The Fault Is History
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Aug
Most artists make a leap of faith on the road to success, but few are as dramatic as the leap made by Souljahz, a trio of siblings from the San Diego area – Joshu'a (22), Je'kob (21), and Rachael (17) Washington. All three easily could have pursued other "safer" artistic endeavors. Both brothers are gifted basketball players who had their pick of athletic scholarships at prestigious colleges, and Rachael is a consistent first-place award-winning tap dancer. Instead, all three followed their first love of music. Their father, sensing the dedication of his children, sold his business to help jump-start and manage their career. Sure enough, some doors opened that allowed the trio to travel to Europe to hone their skills, eventually to record some demos. Upon returning to the States, more opportunities arose and Souljahz rapidly gained the attention of record labels. With ministry being an important component to the group's art, Souljahz waited for the right record label that would remain open to their desire to share the Gospel while also reaching out to a mainstream audience. Enter Squint Entertainment and Word Records with their similar vision. The result is the siblings' national debut, The Fault Is History.
Souljahz has been generating a lot of buzz since their performance Gospel Music Week 2002, and it's understandable. Their opening track, "Let Go," is truly outstanding. The song successfully fuses R&B, hip-hop, reggae, funk, gospel, pop, and tap-dancing into four amazing minutes dedicated to turning all our worries and burdens over to the Lord. Packed with hooks and recalling the likes of George Clinton and Prince at the top of their game, this song will demand your attention by the chorus. Credit Souljahz, who co-wrote and co-produced most all of the album's tracks, as well as Christian R&B genius Tonéx, who co-produced all but four of the album's fifteen songs (the Washington siblings now share studio space with Tonéx in California). The excitement doesn't stop with "Let Go." It's followed by the fusion Latin R&B of "All Around the World," one of the four tracks produced by Chris Rodriguez, and the funky hip-hop praise of "Jubilee," which is as much fun as God's Property's "Stomp." The smooth R&B pop song "Reflection" is a plea for us to be a Christ-like reflection to the rest of the world, while the hip-hop styled "Same ol' Game" ponders the struggles of temptation and God's recurring forgiveness.
Souljahz also impressively tackles a handful of social issues, neither shying away from the ugly details nor the faith and hope-based answers offered in God's word. Child abuse is the subject of "Beneath the Surface," which offers hope through a dependable and loving heavenly Father. Concluding with a predictable but effective children's choir, the song's funk-pop sound is similar to that of dc Talk, particularly Michael Tait's sound. "True Love Waits" is a pretty R&B-flavored ballad about sexual purity that borrows a bit from Avalon's pop sound. I'm glad Souljahz is able to give the male and female perspective on the subject, with the siblings trading vocals on the verses. Also featured prominently on the album is the group's friend, spoken-word artist Ve Jer ("VJ"), whose style recalls Digable Planets and Arrested Development. His work precedes both "The Color Hate," a powerful track about racism, and "Poor Man," which wrestles with poverty and treating others with respect and dignity.
Track 12 is called "Souljahz Don't Stop," a fun song that challenges us to boldly shine the light of the Gospel in all spheres of life. Ironically, this is right about where the album begins to run out of steam. With nothing else approaching the incredible sound of the album's opening tracks, it might have been smart for the producers to cut this album a little shorter, or else to spread out the highlights among the less exciting hip-hop selections. I wouldn't think of calling any of the songs bad, but all the thrills are packed at the front of the album. Another small concern: As thoughtful and creative as the lyrics are, they'll probably only get better as the band members mature. I'm weary of hip-hop acts that insist on telling the world how long they've suffered to get where they are, or that offer the clichéd rhyme "throw yo' hands way up in the air and wave 'em all around like yo' just don't care," as heard on Souljahz's "The Anthem." And as fun as the first three songs are, Souljahz mentions "horchata" (a Mexican rice water drink) at least six times in them. It's all fun, but some may wonder at the obsession.
All said and done, Souljahz is a thrilling addition to the Christian music scene. Do you find yourself missing dc Talk from their glory days of recording together? This is no substitute for the fusion hip-hop rock sound of