weakness that can be involved in the frailty of the flesh.
Two of the tracks, "#SameTeam" and "Tgc," seem out of place in the grand scheme of the album, but are solid nonetheless.
In one of the standout tracks, "LSD," featuring label mate Christon Gray, Swoope raps: "Lust Sin Death says it's time for another feeding/ feeding hedonism is the only freedom for heathens," referring to the emptiness that sin leaves and the continuous urge to sin again.
"Beauty In The Beast," the most popular song from the album, chronicles the conversation leading up to sin, and "Before Goodnight" delves into the deluge of feelings and convictions, while knowing one shouldn't do what he is about to do.
"I don't really know what I'm doing here, but it feels so good…./Funny how this friendship evolved into a guilty conscience from an innocent crush," Swoope reflects.
"Sin In Me" is the realization of wrongdoing that appears after you come down from the high of the sin. "I need ya Jesus, I'm too weak to, come up with the strength to battle me," Swoope says, realizing he can't fight temptation alone.
The triumphant "Fix My Heart" boasts a contrite Swoope readjusting his focus on God. "Life ain't got no pretty bow/ I know I'm gonna fall down….ain't that what McClurkin said?/but I aint a saint through my own power/just a sinner who done found his worth in the Perfect Lamb." Featured rapper Propaganda closes out the album with an impactful verse that inspires, conveying that life isn't like TV but the way to make it better is turning to Christ.
Swoope is well documented as not only one of the best Christian rappers in the business, but also one of its best producers as well. The beats aren't disappointing, but some leave the desire for more. Standouts include #SameTeam, LSD, and Beauty and the Beast.
As the struggle goes for all Christian rappers, it can be hard to not come across as "corny" when compared to secular artists. Swoope puts some really nice verses together, but on a few songs the cadence of his flow seemed a bit primitive. The features were average outside of the verse from Propaganda.
Swoope does a stupendous job in telling the tale of a believer's struggle with sin from beginning, middle, to end. It is commendable that he is not afraid to talk about what the exact struggle is and how a believer tries to rationalize his behavior when confronted with the opportunity to sin, which ultimately leads to yearning for more, and empty hedonistic pleasures can't fill the void that is there. Swoope makes sure to convey that the only way to recover the feeling of fulfillment is to seek God and his ways.
Swoope delivers an on-time project that can give believers the hope and courage to know that even though all followers of Christ struggle with sin, the remedy is in God's word. There are a few low points on this album, but not enough to taint the job Swoope did in making sure that talented Christian rappers get the respect they deserve. "Sinema" is available on iTunes now.