A week ago, Alex Faith released his debut album, “Honest 2 God“. I became a fan of Alex when I heard him on Sho Baraka’s mixtape, “Barakaology”, back in 2009.  Ever since then I’ve been eager to hear him again. I met him for the first time in the Spring of this year when my college ministry, RUF, brought High Society in to do a concert. Alex was the tour manager for the group. I communicated that I wanted to hear more music from him, but assumed that he left hip hop for good. We connected again at the Man Up 2012 Conference sponsored by Reach Life. It was there that I discovered he was 22 (my jaw dropped) and was thinking about enrolling in a seminary. I reiterated that I wanted to hear more music from him, but didn’t realize he was already back in the recording booth as one of the features on Swoope’s album, “Wake Up“. To say that I was eager to hear more from this kid is an understatement. At last, Alex has delivered and his project has produced a lot of thoughts, though I only have time to discuss a few of them. However, before I dive in, this isn’t your typical review.  In fact, I’m not sure it’s fair to call it a review. Instead, you’ll find here reflections on “Honest 2 God” that I thought were worth sharing.

Controversial

Anyone who listened to this album since its release probably couldn’t believe what he or she heard. I was particularly interested in a track on the album that D-Flow, a good friend of mine, produced. What I heard on the track “Conditional”, created by Alex and D-Flow, left my mouth wide open and speechless. One lyric in particular shocked me:  White people love me, and its only cuz I look like them / Black people love me because I’m honest and I ain’t faking it.

Ummm. Yeah. He just said that.

Now that’s one of the many controversial lines from the album. However, Alex isn’t being controversial for the sake of being controversial. There is a purpose behind it all. The lyrics above could be taken the wrong way out of context. But if one listens to the song, you’ll discover the purpose of the track. Alex’s main point is plainly stated by him at the end of the song:

Man, God loves me despite the reasons people do, from the accolades and success, to the failures and the shortcomings, he views me the same because he views me through the righteousness of his Son, Jesus. And for that I’m thankful that his love isn’t like ours, that it’s conditional upon things. His love is unconditional.

So where it seems at first that Alex is a white guy taking shots at whites and praising Blacks (which I think would be racism), he’s actually pointing to the reality that both are equally falling due to the fact that their love is conditional. Alex’s album is more edgy than High Society’s “The Collective” and Lecrae‘s “Church Clothes” without going too far; and as with all those albums, his controversy moves us to love Jesus and people more authentically. Alex has shown that he is that guy who can say touchy stuff, make his point, and leave hardly any listeners mad. He’s that guy that we all want to be but few of us actually have the courage to be.

Transparent

Another reason I love this album is because of Alex’s transparency. It would not have been hard to guess that he would release a transparent project based on his previous singles, but I didn’t predict something like this. As a matter of fact, a few days prior to the release of the project I tweeted, “Rappers/Singers/Song writers, I need transparency in your lyrics. I want to hear about your struggles. [This type of] music never gets old.” Before that I had tweeted, “There are 2 young MCs that aren’t well known who aim at my heart with their lyrical pens: @alexfaithATL@sothekid Can’t wait for projects!”

Alex delivered in ways I could have never predicted. In the song entitled “Can’t Fake It”, Alex includes some memorable words:

I wish I could make your eyes see, the hope that lies inside when it rains and pours, wishing ya’ll could mind read / Because I can’t formulate the nouns and verbs into a sentence, to rightly describe the way I feel about forgiveness / On my best day, I’m worst than the devil is, oh oh oh so devilish / Yeah you got that right, forgot about the Lord. Mortifying flesh but I forgot about the war / Glorifying death when I neglect to hit the floor. Knees to the ground, I feel conviction to the core.

Those bars embody much of what I can’t express at times about myself. Alex skillfully and creatively communicates his depravity in a way that draws in those who share his demons. Lyrics like these are timeless and this album has a ton of content in this vein.

Lack of transparency isn’t just an issue in Christian Hip Hop, but in CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) as well. I won’t go on a rant about CCM songs, but I will say this: I long to see the day when Christian music exposes the wickedness of the heart in light of God’s righteousness. A professor and mentor of mine brought to my attention a disturbing tendency of my beloved Young, Restless and Reformed generation. We tend to use the Gospel to bring comfort to the people first and then glory to God, when instead it should be in reverse. Alex pushes against this tendency, masterfully leaving me looking upon my own heart in light of God’s gospel, glory, and righteousness.

Honest

Finally, the album’s title fulfills its promise of being honest, as Alex never attempts to deceive his listeners. Often, honesty and transparency are assumed to be synonymous. However I’m using the terms distinctively. Alex is transparent in the fact that he allows the listener to see through him so that his heart can be distinctly seen. Where as he’s honest because he gives us tangible proof of what he revealed about his heart in the track “Can’t Fake It.” In the album titled track, “Honest 2 God,” he raps:

I ain’t gon lie, I want that engine in the trunk, I want to ball on these suckas at the mall and spend a million bucks / Honest to God knowing it’ll never happen kinda sucks, either way I’m gonna give it my all and I’ll try my luck / Really though, I guess I’m just being kind of extra. Even though it would be really nice, it’s really not impressive.

It’s not every day Christians are explicit about their sin, admitting that they do identify with the sinful desires of those who don’t know Christ. I think it’s imperative that unbelievers not only know that we’re sinners and can sympathize with them, but that we are explicit in revealing how we sin. This is not only healthy for unbelievers to hear, but for believers to confess as well. Often we shy away from admitting that we’re prideful and greedy sinners. We confess the sins that every Christian struggles with, but never what we feel is unique to us. Alex and his featured artists don’t back down in fear of the public and private criticism that this album is guaranteed to receive. These artists are, to say the least, Honest 2 God!

Download here

Tracklist:
1. Predestined (prod. by the BeatBreaker & Wit)
2. Have it All (prod. by Wit)
3. Runways feat. Suzy Rock
4. ‘Til Death feat. Jamm (prod. by Wit)
5. Can’t Fake It feat. Dre Murray and Derek Minor (prod. by Wit)
6. Georgia Clay feat. Jamm (prod. by Street Symphony)
7. Conditional feat. Uncle Reece (prod. by D-Flow)
8. Video Games (prod. by Wit)
9. Kings feat. Fish Scales of Nappy Roots and Lester “L2″ Shaw
10. Dreams feat. Social Club
11. Remember the Rain (prod. by Wit)
12. M for Murder feat. Marty Mar and Dre Murray (prod. by Wit)
13. Honest to God feat. Swoope and Christon Gray (prod. by Wes P.)
14. Runways Remix feat. Sho Baraka and Suzy Rock