Release Date: July 29th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Celebrity (feat. This’l)
- Wild Side
- We Fight
- Stix and Stones
- Shotgun (HXLY KXSS Remix)
The hip hop and rap department in the music industry, whether it is the mainstream or Christian one, is dominated by males. From TobyMac, Lecrae, This’l, Derek Minor, and KB, to Andy Mineo, Flame and Trip Lee; the Christian industry have yet to produce a good quality female hip hop artist…until now. The second female artist that I know of (Korean Christian hip hop artist Hee Sun Lee released her album in 2013) to release an album with the last year; new artist HillaryJane of Infiltrate Music releases her first EP Stix and Stones at the end of the month.
Giving us a fresh, unique and poignant look and how a female raps and embraces the culture of Christian hip hop, we are shown possibly one of the most different, yet equally inspiring alternative Christian EP’s of 2014 so far. Releasing 3 of her tracks to iTunes prior to her EP release (“Chimneys”, “Wild Side”, “Celebrity”), HillaryJane’s new EP is certain to pique the interest of listeners around the world, as we see a glimpse into female rappers and their style of rapping in a genre that’s much more male dominated than any other. A certain enjoyment if you love artists like Lecrae, Flame, or fellow Clear Sight Records artist V. Rose; Stix and Stones is an EP highlight of July, and an artist to take notice of throughout the remainder of 2014!
The first song on the EP, “Chimneys” may seem like a strange title for a song, yet when you look deeper at the lyrical motifs and the meaning, we are shown a melody that cuts right to the heart of what we stand for, and what we don’t. With Hillary either singing to the devil or to anyone in her life that could be bringing her negativity; we as listeners are able to hear a message of being grounded in who we are as sons and daughters of God, so that we know what we are willing to be subject to and what we willing to cut off from our lives. The motif of someone blowing smoke gives us an imagery of someone talking about things that mean nothing to us- which is exactly what Satan does.
With looping percussion, and Hillary’s powerful rap voice (that reminds me of someone like V. Rose); “Chimneys” is a song that’ll hopefully encourage us all to take a stand for what is right as we ‘…surrender to my King now…’ and understand that some people in our lives (or even the devil) can be ‘…only blowing smoke like a chimney when you’re lying to me…’ A song that’ll hopefully help us use our discernment when it comes to what we believe- about ourselves, the world and everyone else around us; Hillary ought to be commended for such a poignant first song.
“Celebrity (feat. This’l)” and “Wild Side” are the two remaining tracks that were released prior to Hillary’s EP, and with these two melodies, Hillary’s firm start to the EP is as powerful as ever. Delving into celebrity status and our constant need to accumulate things and stuff, “Celebrity” is a powerful fusion of pop, rap and hip hop as we see the addition of This’l, one of Christian hip hop’s most popular artists currently; collaborate with her on a song that is arguably the most confronting on the album. With great rap sections, Hillary vulnerably portrays a melody that cuts to the heart of the song and perhaps the album as a whole- that the things in this world won’t satisfy a heart that’s yearning for something eternal. As we hear Hillary declare ‘…what are we gonna do with all this money, nothing…’; we are shown that celebrities aren’t necessarily as happy or even as successful as someone else who may not have similar status, as often what comes with more money is hoarding and being unfulfilled rather than a sense of encouragement or purpose.
“Wild Side” is the remaining track released prior to the album’s release date, and with electronic vocal distortion being layered on top of the theme of being on the wild side when we commit our lives to Christ when we are ‘…holding onto every word that You say…but with You I am so brave, on the wild side…’, it is a perfect way for us to hear a message that even we as Christian can gloss over- that our life with Christ is anything but mundane, safe, secure and comfortable, something we can be used to in our materialistic society. The rest of the songs continue to highlight Hillary’s passion to see the realms of rap, hip hop and pop collide with a faith message undertone, from “Shotgun”, a 2 minute personal song to God about wanting to ride ‘shotgun’- as we have a view on our lives with God in the driver’s seat declaring ‘…here’s my heart…I can’t live without You…’, to yet other personal track in “We Fight”, a song with powerful drums and heartfelt lyrics of how we fight for the relationships we deem important.
“We Fight” can easily be seen as a song to God or even a song to another person; yet it is the title track “Stix and Stones” that is a favourite of mine and possibly one of the most emotive and heartfelt (along with “Celebrity”) on the album. Presenting to us a setting where Hillary sings about standing up to bullying, it is the poignant lyric of how ‘…sticks and stones, may break bones, but words cannot define us…’ is something for us to keep in our hearts and believe- that words, while it may hurt if said by others with a potential to pierce, it doesn’t define us if we are in Christ and believe what He always declares over us in the Word.
Stix and Stones is a breakout album for Hillary. With comparisons between her and artists like Flame, Lecrae, Stacie Orrico or V. Rose (by myself), this is an album to purchase and enjoy if you love all these aforementioned artists, or if you are wanting some unique variety music-wise compared to radio hits that keep on being overplayed nowadays. From the title track, to the catchy “Shotgun” to the confronting “Celebrity”, these 7 tracks are such where Hillary is by far one of the most unique and ingenious new artists in 2014 so far. Well done Hillary for such a powerful, prolific and poignant album!
3 songs to listen to: Chimneys, Celebrity, Stix and Stones
RIYL: Flame, V. Rose, Stacie Orrico, This’l, Lecrae