Release Date: March 4th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Let Go
- Right Out The Gate
- You Got It
- Witness (feat. WHATUPRG & Wande)
- Put Your Weapon Down
- All Mine (feat. Taylor Hill)
- End Of Me (Interlude)
- Call It Life
- Wake Up (feat. KB)
- Know It
- Gave It Up (feat. Desi Raines)
Most will think the title, The End, is connected to my final departure from making music, but that’s far from the truth. It’s symbolic of the season I’m in personally and musically right now. It symbolizes the coming to the end of ourselves; where one door closes so another can open. The state of our nation and the world has caused so many of us to look inward at the legacy we would leave behind if the world were really to end. The end of ourselves is not necessarily the end of our story. The suffering and uncertainty we’re in now feel like the end of everything, but actually, the Lord is clearing the pathway that leads to him and a renewed life!
Rap music… hasn’t been my cup of tea, probably all throughout my life, I think. Though I am becoming more and more familiar and accustomed to rap music in general; when I was younger, I only listened to Carman and Delirious?, with me branching out to other CCM music in 2006, and mainstream music in 2018. But throughout everything that I have reviewed on this site (read them here!) and throughout everything that we’ve blogged about; rap music (and hip-hop music) hasn’t been high on our list to cover. It’s not that Jon and I don’t appreciate such music. We do. I’m constantly in awe of Lecrae and his contemporaries, artists like KB, Andy Mineo, NF, Social Club Misfits and Derek Minor, at how they can spit bars and run lines extremely well, and point people to Jesus at the same time. On the flipside, artists like Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone, Logic, and Jay-Z do nothing for me (and nothing for Jon too!)- and I don’t have an inkling to listen to any type of music that doesn’t draw me closer to Jesus, mainstream rap included. Yet with the release this year of Trip Lee’s brand-new album The End; I thought that the time was right to voice my thoughts on these 15 tracks. While Jon has blogged about Lecrae, and I about NF (Nate Feuerstein), and I have reviewed NF’s Clouds and Steven Malcolm’s Tree… there hasn’t been much more coverage of rap over the past few years. Hence, I’ve come forth with an open mind into The End… and let me tell you that objectively this project is good, but rap in large doses still gives me a headache, and still reaffirms my assertion that this type of music isn’t really my favourite type of music when I need to listen to some inspiration or even for background music. This album has many layers to it, and from first glance, you might think there are too many songs; but listening to this album… well the flow of the album is just right and the features on here just fit- and this release reminds us of many different layers to religion and to our relationship with God, and speaks about the fact that every song on this album is true for Trip, and is personal to him in his walk with Jesus. The album also speaks about how the end of ourselves and the end of our non-Christian life, isn’t necessarily the end of the road for each one of us- that a new life with Jesus awaits!
When I was very young, maybe like 14 to 15, I felt like maybe I was called to use my life and my gifts to help people know God. And there are very kind of abstract, mystical ways to think about what it means to be called to something. I think at that point, I just felt a sense, like, I think the Lord has very much built me in a way that when someone helps me see something, I want to help somebody else see that same thing. Like, I hear music that changes my life, makes you want to know better. I’m like, “I want to do that.” And I read books that changed my life, I’m like, “I want to write books that I can help you do that.”
So, I think at that point, I thought, I want to use my gifts to help people see God and follow him. And then I went to Bible College [and graduated] in 2006 which was a couple months after my first album came out. And so I go to college, and people are like, “Oh, do you want to be a pastor?” And I’m like, “No, I don’t think so.” At that point, I didn’t think I wanted to pastor. I was like, “No, I just want to preach God’s word and disciple and help people to know God more, walk alongside people,” which is describing pastoral things.
But it was in my time at a church there when I was in Bible college that I started to understand better how important the church was, and I wanted to help. I wanted to serve in that way. And so the way I think of calling is gifting—I think of desire, gifting, and opportunity. I had the desire to want to do it. And when I would preach and serve and help, walk with people, I saw the Lord using this and the Lord opened doors for me to do it.
And by the way, I think that calling has been affected by my own health and things that seemed good and that I feel called to that don’t work out the way I expect, because I have an illness that is the hardest part of every part of my life. And things don’t always work out the way that I think they’re supposed to, or I felt they would. But nevertheless, I’m just trying to be faithful in this season.
And so yeah, I mean, I’ve had the chance to pastor in a few places. And I’m really grateful for that. I love the church so much. I mean, that’s at the core of it, I see how important the church is and what God is doing and I want to serve as part of that. And for many years, it was me trying to pastor. And this season, I’m actually not pastoring anymore, I’ve actually stepped away in the past few months, because of my health [chronic fatigue syndrome]. It’s made it hard. It doesn’t seem like the most faithful way for me to serve the church in this season. That’s the thing about just trying to be faithful: it looks different in different seasons.
There’s nothing objectively wrong with rap music. It takes a certain type of skill to be vulnerable and voice your inner most thoughts and then to say them all out-loud, at a quick pace and still be coherent enough for listeners to understand everything that’s being said and conveyed. But for me, listening to a rap album means I need to concentrate, and to be frank, when we are all busy and fill our day up with lots and lots and lots of things, and especially when we’re all trying to get back to some semblance of normal- hoping and praying that the pandemic doesn’t rise up again and impact us all negatively once more; listening to and reviewing a rap album isn’t a priority. Actually, making it through listening to The End, like with both Tree and Clouds, to be honest, took a very long time, given that this album isn’t in my preferred genre of what I would normally listen to, and what I would consider to be a safe option. However, as this year of 2022 is the year that I have felt that I have grown the most with regard to music and what I listen to; let me say that there are still some tracks on Trip’s album that are compelling and inspiring- that have me objectively in awe of Trip’s craft. Opening the track list with “Let Go”, the 2-minute intro sets the tone for the rest of the album. With Trip and guest vocalist Chastity relaying that they need to learn to let go of all of this world’s material possessions and instead hold onto Jesus and the eternal promises that He has mentioned to us time and time again in His Word; we are presented with a heartfelt declaration and a hopeful melody designed to encourage us to focus our eyes and efforts on the one true King and our Lord and Saviour.
The rest of The End reminds us that we all need to die to our old selves and we all need to learn to surrender to Jesus- allowing Him to take control of our lives. “Right Out The Gate” has Trip brimming with energy and optimism, as he emphatically relays to us all that he is coming right out of the ‘gate’, and singing about what he loves- and that is Jesus Christ. With Trip’s raps full of metaphors like Steven Malcolm’s raps (and less like KB which seems to be more ‘mainstream’ considering KB is signed to Provident Label Group); Trip reminds us just how big of a powerhouse rapper he is, and he also lets us know that he’s back and back to give us all a taste of his incredible lyrical prowess. He hasn’t released an album since The Waiting Room in 2016, and so the six-year wait only serves as a reminder of how much we’ve been missing Trip and how great he still is. “You Got It”, a track where Trip is involved in a heightened and unbelievable storyline in the music video, involving drugs and other hip-hop tropes, is a melody where Trip asks Jesus to help him through his trials and tribulations, concluding that Jesus is where he can go and that Jesus has ‘got it’; while “Homecoming”, a powerful melody with Abe Parker, speaks about Trip living for Jesus until the day that he dies- the track also delves into the fact that Trip will continue to be faithful to Jesus always, and that this melody is in essence a declaration that he will stay true to Jesus. “Witness”, with WHATUPRG and Wande, is next, and is an album highlight. With Trip and his friends reiterating and underlining that they are living for the Lord and that they do not need to fit nor conform to the world’s standards; they also declare that Jesus is their witness and that they are instead living to make Jesus proud and make His name famous.
“Put Your Weapon Down”, a politicised and hard-hitting plea to gun-loving conservatives, is probably a polarising melody, as Trip implores us all to be unified and not use our weapons for hate and destruction- it’s a track that is sure to garner buzz and is sure to ruffle feathers; while “All Mine”, with Taylor Hill, is an earnest and fervent piano ballad, where Trip admits that he’s loving the flashy life just a bit too much- in the song he admits that he needs to be humble and needs to be reminded that all of his material possessions aren’t his, but Jesus’s. With this melody being a reality check and a reminder that we shouldn’t be caught up in the world’s definition of satisfaction and happiness, Trip skilfully and beautifully reminds us that everything that we need is in Jesus, and that we should only want Him and only Him. “Supernatural”, another hard-hitting and polarising track, has Trip outlining that we all need Jesus to come and help us supernaturally with our problems. There is plenty of things that are concerning in this world… and Jesus can help the world and can use us to help the world, if only we ask Him and if only, we really mean what we pray to Him. Gun violence, racism, financial fraud and predators in the church are examples of what Trip highlights in the track that are needed to be rid of, and as Trip reminds us personally: This song, “Supernatural,” is about some of the things I wish were different in our world. Some of them are big and important— and others are lighthearted— but all of them represent exactly how I felt when I wrote it. We’ve all been through A LOT in the past few years. And when we look at how messed up our world is, it’s clear that we can’t fix everything on our own. Some things are just too big and out of our control. If it’s gonna change, we need supernatural help! But, if we just call on God, nothing is too big for Him.
My goal is to re-center the conversation in Christian Hip-Hop back on Jesus and help people to see themselves in the image of God, so they can become a reflection of his greatness. I’m not giving my artistic and creative expressions more room to be authentic than in my faith. Where I am weak, that is where the Lord’s strength is best seen, and I’m relying on his strength to guide me as I make my return.
Next up is the interlude “End Of Me”, which is lyrically to the point, and outlining that even when we can’t see it, the end of us and when we are at the end of our rope is where we can actually find true meaning and character and growth; while “Dreamin” is a reflective and introspective melody about Trip reconciling his feelings of two realities he is living in. In one reality, Trip is fed up with dreaming about goals and plans when the truth is that his situation is right now far from where he longs to be- because he is dreaming about something beyond his capabilities. Yet the other reality is the one that Trip should live in, as it reminds us with the actual point of ‘dreaming’- in that Trip can dream, but also know that his dreams need to be in alignment with Jesus’ plans for him. It is in the tension of these two realities where this song lies, and boy, does the track give us some food for thought. “Call It Life”, a no-nonsense melody, speaks about living life for Jesus instead of chasing the latest fad and all of the things that won’t ever keep us truly satisfied; while “Wake Up”, a pulsating, engaging 3-minute track, features KB on guest vocals, and the duo imploring us all to wake up from our slumber and to wake up from the lies the world is telling us, and awaken to the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour of our lives.
“Stone”, a clear declaration that this world isn’t our home; Trip powerfully relays to us that we need to keep on fighting the good fight here on Earth while we wait for Jesus to return, and that On ‘Supernatural’ I wrote about the need for God’s supernatural power to heal the world and on ‘Stone’, it’s more about recognizing that this earth isn’t home, but that we still do have work to do. Knowing that this isn’t home changes how we interact with the world around us, and with the trials we face. ‘Stone’ sonically best represents the analog and synth sound that is heard throughout the album. “Know It”, the penultimate track on the album, is Trip’s version of a romantic love song directed to his wife, as he vividly and powerfully speaks emotive imagery and metaphors that simply praise who she is as a person. Ending The End (no pun intended), is the best track of the album. “Gave It Up”, sung with Desi Raines, speaks about Trip giving up his lavish lifestyle and his life pre-Jesus, for the Lord, and the heart-warming admission that ‘…I gave it up to get it back, open my hands, it’s yours, laid it down, You lift that, so we declare You, Lord, lost it to find it, gave it to gain it, gave it up to get it back, I get it back, oh, how they try to drag me back, bait me with lies, pull me off track, I bid my past adieu, each day I wave goodbye, brand new, my life is You…’.
I think it’s super important [to humanise the people we look up to], because the more we see people like superheroes who are immune to the things that impact normal people, the less we’re going to be able to find anything in them to emulate. I mean, it’s really going to be like—it’ll be like the way we look up to Superman, like, “Man, that’s amazing. I could never do that,” and that’s the end of it. Which is just not the way that God—it’s not the kind of admiration it seems like God calls us to that we see in the Scriptures. I mean, I would rather have a “follow me as I follow Christ.” It’s harder to do that when we see people as not full people, if that makes sense.
And I think we do that on both sides. I think the people that we dislike, we also see as kind of a caricature, which gives us more space to demonize without ever trying to understand what they really are. So, I really want somebody to just ask me, “What’s made you want to be vulnerable about what’s going on with your health for the past many years?” And I just don’t know how else to be. I don’t know how to not be fake. I would have to be fake to pretend that’s not really happening in my life. If I’m going to be honest and express where I’m at, how I relate to God, who God is, and who he’s shown himself to be, I don’t know how to do that without being honest and real about where I’m at and how my health, which has been the hardest part of every part of my life, which is such a big part of who I am in my family life for good or for ill, but I just don’t know how to speak honestly without talking about it.
Trip Lee is a talented rapper, singer, and songwriter. The End is incredible and a powerful statement from one of the most hard-working rappers I’ve heard of. But I myself still don’t feel as compelled to rap music than when I first started listening to this album. And with that, I’ll leave this review by saying- it’s true that I do appreciate Trip all the more, for what a talented rapper he is. But let me say that I’m not a fanatical fan of his- like other listeners… and that’s ok. I still don’t think I can sit through an album of full-on rap (I think it took me over 2 hours to write this review and listen to these tracks!), and that’s ok. The End, like Tree from Steven Malcolm, is a compelling and moving album- but I wouldn’t listen to it in one sitting again. And that’s ok. Can’t we appreciate something as great art without fully resonating with it? So let me spin some Delta Goodrem, Avril Lavigne, Mandy Moore, Demi Lovato, The Shires, Sofia Carson, Lady A, Newsboys, Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Michael W. Smith now; get back into my preferred genres… And so Trip, what about a Christmas album?
4 songs to listen to: Homecoming, All Mine, Supernatural, Gave It Up
RIYL: Peabod, Social Club Misfits, Lecrae, KB, Andy Mineo, Ty Brasel, Steven Malcolm