Servant of the Heavenly Father
Bruce James Coleman, Jr. brings a presence not unlike that of Biggie, with a hint of NAS thrown in for
good measure. The New Orleans born resident of Houston, a veteran of both the U.S. Navy and Hurricane Katrina, began rapping seventeen years ago. It wasn’t until years later, however, that he found God. Rap music became the outlet for Coleman’s faith; his mission and his witness. Fraught with human imperfections and sidebars on fame, money, ego and materialism, Coleman’s debut album, Servant of the Heavenly Father, nevertheless reflects the journey of a man struggling to be something more.
Coleman kicks things off with “All About the Heavenly Father”, a seemingly joyous boast about all that God has done for him. Coleman gets point for enthusiasm and for presence, but his rhymes are awkward at times. "Dedicated To My Wife" is a rough hewn love rhyme full of deep feeling. Coleman celebrates the love between himself and his wife in unusual and occasionally uncomfortable terms. The seeming focus here on worldly concerns might undermine the album’s spiritual exploration. On "Freestyle for the Dreamer" Coleman seems to riff on love and prosperity theology themes. It's the same ‘mind on my money and money on my mind’ concept common to mainstream hip-hop but underwritten in spiritual terms. "How Hard Is It" is a take on true love and its source. Coleman witnesses in a most provocative style that's part pulpit parable and part trash talk. This dichotomy fueled by an incessant lyrical style and an arrangement that exceeds six minutes can make for a difficult listen.
"I'm a Spiritual Star" approaches the concept of spirituality from a worldly perspective, seemingly making the goal of spiritual exploration to be recognized for it. The rhymes are tight, but the message sounds more like a political imperative than a spiritual call; while marketable, perhaps, it certainly seems to undermine the spiritual sensibility the album looks to project. "Many Dreams, Many Visions, Many Places" finds Coleman dwelling on the many blessings he finds in his wife. Coleman's conviction is real, but the incessant nature of the background and the monochromatic dynamic steal some of the life from this number.
"My Lyrics Is Gold" finds Coleman struggling with who gets the credit for his rhymes, while talking up his role as a Christian Warrior in terms of modern movie heroes. A number of the turns taken here are awkward at best and confusing. This song stretches out to six minutes through the use of heavy repetition and risks listeners simply skipping through. "My Lyrics Is The Universe" is a retread of sorts, riffing on the same themes and ideas in self-aggrandizing fashion. In the process Coleman inadvertently compares feminism to alcoholism, ensuring that half of his potential demographic is lost.
"Servant of the Heavenly Father" is part prayer and part sermon, focusing on the choice between a worldly path and a holy one. The lyrical choices here are often ham-handed and awkward, ultimately distracting from the message. There is no questioning Coleman's conviction, however. Coleman returns to his folksy superhero references on “The Heavenly Father on My Side”, using tired metaphors for size and importance with disturbing regularity. "The Lotus City" combines all of the good intentions and lyrical sins that have come before in magnified measure. It's a love song of sorts for the other half of an internet-born spiritual romance.
"The Seal of God Almighty" is a classic list song, patterned on the chanted call and response prayers spoken/sung in churches everywhere. Uncomfortable metaphors lay out an understanding of spiritual grace that will be an uneasy match to traditional Christian imagery. Coleman closes out with "The Whole World Are Bastards", a song of thinly veiled contempt for those who do not believe as Coleman does. This message alongside his admonition to accept the gifts of Grace that God offers might seem hypocritical on first blush. After listening to the song a number of times it seems likely this is not Coleman’s intent. It is simply an attempt to motivate in spiritual means by a man who is still struggling with his own journey, as we all do every day.
Bruce James Coleman, Jr. hits real highs and lows on Servant of the Heavenly Father. His conviction in faith and his presence as a performer are powerful and tangible throughout the album. Coleman’s lyrical abilities are solid, but rely too often on easy metaphors to make relative distinctions. There is a core style here that emanates from the hard core rap style born in the south, and Coleman falls prey to the braggadocio that runs rampant through the genre. While this is stylistically appropriate, it would seem to run counter to professions of faith that run throughout Servant of the Heavenly Father. Coleman’s music serves a purpose, and will make for a fine mission and outreach tool for populations who dig his style. At the same time, Coleman’s awkward lyrical flow sacrifices musical grace for message too often, rather than treating them as co-equal and necessary partners.
Artist: Bruce James Coleman, Jr.
Title:Servant of the Heavenly Father
Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)
Review by: Wildy Haskell