A PG rhyme slinger gives Jamie Lee Rake just the the occasion he needs to riff on the state of performing-rappers-who-are-Christian with a word flood of his own.
Andy Mineo/Propaganda/ et al
Turner Hall Ballroom
May 6, 2016
The 17 year-daughter of the friend I invited along to see rapper Andy Mineo had what might be as good as any a justification for the bespectacled M.C.'s continued placement in the Christian market: unlike most any rhyme slinger to be heard in the general market, he isn't using profanity.
Her father offered a rejoinder to her in saying that, by his offspring's logic, someone who doesn't go about murdering people may be said to be offering a godly witness to the world, too. Refreshing as can be the enthusiasm that comes with youth, and fun as it was to have someone along closer to the median age of the crowd hearing Mineo throw down on a mild spring Friday night at Milwaukee's Turner Hall Ballroom, I'm more inclined to side with dad, even if he couldn't make out many of the lyrics.
To be fair, my opinion might lean toward that of my teenage friend were Mineo signed to, say Def Jam Recordings* instead of Reach Records. Even as Mineo's invocations of the Almighty can sometimes be presumptuously arrogant ("He on my side," he says in "You Can't Stop Me"), his lyriical God talk is, in the main, incidental. Christianity maybe at the heart of of Mineo's personal makeup, but he's not going to be explicit about his faith in the bulk of his bars. He enjoys married life. He fiends for an exciting basketball game.The video games he likes inform some of the videos he's had a hand in directing and served as backdrops on the big screens on the Tuurner Hall Ballroom stage he stood in front of and sat atop to deliver his work. And he craves the Italian and Puerto Rican food of his and his wife's ethnic heritages. If Jesus is King of all the above, He's in the details of all the above.
Christ should permeate a believer's life, but might it be expected that He merit more than what seem to be random name checks in the tunes of someone signed to a Christian label and promoted in the evangelical subculture at least much as he is in the rest of the world? In interviews he has been fortunate to have scored with so-called secular media, such as cable channel BET, Mineo's appears to be view himself as be a rapper who is Christian and not a Christian rapper as such. It is a fine enough thing that he makes that distinction and provides a more wholesome alternative for hip-hop heads, many of whom are likely kin in Him themselves.
It seems, though, that he would better serve his genre by offering a counterpoint to the way the Lord has been misrepresented throughout mainstream label. Mineo has the skillful flow to make himself an asset to the suits making money on Drake, Fetty Wap, Future, Yo Gotti, et al. Perhaps even more than his label's founder and arguable #1 name in holy hip-hop, Lecrae, Mineo epitomizes a life seeped in hip-hop. Nothing wrong with that if one's priorities are in order.
When he got autobiographical in regards to his spirituality, though, he was winsomely affecting. He spoke of courting his wife, who headed up the table for tour sponsor World Vision in order to solicit child sponsorships in developing nations, and meeting her grandmother. She asks whether he's a Christian. He tells his beloved's abuela that, yes, he is. Cue the repast of hearty comida boricua and family approval of the relationship in question. Mineo could have done without calling his other half "hot" from stage, along with summoning of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" for a bit of a skit, but they do make a comely couple in the black&white clip of their cavorting about as he performed "Love."
Musically, Mineo deserves props both for adding a live drummer and keyboardist to his prerecorded tracks, often glitchy, buzzy and owing debt to dubstep and chopped&screwed Houston hip-hop in their use of sonic drops and grinding. Speaking of H-Town, the headliner also pulled a move akin to that of Paul Wall by offering attendees a cellphone number by which he promised to surprise them with the occasional-apparently personalized?-text message. He also invited random concertgoers to some backstage hang time after the show. If his star continues to rise commensurate to his talent, that kind of amenity for his listeners may soon be a thing of the past.
The aforementioned skit and on and off throughout his set, the biggest name among the night's four opening acts, Propaganda, acted as a kind of one-man Greek chorus, occasionally commenting on Mineo's couplets. The copiously dreadlocked multiple-threat talent varied between more traditional rapping cadences and the kind of spieling that could be expected at a poetry slam. And whaddayaknow?; on his merch' table in the back of the hall was a poetry book he recently authored, I Am Becoming. His DJ's sampling of the opening riff of Prince And The Revolution's "When Doves Cry" for a brief commentary on the fleeting nature of celebrity seemed to be largely lost on the largely under-30 crowd for whom the recently deceased punk funkateer likely doesn't figure highly as a figure of cultural importance.
Far as I could perceive from what sounded to be a less prominent board mix in the first half of the three-hour show, Mineo's other three openers were new Reach signee SPZRKT (pronounced ":Spazzy Rocket"), who manned the MacBook for everyone else's music for a while, Gawin, and the especially sharp Nigerian-American with whom Mineo dueted a bit, Wordsplayed. For better and/or worse, they and Propaganda seemed to lean toward Mineo's Rappers Who Are Christian/Not Christian Rappers template. If they can be used of Him to bring uncompromised words of redemption to a dying world, cool enough. I suppose.
Also given a platform for his salvation testimony and time to shill his wares was Grateful Apparel founder Raymond Rivera. Though his soteriology is rife with problematic synergism, he seems a sincere man who is doing good by using his company's profits to housing for homeless people.
And remember Mineo's inquisitive granny-in-law? She may have wanted to grill him a bit more about where he stands with the Lord. being handed out upon the throng's exit was a card promoting a Washington, D.C. prayer&revival event this July including musicians and speakers aligned with a number of false teachings and practices. Among those are the health&wealth/ prosperity gospel so prevalent on evangelical TV, Roman Catholic ecumenism, Chrislam (Islamic ecumenism), the demonic signs&wonders movement and dominionism, the belief that Christians have to occupy seven "mountains of culture" - and maybe clean up the environment in a way keeping with certain United Nations initiatives-before the Second Coming can occur. Included in its lineup are Lecrae and fellow Reach artist Tedashi. My correspondence with a label rep met with a pat reply insisting that the company and its acts are biblically above board. Based on the promotion of that event, I vociferously beg to differ. Were his and his label mates' discernment on point as Mineo's rhyming, there would be no Reach involvement in it and no literature distributed announcing it.
-Jamie Lee Rake
*-Even with his current beard, Mineo's look reminds me of MC Serch of late '80s-early '90s Def Jam duo 3rd Bass, best remembered for "The Gas Face" and their possibly ironic Peter Gabriel-sampling Vanilla Ice dis', "Pop Goes the Weasel."