Bar Exam: Swoope- Sonshine (Album)
A One Listen Review
Swoope released his album Sonshine this morning. This was heavily anticipated and he did a great job creating hype and pushing towards its release with his “12 days of Sonshine” drops throughout Christmas season, and even the roll out of certain verses like TSNK and the three singles we heard in the last month. My first introduction to Swoope was his album “The Zoo,” and “Look and Live” is a track I still bump from time to time. At first look, “Sonshine” has a interesting cover art with Swoope sitting in a lawn chair wearing Adidas sliders. Is this an album that will have staying power? Time will tell, but let’s hit play and find out what we’re dealing with.
Track One – “Shine” starts with a token introduction voicemail. Swoope’s father left him a message telling him to “just shine.” Beat has a chill synth vibe that builds, and we’ve got a Choir that comes in on the hook. “Everybody with a dream don’t chase it/everybody with some talent don’t make it.” This song is about how everything is gonna be alright as long as the sun is shining.
“Hall of Fame” – I couldn’t stay away from this track. When it released last week I went and clicked. I wasn’t disappointed about my choice. There’s a lot of space in this beat. I love how it progresses and how he brings his voice up an octave when the hook is repeated at the top. All of this is flying above the bar for me, and the rhymes are crazy too.
“I got more drive than a Honda/I got more Rhimes than Shonda/Shootin’ more shots than Kobe Bryant versus four guys playin’ Contra”
I’ve always appreciated how Swoope cares about fluidity in his albums. It’s evident to me that he chooses to pull in elements from the next song at the end of the current song in order to make everything flow together. That’s exactly what happens here.
On “Never Left” Natalie Lauren (fka Suzy Rock) brings in the theme right away. The beat is full of brass and a lot of synth layers. I feel like the beats on this project tell a story. Swoope treats the beats with as much intentionality as he does his flows and how his performances grow, the beats are a performance in themselves. Beatbreaker brought some heat on this track, and that switch up in the back half of this song is bonkers. The flow here is on point too.
“I’m an Anomaly/Check the gold plaque/’Crae, tell ’em we still follow Jesus/They can hold that/I’m back like a chiropractor off of vacation/Couldn’t come home ’til I covered all my bases/It’s it’s least I could do, like I’m working out of Avis/Eyes on Zion, unplug from the Matrix/Now I’m back”
During “Flex,” another quality I notice about Swoope is that while he is conscious of the modern wave in hip-hop, he doesn’t change who he is. Some of his choices probably lean towards more modern sounds here, but ultimately pushes the listener back to the same old Swoope. Topically he’s talking about how he doesn’t need to floss, and he doesn’t have anything to prove because everything he’s got is God’s. Man sometimes I just get so lost in his rhyme schemes.
“Old Me” begins with an old school piano vibe and bass samples. There’s some record static on the track, and it feels a little old school. Wordplay has always been a strength of Swoope’s. This track is nuts with the wordplay. I want to decipher all the lyrics for you here, but how about you just go listen. He straight brings it on this tune with no hooks.
“TSNK” is another old school vibe at the top. For some reason it reminds me of the movie Scarface. TSNK stands for “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and it’s an important track. Not only because he’s speaking on injustices, but because he points to how murder isn’t right for anyone to have to deal with.
“It’s not a feeling any mother should feel/That’s why the Father said “thou shalt not kill”/It’s good cops, I’m just looking for balance/Can we stop hashtagging caskets please?”
Fluid Listening Experience
“Way Up” is an interlude, but picks up topically where that last one left off. One day Jesus is coming back and will renew everything. This track ends with a conversation that continues into the beginning of the next track. Fluidity on point.
“Black Boy” is chilled out with some soul samples and piano beds. Again there’s so much wordplay and meaningful words, and again the beat progresses naturally along with the performance of the flow. This song is talking about how to grow up into a man, and how the black boy is a king.
“You Got Me” is a song we all need to hear, about how our Father will never stop loving us. Here Swoope switches back and forth from singing to rapping. While this tune has a modern vibe, I love how he won’t waste an entire song by singing. It’s in this way that he gives us what we want. Some of us like to see versatility, and on the other hand some of us just want to hear a tight flow. Taelor Gray is the only emcee feature on the album, and lights it up. I have nothing bad to say about any of this.
Track 10 is named “Shining Down” and again is another track with a great mixture of singing and rapping where he doesn’t lose us by going for too long in either direction. To end this he pulls in a sample from his dad’s voicemail in the intro track.
We close out the album with “All The Time.” The topic of God’s providence and His goodness are is a great one to send us on. Kevmo constructed a beat that is off the chain here. Swoope’s flow is very modern on this one, and this is probably my least favorite song on the album, but it’s still at the bar.
It’s been 4 years since we last heard from Swoope with “Because You Asked” and “Sinema” dropping that year. It’s been 5 years since we’ve heard a solid project from him (WLAK), but it’s been 6 years since we’ve heard a Swoope solo release of this caliber. He’s got everything working for him on this album. With next to no features he shows he can carry an entire project all on his own. Throughout “Sonshine” the creative direction is on point, the topics are fire, the fluidity, writing, and performances are all above the bar. This is a slam dunk album for me.
Overall Rating – Above The Bar