In just about every entertainment medium, the independent (or indie) way of doing it has pretty much taken over as the way to go. Whether it’s being an artist, game developer, filmmaker, and more, there’s a lot of access available for those who are diligent enough to do it. Even though there can and have been bad products to come out as a result of this access, there’s a lot that show why this has been such a great thing for the industry and consumer.
I heard of Keith Phelps from my twin brother a little over a year ago, and when I found out that he came out with a project, I was very interested in listening to it. For anyone familiar with his music, they know that the quality is off the charts. Even with me knowing this, I still had room to be shocked and awed by the quality that came from this man. Add to the fact that he’s in his young 20’s increases the wonder for me.
Getting into the project, he starts off with orchestral-themed strings as a man asks questions about the industry allowing things that leads into him answering that real beautiful music would be the result. It’s a very nice intro that shows his musicality, and then when he begins to spit, his heart cries for change in the industry. With that said, there has always been an issue I’ve had when it comes to how he exhibits pride at times.
We all have areas where we need to grow and I sense a struggle with pride because from time to time in his music. He speaks about starting an independent revolution, but to be honest, it’s already been here for some time now. The majority of artists have stopped looking for record deals from major labels for years, and we’ve seen artists who’ve started with a few fans end up getting major airplay, visibility, etc. In another song, he speaks about the fact that the industry needs him, and that always rubs me the wrong way, even in the midst of them rejecting him. The rejection did happen, and it honestly shouldn’t have with an artist of his caliber. However, the hard truth of the matter is until you walk in the reality that God can replace you at any time, you will always struggle against walking pridefully with the gifts that were given you. Keith Phelps is one of my favorite artists, and he simply blows me away with his artistry, but pride is one thing that’ll kill the attractiveness of anyone’s gifting. All of that said, I can confidently tell you that I do see growth from his earlier projects, and there really is some REAL music here, and I don’t only mean the production.
Being real doesn’t just have to mean being explicit about your struggles, although that is here. It can also mean tackling a diverse subject set and not all of them have a Christian conclusion to the songs. For example, you have the song “X,” which deals with missing your ex in a past relationship, and it just express the very real feelings one goes through dealing with it. As Andy Mineo said in “Curious,” “Them memories are easily made, but hard to forget…so be careful who you make memories wit.” Then you have feel good songs like “No Place Like Home” where Keith reminisces about the place he used to live at in Indiana, which honestly makes me want to travel there just because he made it sound so good.
Of course, as a Christian, Keith Phelps has NO qualms expressing his heart and thoughts on the One he lives for. In songs like “Patience,” he speaks about the need for self-control and patience against the lusts of the flesh and “Phorest 4 The Trees” about maintaining proper vision of life and his walk with Christ. Then there’s one of my top favorites of the album, “Still Keep Lovin,’” that takes from the track “Keep Lovin’” from Hamilton Hardin, who’s featured here. It’s one of my favorites because it deals with the realest struggle in loving everyone whether they love you or not. Let me quote some lines from Keith to show you how he skillfully speaks to this:
We rather sit far from legitimacy/as long as we can dodge the vulnerability seat/you see the hardest thing to do when we bout to eat, is set the best table, then offer Judas a seat/but if I live this way, won’t have to hurt no more, don’t have to deal with people bein’ a jerk no more/my hearts all cashed out, I’m not the clerk no more/and even when you feel like your heart don’t work no more you just…
Is that not the realest thing you’ve heard? Anyway, there’s a lot of things he tackled here on this album, and I think with Christon Gray’s album School Of Roses released last year, this is another great example of how music can be expressed from a Christian’s perspective as well as the non-Christian perspective, as it’s weaved in so naturally. I don’t like forced music, and if you call something real, it has to be natural, and this definitely fit the bill.
After speaking about what’s real, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he delivers on the beautiful aspect of the album title. It’s the perfect word to describe the amount of musicianship, rhymes, and vocals. You have to understand, I’ve always heard his production and even rapping, but this album is the first time I heard him SING. He blew me away, not only with the placement of his vocals but the vocal arrangement. In the song “Us,” featuring Kiya Lacey, they describe the life of a married couple struggling in their marriage with the pledge to stay together and persevere. The fact that there’s an attack on marriage and so much divorce happening, this was a needed track, and the vocal arrangement was out of this world. It included two transitions on the production side, and the vocal arrangements transitioned with it as well. “U Ain’t Slick” is another track where you can see his talented singing shine through (also the topic is funny and real, don’t rep for “Thirst Nation” people LOL!).
I can say more about this project, but to be “real,” I gotta chill. There aren’t many projects I come across that’ll make me speak in this way about it, and you would do yourself a disservice by not supporting this artist and brother in Christ. This is music, and it’s really beautiful, there’s no other way God or man would want it, isn’t it?