Sivion

A common tactic by rappers, especially positive MCs, is to declare hip-hop's state of emergency and then proclaim to be part of the solution. Forney (yes, Forney, get over it) rapper Sivion takes this approach on "I Still Love H.E.R." ("Rap music is a mess/What once was greater has now become less/We gotta take these whack images and put 'em to rest"). Usually it's mere copycat braggadocio, but long before the end of Sivion's magnificent and lovely Spring of the Songbird, he proves it's not empty talk.

Sivion doesn't pussyfoot around his message: he's a proud follower of Christ and is at a loss as to why so many people aren't. He raps sweet love notes to his wife and kids, boasts about withstanding lust and chastises "ice nerds" for their cheddar-chasing ways. Sounds about as fun as a Southern Baptist Bible study, but even those resistant to the gospel message will be impressed by the album's fresh, organic production, head-nodding throwback beats and Siv's smooth, conversational flow. Turns out Siv can hold his own on the saxophone too and plays on several tracks including a standout instrumental track, the slow jazzy groove "Melted Chocolate."

He announces his M.O. in "All My People": "I keep it light with a chuckle, then proceed to sigh/Sometimes when it's bad I might even cry/Not afraid to show emotion, or at least I try." Some might mistake that honesty as softness. That's not the case: Even if it gets a little corny when he trades rhymes with his son on "Songbird Saturday," spitting real talk about the joy of spending Saturday morning with the wife and kids takes all the balls God blessed him with.

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Jesse Hughey
Contact: Jesse Hughey

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