Album Review: Trip Lee – Rise
The celebrated Christian rapper returns with one of the best albums this year.
Reach Records have certainly raised the bar on their releases this year, from KB’s trap-fuelled 100 EP, to Tedashii’s moving Below Paradise, to Lecrae’s wildly successful Anomaly. In my opinion however, Reach have saved the best until last with Rise, the stunning fifth album from Trip Lee.
Throughout Rise, Trip challenges you and I to remember our identity in Christ, that we have been raised with him and are called to live for him, and serve him in everything. He finds joy in the word, and so many of the tracks appear to find their roots in scripture. Trip doesn’t mess around: he shares his thoughts plainly. Mixing hard-hitting theology with real life application and consistently tight production from GAWVI (one of the best producers in the game) on all fourteen tracks; Trip Lee gives us one of the best albums of 2014.
Grunty sounds begin the opening title track, contrasted with falsetto. It only takes seconds to appreciate GAWVI’s sophisticated, layered production. Trip poetically gets us to look up and consider our God who reigns above: ‘I know the designer, he’s higher than pilots who fly up in clouds he designed with his hands.’ He also drops a Bible reference for us to look up – John 5:28-29 – clearly encouraging us to engage with the Word.
Lights On is filled with bright synths and big drums. Trip again paints pictures with his words, describing repentance and declaring the light of God’s grace to us that needs to be shared with others too. ‘We don’t know where we going until we go where living water is flowing so turn them lights on.’
I must admit when lead single Shweet dropped, I wasn’t a fan. The cool grind and autobiographical rhymes have grown on me though. Trip shares the transformation that has happened since finding Christ – while he used to rap about cash, he now raps about the Godman. Lecrae shows up on Manolo – a word that means ‘God with us’ in Spanish – and over a threatening beat the pair rap about the power of the Bible – our weapon against lies. It’s very reminiscent of Paul describing the word as a sword to fight off evil in Ephesians 6, but here the metaphor is more of a gun. As Lecrae says, ‘Red letters like a red dot on your dome.’
You Don’t Know is a beautiful song of praise, and the immense joy of being found in Christ and rising with him. As the song progresses, the music sounds refreshingly live with some impressive drumming. This only adds to the beauty of the words:
Let me be clear, the only God I fear
Dwells in a high and holy place and bro He got me here.
My soul got purchased and my sin got kicked off
It won’t be no returns, prepare for lift off.
It’s at the halfway point of Rise where we are given what sounds to be a sample of an interview where Trip discusses Reach Records and how far God has brought the label. He expands on this on All Rise Up, where he shares that no matter how far Reach have come, it’s only by God’s kindness – and it’s Christ who deserves the standing ovation. He’s honest with his fans here, reminding us of the mission we all share, making Jesus known. Trip’s honest words are captivating and heartfelt: ‘We should all rise up and give a standing O for the king ‘cause he’s good. We do it for The Lord, but still we do it for you. They ain’t never seen the Gospel at work, show them it’s true, and rise.’
Beautiful Life 2 (Mine) is a super sweet (shweet?) song from Trip to his kids, and a sequel to the track on his fourth album, The Good Life. A dirty honky sax and Andy Mineo bring the fun on Insomniac. In fact, the latter is the club hit of the album and GAWVI has crafted it with finesse. Something New is a very short piece that addresses the idols we hold on to, and Trip confesses his addiction to sneakers: ‘My addiction isn’t women or the booze. Sneakerheads anonymous, I’m itching for some shoes.’
Our resurrection continues to take centre stage on Lazarus (feat. This’l), on a bed of grimy darker sounds and 80s synths. It’s easy to get lost in the story of Lazarus, and forget that Trip and This’l are sharing the power of the cross in song: ‘Hopped up out the grave, thriller style. They ain’t think that He could do it, but he did it now. I mean the Captain, the almighty Lord. Setting captives free, all aboard, all aboard.’
I’m Gone surprises with some upbeat piano over some very serious words about Satan’s trickery and schemes to trip us up. But the joy in the music reminds us that Jesus has the victory, which leads so successfully into the triumphant Sweet Victory (feat. Dimitri McDowell & Leah Smith). It’s a beautiful way to round out the album, as Trip shares the hope he has in Christ despite the struggles he faces here on earth such as his ongoing battle with chronic fatigue – because Christ has the victory. And what a sweet victory it is.
The crown of thorns declares you’re King
A scarlet robe can’t cloak your majesty
They nailed your hands, you nailed our death
From the cross you reigned, Your kingdom knows no end
Oh Jesus, you won it all. Oh Jesus, victorious
Trip hinted at retirement from making music back in 2012, and became a pastor at a church last year, so the announcement of Rise came as a surprise to many people. But personally, I’m thankful for the time and effort that he and GAWVI put in to produce such a fresh sound. It’s such an encouragement. Rise is upbeat musically, honest, hopeful, boasts in Christ, and challenges us to follow the call of Colossians 3:1-3 to seek what is above rather than the things of this earth. To God be the glory, to Jesus the victory.
From me, Rise gets a full five stars.
This review was originally published at Reel Gospel.