K. Sparks is one of my favorite up and coming artists this year.  I thoroughly enjoyed his mixtape Read Between the Lines, followed up but this great full length LP.

The album starts with an a cappella intro explaining what this collection of songs is all about; K. Sparks and his faults, his positive attributes, his walk with Christ.  In addition, the title track “Self Portrait,” enters in smoothly with Mr. Sparks showing some fresh verbal dexterity and metaphors, and dismissing shallow hip-hop imagery, over a beat that knocks.  In fact, many of the tracks on here, like his mixtape, have a flavor reminiscent of a time when backpacks and baggy jeans were the dress code on NYC streets, instead of tight tees and skinny jeans.  For an older fan like me, it’s refreshing.  I still feel K. Sparks keeps it current on many tracks like “Blindfolds,” “Talmbout,” and a few others.  There are quite a few guest spots from his crew members scattered throughout the album all of which I find well done.  I look forward to see who is next to come out of this camp of Queens based MCs.  There is flavor for everyone here, “Blindfolds” feat. Nation could bump in a club.  “Autumn Blues” keeps the backpacker in you happy, and my personal favorite “Black Kids Black Guns,” is a conscious minded track about street life and a head nodder.  It is a song everyone should hear.

With that said, the album has a few drawbacks.  There are a few a cappella interludes dispersed throughout the album, which I think stop the flow of the LP, and could be left out.  Moreover, this is a long album; 17 tracks long.  I think it could have been pared down to a 13 or 14 song LP and have been just as good and effective.  But that’s a minor point.  This is a well-rounded project.  I’m very glad that such a talented emcee is repping the Lord.  Also, I am pleased at his approach to balancing the music with the message here.  This is not an overtly theological or evangelical album, but it’s a real view into the mind of a man trying to balance his passion for hip-hop with a love for Christ.  It is transparent and accessible to a hip-hop head as well as church folk.  I am optimistic for his future work.  Can’t wait for the next one!

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