Andy Mineo – “II: The Sword” (Sept 21, 2018)
Andy Mineo has always been the one presence in the current Christian Hip Hop movement who has seemingly been the most transparent, self-deprecating, and somehow funniest all at the same time. II: The Sword continues this trend with a short “one two punch” of an EP. He keeps with the prevailing 116 M.O. – keep the overt theology down to an acceptable but poignant minimum, while talking on more commonly relatable topics while exposing personal struggles and concerns. In other words, it’s a more honest form of Hip-Hop than what you might have gotten out of earlier 116. This is what we’ve come to expect by this point, and up until this point it has been refreshing.
And while Mineo’s EPs have typically been good (Never Land, anyone? That was dope), this time around the “honest” act has left a few holes visible. The content is great – relatable, funny when it needs to be, and sincere – but the energy level seems lower. It’s musically less impactful than previous releases. The atmosphere is intentionally relaxed, with a lot of the instruments sounding pop or R&B when compared to the oversaturation of trap beats going on everywhere else, but it can at times found overly passive. Too sleepy.
Honestly, the record is good. The songs are definitely good. The bars are definitely there. The individual elements on this joint are really, really good. But the overall product feels understated, underwhelming, and understated. Maybe that’s what Mineo wanted? I could see it being an intentional stylistic choice, but I think there is something to be said about the lack of that extra “special sauce” that made Heroes For Sale so heavy hitting.
I probably sound overly pessimistic. There are some songs on this record that will probably go down as Mineo classics. Shame is emotionally diverse, gripping, and sincere. Donuts feels like a genuine demonstration of rap for the sake of rapping – lyrically clever and emcee-centric. And None Of My Business is perhaps the most provocative, playful, funny song on the whole release. On a release as short as an EP, a majority of good songs is a job well done.
There is a lot to be liked here. Some may find this to be a new favorite from Mineo. I’m just left feeling like I wanted a bit more. More of what, you ask? I don’t know. Intensity? Jokes? Self-deprecating humor? Theological depth? Emotion? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like this record knows either. II: The Sword simply seems like a collection of good songs and not more. I tried to find a common theme or common emotional tone, and it wasn’t quite there. Maybe that’s versatility, or maybe it’s lack of focus. I doubt an album of higher caliber would leave me feeling so “maybe” about it all.
(P.S. I feel like I’ve been pretty tough on CHH so far this year, but I just don’t know if I’ve heard anything that I’d consider a classic. If you’re paying attention to the Christian hip-hop scene and you think there’s some worthy releases that have come out this year, let me know. I’m sure there’s gotta be something golden out there.)