Bar Exam: Josiah Davis – Detour (Album)
A One Listen Album Review
It’s been a minute since my last Bar Exam. It felt good to rest my brain for about a month after I had written over 60 exams in the previous 50 weeks. 2019 is a clean slate in some respects, so here I am… Back again to offer my thoughts on music that is shaping the Christian culture and the hip-hop community at large. I’m blessed to be part of this larger story. I’m blessed to have readers, and to have the opportunity to point you towards good music!
My first exam of the year is “Detour” by Josiah Davis, and at first glance, there seems to be a lot to like. The artwork is fresh, the features as well. Thirteen tracks clocking in at 45 minutes, which could lend to some jam packed vibes throughout. I’m excited to get my ears on this. Let’s go.
My Bar Exam Rules – there aren’t any other than these are all notes from my true first listen. I’m a geek about hip-hop so I may pause or rewind tidbits in order to savor a moment or dissect a rhyme. Also, there may or may not be bathroom breaks. Adding any other rules is kind of crazy. Listening to music should be fun.
Essex – “Everything’s bigger in Texas, so maybe you’ll blow up.” We start in with a thick bed of sci-fi-esque synths. Josiah busts a flow here over what seems to be a slow burning introduction. The effect on his voice sounds like he’s yelling through the static of an early 90’s TV set, and he’s calling out the fake people in his life. “It’s a hard life to live” The second verse has a subtle beat that’s building. He’s being honest about depression and caring for others at the same time. I’m not really feeling the flow. I was okay with the beginning of this song being basic, but was ready for the emotion to take us somewhere. It kinda stagnated for me in the middle and never got up off the ground. The creativity here is good, the overall sound is unique, and it’s not boring. I’m just looking for the flow to build alongside the music.
Fadeaway feat. Godlovesjudah – The instrumental here is a sample loop that sounds like something crazy is about to happen. We hear the hook at the top, and these vocals have some autotune on them, but the production of them is pretty forward in the mix. “Eyes on the prize I ain’t got no time to waste.” This beat is really nice, and the flow on this first verse is dope. Josiah moves back and forth from melody laden flows to a few pause-heavy bars. This is a fun listen. Each verse brings a different level of intensity.
2222 Feat. Atsen, Chi-Zion – Another track on that modern hip-hop tip. Melody laden flows and slappin’ bass lines.
“ooh wait/boy I’m too great/who’s you we don’t like you cuz you two faced/Yeah it’s too late/You came too late/We took over now we moving to the moon hey”
The hook gets in you head like an ear worm and I could just play this on repeat all day. In fact, that’s what I feel the decision was for this song. That hook might have played a bit too long. As an overall vibe for a song and soundscape though I have no problems.
Mine II Feat. seni. – There’s a vocal sample that begins, whirrs down to a stop, and then we’re greeted by an ice cold music bed. The beat doesn’t develop at all right here, and it’s a distracting wall of sound while Josiah is trying to navigate the vibe with an unorthodox bobbing and weaving melody. The topic at hand here is relationships. I’m feeling a dip in the energy at this point in the project.
Woodlane – “Separate ways don’t mean a thing it’s just a detour” We’ve elevated the vibe a little bit here. The music bed is still chilled out, but the flow is back and Josiah is attacking this track.
“One more sleepless night we eatin right/Head to the Denny’s then we see each sunrise/Sleep through church feelin’ like a heathen right/But we alright/Wait till next weekend and we get hype”
He continues on this trip down memory lane, and concludes with the idea that God called him elsewhere and he doesn’t regret taking that path.
Dilleys Feat. Atsen – A clean electric guitar lays in behind an easy beat. Josiah is taking us back to the moment he chose Christ. It’s an honest deliberation about all the holes that God can fill. It becomes a prayer of surrender. This is a strong track. I really appreciate the intentionality and vulnerability of the emotions. There are different textures throughout that continue to captivate, and Atsen’s verse at the end leaves me wanting more.
Scarred Heart – This one starts out a little awkward for me. There’s a melody being sung in the instrumental, and a separate melody is sung over this. There’s a lot of distractions in the background on this one for me to where I can’t focus on the performance.
Candlestick Feat semi. – The vibe of this one is similar to what we’ve heard so far. One thing that’s different is even with the laid back instrumental here, the performances are fast paced. Josiah’s flow here is nice, and he’s speaking about confidence in his faith, his craft, and his team. The energy is beginning to dip again though.
Sand – An electric guitar riff takes us into a hook. Again, when I was beginning to feel the album drag, this one is a little more upbeat. The tambor in his performance matched with the pitch he chooses wakes the listener up, and I appreciate the choices that are being made in song placement. It’s tough to get the pacing just right, and when you’re an artist like Josiah is who relies on emotional candor, you have to be aware of your listener wanting to be able to follow you through the whole piece. So far, on “Detour” Josiah seems to be anticipating these declines in energy, and is able to adjust.
“Honest to God man I’m doing alright/leave it to me to get lost in the hype/swear that I’m not nah this is my life”
As an artist, Josiah is very comfortable trusting his gut. He moves from raps, to melodies, to heartfelt descants that continue to captivate.
Hold Feat. Rashon J – Is this a Ginuwine sample at the top? Yes I think this has some interpolation of “Differences” here. The muse Josiah is talking to here seems to be a significant other. He’s toeing the line of patience when considering the future, but also the feelings of excitement that come in waves when in a relationship. Rashon’s interlude here is terrific, and then the next layer after that when Josiah busts a verse gives you exactly what you want. This song is fantastic.
Birfday Miracles Feat. AyeJae – Alright the instrumental here I’ve heard a few times. The most recent being Young C’s song “Pass the Offering.” It’s an upbeat party/gospel vibe, and Josiah comes at it with a melodic flow, and passes the baton to AyeJae who absolutely MURDERS this. At this point in the record I’m flying.
Carmel – This one presents almost like a freestyle. Josiah is telling the story of his musical career through the lens of sharing with friends who miss him. Perseverance is key when you’re on the come up like he is, and he seems to understand that. The beat here is pretty basic, but the overall performance once more is intriguing and genuine. The song begins and ends with snippets from awkward voicemails from friends calling him “weiner.” I’m glad I’m not the only person with friends who say weird stuff to me.
Paris Feat. Lael Turner – The flow Josiah is using on this bonus track is pretty easy and laid back. It fits into the grand scheme of the album. Lael Turner burns up his verse here. It’s nice. I need this beat to progress a bit though.
To conclude, this is a solid underground album. It’s got an indie sound and feel to it, which works because it all fits with how the cover art looks. The direction and everything seems to tie together quite well. Josiah is a true artist, who is comfortable with bringing out many different sounds and being himself. I feel like with the exception of two or three beats, most of the textures throughout this are extremely similar, causing some of the tracks to fade out of my memory. I think there’s a way to create an overall sound for a project while also giving each track it’s own unique style, and this is where “Detour” misses the mark. Overall though, I feel like Josiah proved he’s got a lot of arrows in his quiver, and he’s got plenty more shots to take.
Overall Rating: At The Bar