Release Date: December 30th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Wild Side
- We Fight
- Stix and Stones
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 released her first EP Stix and Stones at the end of July to critical and commercial acclaim.
With her new album being songs from her debut EP delivered in an acoustic way, this fresh, unique and poignant look at how a female raps against acoustic stripped down music is something that’ll encourage listeners to embrace a style that’ll hopefully bring together lovers of acoustic and rap alike. The culture of Christian hip hop today is evolving to incorporate female rappers, which is something that’ll hopefully encourage females to venture into rap into the future. Together with her debut EP that released in July, we are shown possibly some of the most different, yet equally inspiring alternative Christian rap songs of 2014 so far. HillaryJane’s new EP (with the addition of Hillsong UNITED cover “Oceans”) is certain to pique the interest of listeners around the world, those who have loved her debut EP and others who may not have heard of her alike. A certain enjoyment if you love artists like Lecrae, Flame, or fellow Clear Sight Records artist V. Rose; Stix and Stones Unplugged is an EP highlight of December, and an artist to take notice of throughout 2015!
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 an acoustic nature (far different from the upbeat single version), 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 can be ‘…only blowing smoke like a chimney when you’re lying to me…’ A song that’ll help us use discernment when it comes to what we believe- about ourselves, the world and everyone else around us; “Chimneys” is a fantastic first song.
“Celebrity” and “Wild Side”, two promotional songs released prior to Hillary’s debut EP in July; are just as powerful acoustic as they were when they were originally recorded. Both standouts on Hillary’s acoustic collection of songs, “Celebrity” delves into celebrity status and our constant need to accumulate things and stuff, and while it does seem odd with the omission of This’l, “Celebrity” is nevertheless a reminder that celebrity comes with a price- namely our love for it and our hunger for all things temporary. 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.
While “Wild Side” omits the vocal distortion that was in the original, to bring us a more piano directed melody that brings 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 nevertheless 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. Hillary continues to highlight her passion to see the realms of rap, hip hop and pop collide acoustically 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 that could be interpreted as being sung to either another person or God; as we hear the powerful acoustic guitar strums of the melody and the heartfelt lyrics of how we fight for the relationships we deem important.
The title track “Stix and Stones” is a favourite of mine and possibly one of the most emotive and heartfelt (along with “Celebrity”) on the EP. 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…’ can be something to keep in our hearts and believe- that words, while it may hurt if said by others with a potential to pierce, don’t define us if we are in Christ and believe what He always declares over us in the Word. Ending the EP with an acoustic cover of Hillsong UNITED’s “Oceans” is yet another uniquely chosen melody to fit quite well amongst the rap/hip hop songs, reminding us that music genres are meant to be crossed, which is exactly what Hillary has done with her music.
Stix and Stones is a breakout album for Hillary. A great album, to the point where an acoustic version of her debut was released quite quickly after her first; Hillary’s acoustic album is one to purchase and enjoy if you love artists like Britt Nicole, Lecrae or V. Rose, 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 acoustic EP!
3 songs to listen to: Chimneys, Celebrity, Stix and Stones
RIYL: Flame, V. Rose, Stacie Orrico, This’l, Lecrae