I remember growing up listening to a narrow selection of music, genres which would be considered part of the “true Black experience”. From Jazz, R&B to Gospel and Rap, the misconception that I was “listening to what I was supposed to” permeated my environment at school, church, and (to a lesser extent) at home. As I grew and matured, I came to an understanding that there are no racial boundaries for music and what can be enjoyed. In the realm of Christian music there have been groups like 4th Avenue Jones, Group 1 Crew, Rhema Soul, and others who have successfully transcended music’s imaginary cultural boundaries. Connecticut- based N.U. Life is a newer (to me at least) group that is in that combines Pop, Worship/ CCM, Dance, Rock, and Rap on their album, 1 Way. Let’s see if they can reach the multi-genre bar that’s been set by the aforementioned musical outfits.
This album starts off with the uptempo title track “One Way” and “I Need A Change”, openers that show this album’s focus on worship while making the listener move. The music on both tracks is strong but I’m not 100% feeling the lyrical display from Garcee-a and J. Water. Valerie shows her vocal capability on these songs but some of the notes weren’t as smoothly executed as possible. “Yeah” is a rock infused, CCM type of track that actually sounds pretty good as each member takes a more harmonic approach to the song. As we near the halfway point, “Lights” and “Couldn’t Say” featuring Blaze Torch are both good with the former bringing a Miami flavor and the latter tackling the issue of trying to muzzle us Believers public proclamation of faith.
As we take a look at the last half of the project, “Ready To Go” arguably would have been the perfect track to close the album with but still gets its message across. Valerie showed up strong on “When You’re With Me”, especially as the track comes to a close and she hits some very high notes. I took one look at the title “Hatin On Me” and got almost what I expected. As I’ve written before, the idea of making an ode to haters is counterproductive on a couple levels in my opinion. Blaze Torch supported the lyricism cause very well from a technical standpoint, but this song does not beg for a replay. Next up, “My All” is a true praise dance type of banger and “All I Know” a midtempo worship closer; each of these songs have a couple hiccups, including Valerie being a bit off key as the hook crescendos.
1 Way is an album that has a single-minded focus- to bring the good news of the Gospel with worship at its core. Match that with a playlist that has a nice share of well produced, dance- inducing tracks and you have a pretty good album that has its share of high points. That being said, there are a lot of areas I’m more than confident this group has the passion and drive to improve upon. The main two areas that can be strengthened/ polished with effort deal with the singing and rapping nuances that keep this album from being as good as, say a (sadly defunct) 4th Avenue Jones Stereo: The Evolution of HipRockSoul or Rhema Soul Red. In terms of singing, Valerie often shined most on steady or slow tempo joints while appearing to stumble a bit as the pace picked up. Garcee-a and J. Waters are capable rappers, especially for the lane their in, but the lyrical depth and dexterity left a lot to be desired. Between that and maybe sticking the delivery closer to the beat, the next project could cut even sharper for the sake of the Kingdom. One thing I do have a strong feeling about is that when N.U. Life does their music live, the energy and worship- focused lyrics bring this work to life beyond what wax can hold. I know I’d have to strongly consider attending if I heard about them coming through the Dallas area. In closing, I’ll say that 1 Way, is a project that is not bad by any means and really gives a peek as to the potential of what they can grow into as the Lord wills.
Categorical Ratings Breakdown:
Beat Selection/ Production: 3/5
Concept/ Arrangement: 3/5