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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

She & I

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
She & I
Sounds like … okay, try this … the hip-hop sounds of Beastie Boys, Royal Ruckus, and John Reuben, with hints of the hipster lounge eclecticism of Beck and the ethereal dance pop of DidoAt a Glance … this is definitely not for everybody, but do consider it if you're looking for extremely unique, unusual, artistic, and original "trip-hop."

Starving for something truly unusual and different? How about an artsy hip-hop duo composed of a white Caucasian male and an Asian-American female hailing from Salt Lake City! Defying just about every hip-hop cliché ever established (race, region, and religion), Furthermore impressed critics with their 1999 debut, Fluorescent Jellyfish. Daniel Fischer is the group's core as both lead rapper/vocalist and songwriter. After trying the Salt Lake hip-hop scene (!) for years, he decided to form his own group and enlisted the help of Jason Jester as DJ and backup vocalist. He also persuaded the reluctant Lee Jester (presumably Jason's sister) to add female vocals to the mix. Jason has since left the group, but Lee and Fischer soldier on with their long-awaited sophomore effort, She & I.

What makes Furthermore intriguing is their sound. They're not just your basic hip-hop duo, but they're what some call "trip-hop." Rock students might call it psychedelic jazz hip-hop, which blends hip-hop drum loops with funky grooves and jazzy, dissonant effects. If you took the Beastie Boys, toned down the yelling, threw in some contemporary suburban hip-hop, a la Royal Ruckus or John Reuben, added the hipster modern lounge eclecticism of Beck, and topped it off with the ethereal dance pop of Dido, you might have something that resembled Furthermore — or else the Frankenstein monster of music.

Actually, the results are quite refreshing, depending on how open-minded you are to try something new. The album's weakest track is the opener, "Deliriously Cold," although it has a good, thick hip-hop groove and some excellent bass lines. Far more impressive is the aggressive rock hip-hop sound of "Twice." It's reminiscent of Beastie Boys without being so bombastic, but the track does end with a bizarre backward vocal loop. The other tracks stand out more because of Lee's vocals and the seemingly conflicted blend of sounds that surprisingly work. "So Happy It's Scary" comes off as a buoyant Euro-Latin celebration, like something Beck or Moby would concoct if they were more into hip-hop. "Thanks for Nothing" merges dance pop with hip-hop, and "Going Somewhere Fast" has an extremely catchy chorus that resembles the classic '80s trio The Thompson Twins. There's even a sparse, interesting rendition of REM's "Fall on Me" sung by Lee at the album's end.

So what does it all mean? Well, that's the tricky part, considering the artistic depth of the words, the fast-paced delivery, and the lack of a lyrical sheet on hand. It's probably best to say that these are Christian artists who aren't into evangelizing through their art. Lyrically, there's more in common with college town coffee shop poetry than typical hip-hop lingo. You can appreciate She & I at face value for the truly unique sound of Furthermore's music, which will surely leave just as many people scratching their heads as those who praise it. But to fully grasp its meaning, you need to seriously listen to Fischer's words with nothing less than 100 percent of your attention. If you gave a grade to your listening level, only try this one if you're ready for "advanced."

If you do so, you might discover that "Thanks for Nothing" is about the cold-hearted nonchalance and indifference that runs rampant in our world today. The powerful, piano-driven groove of "Letter to Myself" sounds like a guy at the end of his rope, reflecting on the temptations of this world and the mistakes of his past, offering hope in the face of hopelessness – it's equally sad and inspiring to listen to. Somewhat similar is "We Need to Talk," which plays like a bizarre argument Fischer has with himself, though he's probably illustrating how we communicate, debate, and argue about faith in today's post-modern society. Lee is hilarious singing the chorus "la la la la, I can't hear you!" Fischer champions the duo's wholesomeness and challenges the culture's obsession with decadence in "Show Me Eighty-Two," and "Nothing" gets Ecclesiastical by reflecting on the meaningless of things in this world. The title track may be the most overtly spiritual of them all, with references to Satan, faith, the Holy Ghost, and "J."

Of course, I may be only half-right with my interpretations, and there lies the only problem with Furthermore. You not only have to like hip-hop, but unusual and underground hip-hop with deeply poetic and abstract wording. The likelihood of this registering with a wide audience is simply too slim. How unfortunate, because I do believe Fischer and Lee are on the right track. If Christian hip-hop is to be credible, it needs to be fresh and innovative in its music and rhymes; it can't simply recite Scripture to a beat, as some artists have tried and failed. Furthermore's She & I is a fascinating but challenging listen that truly deserves attention, especially with the current hip-hop renaissance in Christian music.