Music: an expression of humanity, escape, a soundtrack to life, deep passion….
Music is subjective. It’s what makes talking about music so much fun. What one person thinks is the greatest record ever, someone else will think is complete garbage. And that extends to people who listen to music in the same genre, as well as to those with different tastes in music. The conversations about what is great and what isn’t could go on forever and no matter how much two people, at some point they will disagree.
Which brings us to Empire. I’ve read some cliff notes reviews that were all hype about Derek Minor’s new record. “2015’s first gem” and “great” were terms used to describe Empire. But I just don’t see that…
To be fair to Derek Minor, I didn’t like Lecrae at first either. It took a couple of records. But with the hype surrounding Empire, I thought for sure I’d love it! Reach Records had been on a roll. But much like Minor’s previous release, Minorville, I’m a little ho-hum on Empire.
On Minorville, I loved Gimme. It had a great hook and felt fresh. But there wasn’t a whole lot else on that record that I connected with. On Empire, I love the title track! It’s a real standout. And thankfully, it’s not the only track that I dig on Empire. But Empire is definitely my favorite track. It’s the Gimme of Empire.
The beat on Kingdom Come is fresh. It has a great vibe that reminds me of Busta Rhymes and Nas. Slow Down took a couple of listens, and I still don’t care for the hook, but the verses hit hard and even though it feels like a trap song, there’s something about the rhyming style that I find myself enjoying. Stranger is the song Minor wrote in response to Ferguson and NY and touches on racism in the church. It’s the kind of impassioned lyrics that I wish I was hearing more of from Derek Minor. There’s pain and anger behind the words and delivery and it makes the song compelling in a way that I don’t hear throughout Empire. Minor’s delivery on Save Me is straight vicious and violent and I love it! But the song as a whole just doesn’t grab me. It’s like I wish the beat or hook was different. The laid back vibe of Oceans is nice and I like the guitar flourishes.
I like the Empire reaches out and has collaborations you might not expect. Guest appearances from Anthony Evans, Colton Dixon, Move Aside add to the usual Reach characters like Lecrae and Tedashii.
It’s not that Empire is a bad record. It’s just not my taste in hip-hop. I like it more than Minorville, so the needles moving in the right direction. It just goes to show you, you never know what you might or might not like. No matter what anybody else says.
3.5 out of 5 Stars