Album Review: Gospel Lee – “Brilliant”
Oklahoma native and Arizona-based emcee Gospel Lee released an album, titled Brilliant, on August 14th, 2015. As the follow-up album to his conceptual EP Beautiful Not Broken, that dealt with battling cancer, this release focuses on the idea that everyone has a brilliance that the world needs to see. Entirely produced by Wayne Klassik, Gospel Lee brings light to dark places through 5 tracks.
Through a lot of big and vibrant synths, keys, glitched samples, and hard-hitting snares, Gospel Lee displays a rapid-fire, confident delivery over a hard, energetic beat. He raps about living in the moment, taking risks, leaping towards opportunities, and, most importantly, living with courage in this one life we have. “Right here, right now // Hit a grand slam or strike out // Only one way to find out // Go clutch in the moment, no time-out.” I like it a lot. (Sidenote: Although they are two totally different rappers, Gospel Lee’s vocals and delivery on this song and “Far Away” sound a bit like Kap Kallous. Just a little. Haha.)
02. SPIRIT ANIMAL (ASLAN)
Straight off, the beat is engaging, with a lot of morphing synths, and deep, pounding kicks that get topped off with slapping snares. Gospel Lee’s cool flow and lively delivery adapt to the beat during the verses and hooks, as he raps about finding an inner, more powerful strength, when life gets difficult (“When it gets to be too much and it’s more than I can handle // when life gets too rough, I channel that spirit animal.”) The Aslan in the title references the Great Lion in the Chronicles of Narnia series, which has been said to partially represent an alternative version of the Lord. That same understanding correlates with Gospel’s whole second verse, when he describes the majesty, bravery, and loving nature of the Lion (the higher power) that he turns to and has faith in get through his struggles. Overall, Gospel Lee and producer Wayne Klassik really deliver on this song, making it really enjoyable to listen to.
03. FAR AWAY
“All I see is darkness, darkness all around me // Seems I’ve lost the path, now darkness is surrounded // Loneliness is setting in… ” I was immediately drawn into the dark nature of this song, because hearing Gospel Lee coming from a deeply personal, emotional, and vulnerable place–a place that a lot of people can relate to–is really moving. Through lyrics that are packed with poetic metaphors and pain in his voice (another thing that pulled me in), he exposes a side of himself that was once consumed with loneliness and depression. The whole first verse paints this picture of a guy–a villain–that’s struggling with life, feeling like he’s about to lose it, with sadness, stress, and anger tearing at his seams, which you can hear in his aggressive, almost growl-like “I”m so far away” breaking between the verses. The second verse of the song finds the villain losing and the hero coming out on top; there’s the sense of being saved by a higher being. Lifted from the inner chaos, cleansed of his past, and ready to start fresh. But wow, this song is one I can listen to over and over again, at high volume, and just feel everything.
“I’m doing everything to just feel anything // ‘Cause everything feels like nothing, and it’s killing me // It feels like something’s missing, don’t quite feel myself // Like Netflix, feel I’m watching me play someone else // My eyes have become shadows // And all the warmth is gone // So I put these walls up so they’ll never know what’s wrong // I’m trapped in this prison, cut off from all connection // That’s when I meet the villain staring back at my reflection // I hate him because he makes me feel powerless to change // Says I’m too far gone, forgiveness can’t erase the stain // I’m left with all this shame, I’m the only one to blame // I’m blinded by depression, I can’t look at life the same // I’m pulled in all directions, I can’t keep it all together // Maybe I should dim the dark (??), cause it’s never getting better // I’m running out of options, almost out of hope // Fingers on the ledge, I’m at the edge of my rope // So if you’re out there, be aware I’m broken and bleeding // This is my last flare, I hope you’re seeing… THAT I’M SO FAR AWAY”
04. BRILLIANT (ft Moyosolu)
The title track is a positive, motivational track that finds Gospel Lee speaking out to anyone that’s listening, especially to those who might need some encouraging words and hope to hold onto during trying times. Arizona vocalist Moyosolu is heard in the chorus, letting her voice soar into pop brilliance (the way she sounds makes me feel like there’s another song that sounds similar, or maybe I’ve heard this somewhere else, but I can’t put my finger on it).
This is an synth-driven, bass-thumping, uptempo beat that’s an anthem for his home state of Oklahoma. I feel like this song could do well with a video that has a lot of dancing with, perhaps, a unique choreographed dance routine specifically for this song. “Okies” is something that anyone from or in Oklahoma is going to love and bump really loud, to show their pride and love for O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A. Even those not from Oklahoma (and can’t really rep this song like others, haha), like me, can still bump it because it’s catchy, it’s fun, and there’s some funny wordplay.
As you can tell from the rating, I liked every song on this album. There isn’t one song that I would omit or skip. The production by Wayne Klassik was great, fitting Gospel Lee’s energy, moods, and songwriting, while Gospel’s lyricism was on point and had me wanting to listen to each on repeat. Check the album out for yourself, and grab it for $4 over at Bandcamp. You can also find it at the other links listed below.