If you’re not familiar with or a fan of Christian hip-hop (often referred to as holy hip-hop or HHH), you’ve probably never heard of Peace 586. But if you’re a dedicated reader of this blog, you might remember his name being mentioned as one-half of the duo, Freedom of Soul, who released two albums under the group name (see my reviews on Caught In A Land Of Time and The 2nd Comin’). Peace 586, along with his Freedom of Soul partner, DJ Cartoon, helped pioneer the HHH sub-genre that begin to emerge in the late eighties, and would eventually lay the foundation for artists like Andy Mineo and Lecrae to experience commercial success in today’s industry. For one reason or another, Peace decided it was time to…peace out of FOS and would release he solo debut, The Risen Son in 1996.
Per the album’s liner notes, Peace named the album The Risen Son because: “Reality is, The Risen Son (aka Jesus Christ), who made it possible for me to rise out of sin and be a risen son.” Peace would produce all ten of the album’s ten tracks (that he also refers to as his kids in the liner notes) and DJ Cartoon is credited for “All turn table expertise”, so at least we know there was no beef between Peace and Cartoon after FOS called it quits. Oh, and just in case you were curious, Peace spells out in the liner notes that most of the production for The Risen Son was done on his Akai MPC 60, which you can see him cradling with one hand, while he grips the microphone with the other on the album cover.
I didn’t become familiar with The Risen Son until at least five years after it was released, when I was on a secular hip-hop hiatus. It’s been years since I’ve listened to the album, so let’s see how it’s held up over time.
Rhimespiritsoul – After a few words from Peace, an acappella vocal loop repeating the song title is brought in and is quickly joined by clunky drums and a bell loop to form the track’s instrumental (our host brings in warm beautifully sorrowful vibes on the hook, which is my favorite part of the song). Peace eventually jumps into the mid-tempo Double Dutch ropes and rhymes about his love for God, hip-hop and gets introspective about his own struggles and pain. Normally, I like the opening track of my hip-hop albums to come with more energy, but this somber introduction actually worked. You can add this one to your midnight marauders mix.
Risen Son – Peace proclaims himself as “That risen son nigga” (In 1996, a Christian rapper using “nigga” in a rhyme was equivalent to saying “muthafucka” to the ears of a modern day pharisee) and invites half of the duo that makes up LPG, Jurny Big, to join him on the mic, as the two take turns talkin’ holy shit in Jesus’ name. Jurny raps circles around his host, as he delivers his rhymes with swag and confidence in his twangy slightly whiny vocal tone. Peace should have stepped aside and let Jurny feast on this one by himself.
Listen – Peace hooks up a melodic and misty loop with steady drums and lets his thoughts flow freely over the course of three verses, while a Common vocal loop instructs the listener to “cool out and listen”. Peace’s instrumental lives up to his alias, as this track left me feeling tranquil.
Lessons Of Worship – Our host stands firmly on his soapbox and rhymes a sermon about the difference between work and worship, referencing several biblical stories along the way. While this subject matter might be appealing to bible scholars and bible school students, it doesn’t work well in the form of a hip-hop song for the general public, and the yawn-provoking instrumental only makes matters worse.
Rain – Peace uses this one to abstractly discuss and share how he copes with the proverbial storms that life brings us all, while the other half of LPG, Theory (aka Dax), adds a woeful hook to drive home Peace’s point. If you close your eyes, you can visualize the nimbostratus clouds moving in as you listen to the somber vibes of the track. Misery loves company and I love being in the company of it when it comes in the form of dark moody music like this.
Learn – Peace lays down a competent mid-tempo bop and gets out of the way for a few of his Tunnel Rats bredrin to shine. Theory, Ralphi, and two other dudes whose voices I don’t recognize, and the liner notes don’t give credit to, spit bars over the course of three verses, while Jurny Big drops in to add a dope hook to complete the record. It’s not “The Symphony”, but it’s still a decent posse cut.
Step Inside – Peace goes into storytelling mode as he shares a tale about randomly meeting a blinged-out drug dealer named Shaheed, who he invites to a Christian hip-hop show and Shaheed ends up giving his life to Christ in the process. This can’t be a true story, as I find it very hard to believe that a drug dealer would be so trusting that he would give his phone number and home address to a complete stranger to come pick him up to go to rap show of an artist he’s never heard of. Regardless, I like the warm and eerie vibes of the instrumental, even if I wasn’t crazy about the “Top Billin’” drums being used in it.
Just A Hip-Hop Love Song – Peace is joined by his Tunnel Rats sister, Zane for this hip-hop duet that has arguably the bluntest song title of all-time. Peace raps from the perspective of a hip-hop beat, and Zane from the eyes of an emcee, as the two meet at a club, hit it off and quickly become husband and wife, or as the duo so cleverly puts it: rhythm and rhyme (by the way, I’ve always loved Zane’s rapping voice, and she’s still super fine after all these years). Peace’s laidback jazzy after-hours instrumental works perfectly with this well-executed concept record.
Where I’m At – Peace, sloppily, chops up a loop from MJ’s “I Can’t Help It” and pairs it with a drumbeat that’s too energetic to match it, which results in an awkward sounding instrumental that’s so frustrating to listen to that Peace’s rhymes become an afterthought. I guess you messed up your witnessing opportunity with this one, pal.
I.D. – This track was clearly inspired by De La Soul’s “I Am I Be” off the Buhloone Mindstate album, as Peace and his Tunnel Rats crew (most of whom have already appeared on this album) introduce themselves and share “what they be” doing. It was kind of odd for Peace to place this as the closing track on his solo album, but we get to hear from the lovely, Zane again, so it’s all good.
I think it’s fair to say that Peace 586 is more of a producer who raps than a rapper who produces, which becomes clear after a few listens to The Risen Son. Peace will never be mistaken for a super lyrical emcee (though he does sound much improved on the mic since his Freedom Of Soul days…which might have something to do with the fact that LPG helped pen his rhymes on this album), but his peacefully somber production work on The Risen Son makes his ordinary rhymes and choppy flow easier to digest. Over the course of ten tracks (which in my opinion is the perfect length for an album), Peace combines melancholic and melodic soul and jazz loops with boom-bap drums, and hits way more often than he misses. At times some of Peace’s work sounds amateurish and extremely rough around the edges, which some might find unappealing, but I enjoyed it, as it gives his musical sound character and authenticity. The Risen Son isn’t for everybody, but this album will always resonate with my soul.