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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Unique, Just Like Everyone Else

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 May
Unique, Just Like Everyone Else
Sounds like … the underground slant of Blackstar, MarsILL, and Madvillain, with some of the turntable and production wizardry of Hi-Tek, DJ Shadow, and DustAt a glance … Deepspace5's sophomore offering is a rare hip-hop jewel that melds a palette of ideas and sensibilities into one cohesive whole. Track ListingTalk MusicWingspanCrumbsEmbraceMechanical AdvantageTruth Be ToldHalf-heartedFree CheckingOne and the SameCityscapingIf I Don't Make ItBrilliantAxe to GrindStart Right HereI Feel So BadThe Last OneThey SayLast Ditch EffortOne for the Road

With hip-hop fallouts, infighting, and "beefs" being the norm nowadays—The Fugees, Goodie Mob, and G-Unit are some historical examples that come to mind—how does one form a ten-member collective without the fear of egos getting in the way or imminent self-implosion threatening the group's lifespan? Ask supergroup Deepspace5 for the antidote, as this multi-faceted, multi-talented, cross-country hip-hop conglomerate has remained together two or three times as long as many of today's flash-in-the-pan acts.

Perhaps it's the fact they're not formally a group, but rather a team of brothers and friends who occasionally convene to make music. Their last reunion in 2001 yielded The Night We Called It a Day, a record that slipped quietly into the annals of hip-hop despite the rave reviews. Deepspace5's next meet-'n'-greet, which took place in Atlanta and resulted with Unique, Just Like Everyone Else, an effort that's every bit as intricate and delectable as The Night, yet more intriguing and cohesive.

The spirit running throughout Unique is definitely not MTV's perverted brand of the hip-hop genre, but rather one that is more progressive and true to form, referencing the underground trademark of groups such as Blackstar and the Tunnel Rats. Much of the rhythmic backbone isn't commercial or poppy, but that doesn't make it any less stylized or thoughtful. In fact, there's often so much going on in the background—backbeats, bleeps, sound samples, guitars, keyboard accents, and Playdough's harmonized anti-hooks—it'll make heads spin.

Yes, there are moments of simplicity and brooding minimalism ("Crumbs," "Truth Be Told"), but there's also room for bangers ("Free Checking"). Both, however, are overshadowed by the excellent lyricism, which is the crew's clear forte. "Deepspace5 spitting for all the people who don't want to be spoon-fed their meal" becomes a mantra, and the truth that gets served here must be processed and digested patiently. It's straightforward yet sometimes metaphorical; never accusatory, always redemptive. Thematically, the group knows when "to put grace on the map" ("Free Checking"), place a new spin on walking the talk ("Talk Music"), emphasize the importance of humility ("The Last One"), and give the glory to their Source of inspiration ("Brilliant").

Regardless of the angle from which you listen, Unique, Just Like Everyone Else is an exemplary record all around. Pop rap moves your body. Indie rap aims at your intellect. Gospel rap tugs at your emotions. Deepspace5, however, inspires mind, body, and soul and offers a multi-sensory experience that's rare in hip-hop. It's an exercise in balance from a group that knows how to walk the tightrope between artistry and ministry—an album that won't necessarily burn up the charts, yet still has the potential to affect the deeper spaces of the heart.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.