-B.B. Jay, "I Told You So"
Throw B.B. Jay's Jive Records debut, "Universal Concussion," into the CD player at a party and watch the heads start to nod to the beat. Unless they pay close attention, your friends won't even realize they're listening to gospel music--what's more, they may even like it.
Past attempts at Christian hip-hop have too often suffered from limp beats and weak rhymes that make the message more like medicine than music. Hey, it's a tough market: Even Christians press "eject" if the beats don't groove. Fortunately, B.B Jay's enlightened rhymes lock with "Universal Concussion"'s tight production and solid beats, setting a clear new standard for hip-hop with a higher conscience.
The group's first single, "I Told You So," couches an inspiring ode to strength of character and the ability to rise above negative circumstances with a heavy hook and standard phat beat. But the rhymes, the charm of any rap track, are strong enough to elevate the song beyond predictability.
The other single, "Hot Ta' Def," also vigorously follows the hip-hop manual, this time in its outrageous bragging. In a refreshing twist, however, guns, money, and ho's are traded in for spirituality, the power of God, and the ho's at church. "Soon as I step up in the hiz-ouse mouths start to flap / Heads like 'That's that cat who rap Gospel rap / B.B. Jay, Alize, G-O-S-P-E-L / Dime pieces like 'Wonder if he got a female'/ I reap well 'cause I sow well, but I flow well / So well, skirts at church be tryin' to throw tail."
The title track, "Universal Concussion," is easily the darkest song on the disk. It's a bit much, really, complete with the apocalyptic chorus. "Onward Christian soldiers, Judgement Day is upon us / We are holy warriors, who live to die with honor." It's worth noting that this track still manages to strike an uplifting chord by focusing on the rewards of having faith, rather than the consequences of non-belief.
B.B. Jay nails the strain of growing up as an outsider with spiritual conviction in "One Way (The Real)." "Back as far as I can remember I've always been a misfit / Never had a style that the average guy or gal could get with / I was always the one kids made fun of / feeling suicidal cuz I couldn't get no love."
"Out of Control" is perhaps the most successful song on the CD. B.B. Jay captures the stress of real life and its effect on faith, without being preachy or condescending. Complimented by confident production and thick beats that owe props to DJ Premiere's signature style, the track is a highlight.
It's ironic that B.B. Jay's voice and cadence are so similar to another Brooklyn native, the mainstream rapper Biggie Smalls. Until his violent death, Biggie was the living, breathing embodiment of gangster excess. B.B. Jay, on the other hand, represents the conscience and soul of the street. B.B. Jay represents the strength of faith.