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Back to Dust

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Oct
Back to Dust
Sounds like … Mars ILL, Deepspace5, Tunnel Rats, LPG, and other class acts in the worlds of alternative and underground hip-hopAt a glance … Dust gives Sev Statik a hand for what's easily one of the best faith-fueled hip-hop albums in a long timeTrack Listing Altitude The Gods Putcha Name on It Steamroller Far Cry Signature No 2 Ways Back to Dust Walk Alone Let It God Unborn Daybreak You May Be Right Gone

Now that Christian hip-hop's apparently on the down-and-down—from a major-label standpoint, at least—heads have no option but to turn to the subgenre's original digs (i.e. the streets) to get a hold of new stuff. Not that aficionados ever depended that much on gatekeepers for their hip-hop fix, but the current Christian music climate has forced fans to be more proactive in fulfilling their basic rap needs.

Available through select independent retailers and online vendors like iTunes, Back to Dust is an excellent find. It brings together New York backpacker Sev Statik and deejay extraordinaire Dust, whose cumulative hip-hop pedigree is so vast it's no surprise it calls to mind their work with Deepspace5, the Tunnel Rats, and Mars ILL. The collaboration proved to be no fluke. In 2007, acclaimed underground label Rawkus Records (Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Black Star) chose the project to be a part of Rawkus 50, a shortlist of some of the most promising independent hip-hop.

Cut after cut, bar after bar, the tandem offers some of the most redemptive hip-hop the Christian scene has seen in recent memory. It's hard to pick favorites here. The album's front half is particularly mesmerizing for the way it weaves rhyme and rhythm, awash in elements ranging from jazzed-out piano fragments ("Altitude") and frenetic drum kits ("Steamroller") to soulful vocals ("Far Cry") and even harpsichord licks ("Putcha Name on It"). Alternative rap at its finest.

Not everything is glorious off-kilter hip-hop, though. A few tracks are more minimalist, like the barebones "No 2 Ways," reminiscent of Sev and Dust's big-crew days and a reminder of the importance of standing up for truth in a world ruled by gray areas. Things get decidedly more somber and reflective from there on out, but no less impactful. "Daybreak" could very well be one of the most gripping retellings of someone's journey of faith that I've ever heard.

For all its brilliance, Back to Dust is not immediate. It's undoubtedly a music lover's hip-hop album, one that must be savored slowly and gallantly in order to be fully embraced. Still, bravo to Sev Statik and Dust for their ambition. Will this partnership just be a one-off project? Only time will tell.

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