Blessing Offor – My Tribe

Capitol Christian Music Group

Release Date: January 13th 2023

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Blessing Offor– My Tribe (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Intro
  2. Brighter Days
  3. Your Love
  4. Feel Good
  5. Wannabe
  6. Believe
  7. Rollin’
  8. Grace
  9. Won’t Be Long Now
  10. What A World (akwa Uwa) Pt. 1
  11. My Tribe
  12. I’ll Take It
  13. Look At Love
  14. What A World (akwa Uwa) Pt. 2
  15. Last For Now
  16. Looking For God

I first heard about Blessing Offor when I reviewed Chris Tomlin’s 2020 country album Chris Tomlin And Friends. Blessing and Chris sung together on a song called “Tin Roof”, and it was one of the most inspiring, moving, powerful and thought-provoking songs on the album. I knew then that Blessing would be a star. I knew nothing of his story about him being blind. But I did know that he had a crazily awesome voice. A really soulful and R&B type voice like Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, and Stevie Wonder. And so, I decided then and there that if ever Blessing would record a new album (he already recorded an album in 2015!); that I would review it and voice my thoughts. Fast forward until the middle of 2023, and here we are. Blessing recently released his full length label debut album My Tribe on Capitol Christian Music Group (he previously released a debut EP last year, which we reviewed!); and this release, like the EP last year, reminds us all just how much of a future star Blessing is, and just how much of an inspiration he is as well. We might all have a bad day or a string of bad days; but if we indeed focus our eyes on the Lord and also focus on the good things in life instead of what we are lacking, then I’m positive that like will look more brighter and sunnier than it ever did before.

In the West we have this idea, we say, how come bad things happen to good people? Where I’m from, it’s more just like, good and bad happens to everyone, so just whatever it is, it’s yours.

I literally come from a village. I come from a tribe of people. I do what’s called song hunting, and so at some point, I just sat down, and I was like, what are the different ways you could call people yours? All the different ways you can say to somebody, you are this group that is my group and my in crowd as it were. And I had this idea, it was like just my people, my tribe, like my village.

So what do you say to a family, a country, a continent that you haven’t seen in over 25 years [Nigeria]? Because of course, it would be wrong to start this journey without addressing them. It is all of their prayers that’s put me on this stage that I’m on right now. Look at God!

I remember having a meeting going, guys, I’m not gonna pretend this isn’t a love song. This is a love song, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Christians fall in love, Christians have heartbreak. I just think sometimes people are so in their box and all of a sudden being a Christian is like, oh, all you do is put your hands up every day… I don’t know about anybody else, but that is not how my life goes. It turns out there are a lot of people interested in just being people. I’ve gotten into telling people that this is just the genre of humanity. It’s human music. It’s people music. Don’t think of it as anything else. If you strip away the shallow differences between people, everyone is asking the same questions. They’re… hurting, happy, crying, sad, wanting to be understood, wanting to understand, wrestling with all of the same life. We’re here and we’re all doing the best we can.

Opening the vibrant and eclectic 16-track album with a 40 second spoken word introduction where Blessing speaks to his ‘tribe’ in Nigerian, the first song on this project is the lead single “Brighter Days”. “Brighter Days” is such a cliché title, as both Emeli Sande and OneRepublic have recently released powerful songs of the same name. But Blessing’s original melody, is equally as poignant and compelling. A piano ballad, Blessing has reminded us about the fact that ‘…I know there’s gonna be some brighter days, I swear that love will find you in your pain, I feel it in me like the beating of life in my veins, I know there’s gonna be some brighter days…’; and let me just say that I reckon it might be one of the most vulnerable and emotional songs I’ve heard within the past few years. As Blessing himself has reiterated- the bleak verses complement the sunnier and positive chorus, as he outlines that Maybe it wasn’t always sweet, but it keeps you going for an infinitely longer time, you know? ‘Brighter Days’ is one of those songs where if you didn’t have the verses with heavier things, you would just have a bunch of diabetes, which is the chorus… “Your Love”, an earnest, eloquent and passionate worshipful piano led track, has Blessing declaring that he longs to be present in the middle of the love of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus is the only One who can and will make us whole; while “Feel Good” is a funky, groovy, danceable power-pop anthem similar in theme to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop That Feeling”, with Blessing declaring that he loves to dance and party very hard with Jesus.

The rest of My Tribe is a fun ride of many, many genre changes, but it all has that ‘Blessing Offor’ stamp and flair to it. “Wannabe”, a compelling testimony-like melody, speaks about Blessing coming to Jesus, and powerfully acknowledging that ‘…all your love is all I wanna need, all I was, was wasting energy, but You’ve done it all like no one’s ever done for me, so being Yours is all I wanna be…’; while “Believe” would probably have to be the most personal and honest song recorded by Blessing… ever. It’s a song of faith and of stepping out in the unknown, as Blessing prayerfully and emotionally outlines that Jesus may not answer our prayers in the way we want Him to. But He will answer them. And so, is His answers and His love and His presence in our lives enough for us to believe in His love? And from the lens of 2023, Blessing himself has trouble with this song, as I used to love this song. Now I hate it, but I respect it a lot more. It is an emotional challenge now to have to relate to the song, because it’s actually a very irksome song, ‘cause it’s asking you to challenge your notion of what God owes you. To sing it now after my sister passed was and is just infinitely more gut-wrenching and painful. And I hate that song now. I mean, I love it, but I hate what it asks your heart to do, but I respect what it asks your heart to do even more. “Believe” speaks about whether we want Jesus or do we want the things He can do for us- and the melody also asks the question of do we love Jesus or do we love the things He can do for us. It’s a confronting melody, but one that needs to be heard- as the topic of evil and suffering is alluded to here. There are no direct answers that we might like, but this melody asks the question of whether we really put our trust and faith in Jesus- especially in the hard times.

“Rollin’”, a musically John Mayer-esque laid-back melody, speaks about once again surrendering our lives over to Jesus, as Blessing reiterates that that is a song that, at the end of it, I just want to repeat again because I think it feels like everything I love about soul music. It’s this song that feels grittier than what it’s actually talking about. For lack of a better word, the ‘stank-face’ potential on it is high. You’re going to listen and you’re going to go, ‘Oh, that feels so good.’ It makes your face scrunch up when the bass player hits the lick and all that kind of stuff. There’s this intangible grit to it, even though it’s saying, ‘Hey, you’re the rock when I’ve been rolling. You’re this comforting piece in my life.’ Again, I feel strongly that if you’re going to say something that’s borderline cheesy, you’ve got to balance it with some things that make your face scrunch up just so it doesn’t give you diabetes. While “Grace”, the moving, emotional, heartfelt, and controversial (and blasphemous?) piano led ballad, has Blessing singing to the grace of God personified as a woman, and outlines that ‘…oh, but how much grace can take, I don’t even know, look at these mistakes, but where else can I go, how much can grace can take, I’m not even sure, all I have is faith, while I’m knocking on her door, oh Grace, just one more chance, Grace, just one more chance, I know I don’t deserve you, look how much I’ve hurt you, but Grace, just one more chance…’. It’s a song that will receive a lot of criticism, but the essence of what God’s grace is like is like in the song- unrestrained, abundant, and willing to take on all of our hurt, guilt, shame, and our regret.

“Won’t Be Long Now”, a subdued yet profound piano ballad, speaks about the promise of change in our lives, and everything good and true that Jesus has declares over our lives- lyrically and thematically similar to Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”; while Blessing exquisitely captivates us with the Nigerian track “What A World (Akwa Uwa)” (split into two parts), which speaks about gratitude and being thankful for what you have: The album was down to the wire, and I was like, ‘I just feel something’s missing. I need to bring something quintessentially Nigerian and personal into this record.’ I said, ‘There’s this song I used to sing when I was a kid and back home and with my uncle that I need to do because that song says a lot about who I am.’ It captures the philosophy of what it is to be from a Third World country, where things are materially very difficult but spiritually and emotionally very rich; where people are hungry, but they’re happy; where they don’t have a lot, but they have everything. The title track is next, and is the heartbeat of the album, where Blessing eloquently recounts the reason why he keeps singing- for his people; and also highlights that we all should have a reason to keep going, and a reason to keep living and loving, and that is the people and the relationships that we hold dear in our lives: I wanted to conceptualize this album coming from all the different corners of the world I’ve had the honor to come from. I wanted to make a record to pull all of those people together and all of those experiences together. I think the commonalities that I found—whether it’s in Africa, Connecticut, LA, New York, Nashville; in country music, pop music, soul music, whatever it is—I’ve found that, really, we’re all just people doing our best and trying to get through it together. ‘My Tribe,’ both as a song and as a record, is my attempt to give credit to all of that, both the people and the experiences, by saying, ‘Listen, I would not be here without that tribe, without those things. You can keep your money. You can keep your gold. I’ll keep the ones who want me and never let me go.’ That’s the record and that’s Blessing Offor in a nutshell.

The emotive and reflective track “I’ll Take It”, where Blessing takes ownership of things that went wrong in a relationship, speaks about taking responsibility and owning up to the things you need to, in order to forge ahead and rebuild relationships to be possibly even stronger than before; while “Look At Love” is a song about relationships- presumably about Blessing’s wife or partner (he is a very private guy in that respect!), or he could be projecting and singing from the viewpoint of someone he knows. Either way, this is a song about gratitude once again, with the persona in the song championing their significant other and letting us know that they feel proud and grateful that God led them through the good times and the hard times. “Last For Now”, another song about young love, is a melody that challenges us all to stick at our relationships through thick and thin, and to be resilient and determined to be in that relationship if you really love that person; while album standout and album ender “Looking For God” is where Blessing probes and probes and probes- asking us all whether we really know that everyone on this earth is searching and looking for God- sometimes in the wrong places. It’s an eye-opener, and Blessing shows us this reality: that people of all ages are searching, but only some will believe because sometimes churches aren’t welcoming of people searching because of who they look like. Similar in theme to the entire movie Jesus Revolution, it is what Blessing himself says that strikes a chord with me: My intention has always been to make a record that my friends who have never been to church can walk into and still love. And not even love, but almost not even know they’re listening to anything different. I wanted to make a record that had a low barrier to entry. Because you don’t have to know a bunch of ‘Christianese’ to listen to this record. It’s just music. It’s good music. So, ‘Looking for God,’ for me, is the distillation, I think, of what anybody who’s honest with themselves has to ask at some point. All these people in the world, going through all these things—surely God is there for them. And with that, the album ends- and what an album it is!

Towards the end of the album-making process, we had all the tracks done, but it felt like something was missing. What was missing was a little fingerprint of Nigeria, of my own journey. When I said I wanted to put that on my record, my team was very supportive, though I think we joked about how hard it would be to find whoever owns publishing on a song recorded in Nigeria in the ‘70s.

We didn’t send ‘Brighter Days’ to radio thinking we have a massive song on our hands, because it doesn’t even say ‘Jesus’! In this industry, it’s easier to market things that are crystal clear, I guess. I’ve gotten many a Facebook message, Instagram message from people asking, ‘How dare you call yourself a Christian artist? You didn’t say “Jesus” one time in this song.’ It’s been super interesting. I’m a theological nerd, so could I argue about it? Yes. But is it worth it? No, probably not. But because it didn’t fit neatly in one particular box, it’s gotten to a lot of places in the world where most songs that fit so tightly into that box probably don’t get.

For me, to be a singer-songwriter was not cool, you know? My uncle has a law firm and for me, going to law school would have been a glide path and then I could be a lawyer and that would really be the immigrant dream there. Nobody would have been mad if I quit to do some white-collar career, but I didn’t give myself permission to quit.

It’s funny because I would do showcases in Los Angeles and they would be like, ‘Cool, you can be the next John Legend.’ But John Legend’s still doing his thing; we don’t need a next John Legend. I’d showcase for country labels and it’s like, ‘OK, we can do a soul-country thing,’ so there was always this idea of doing a hybrid. [But former Universal Music exec Joe Fisher gave the best advice] – he gave me the example of Chris Stapleton — when he first came to town, he was too soulful for country and too blues for soul. Joe said, ‘You want to get a deal where people are comfortable letting you find who you are. It might take a minute, but once you build your own genre, no one can kick you out of it.’…’

Blessing Offor has an incredibly story to tell. His story of being blind and overcoming adversity is extraordinary and extremely encouraging; and his debut album only cements my appreciation and love for his music. Blessing is here to stay, and I can’t champion his songs enough! This album is a must listen- and a must buy. Simply put, there should not be any reason why not to listen to and/or buy this project. And so, I will end this review by saying well done to Blessing! You are such an inspiration to a lot of us, and you remind us what it mean to get back up after you’ve been knocked down. Well done, I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you next!

I want every interview to start with, “This is not your typical idea.” You know, people have said to me, “You can be the new John Legend.” And John is great. But I think in being who I am, it allows for a song like “My Tribe” and “Little Bird,” and on the new record there’s “Looking For God” and “Grace” and these songs that have different thoughts. So in choosing to embrace the aspects of me that are unique, and putting them into songs that are universal, I think it allows for a title like “My Tribe” because literally I was born into a tribe. I’m from a tribe of people called the Igbo tribe (in Nigeria), and there was a village we all went to. These are just personal things from my life. However, the trick for any good songwriter is to take a personal detail and give it the macro perspective and make it more universal. So there’s the literal tribe that I come from, and the metaphorical tribe that we all belong to one way or another.

When we started writing the song, I had the lines (he sings) “My people, my tribe, my village, my vibe…my Beatles, my Jackson Five,“ because who doesn’t want to be in a great band (laughs). So I came into a writing room with that, and I said, “Guys, this is gonna be a super fun song about celebrating the people you do life with.” That was the beginning of that song, of wanting to celebrate the people you do life with, and we went from there.

[here’s how I describe myself]…I’m a Christian who’s an artist. I’m a Nigerian who’s an artist. I don’t know if I could ever make a song that doesn’t have that element in it, because that’s who I am. I think when you hear the word Christian artist, you conjure up a thing in your head, and I’m not that thing (laughs). But the Christian aspect is not something that I shy away from. I grew up in church and I go to church, and I’m thoroughly a Christian. But I make music to be in and outside the Christian music ecosystem.

5 songs to listen to: Brighter Days, Believe, Grace, Won’t Be Long Now, Looking For God

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Dante Bowe, TobyMac, Jon Reddick, Katy Nichole

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