Much of today’s rap music is focused on conquering new territory, setting trends, and making a name for oneself, but Mustapha Thorpe, known as That New Vessel (TNV), has a different mission entirely.
“My particular sound in comparison to today is not the normal sound,” said TNV, “I come from the golden era of hip-hop, at least in my mind, which is the 90’s-style: sample beats, guitar hits, and drums. My music is not on the trendier end…I felt like God told me ‘even if you touch one person, it’s a job well done. It’s not about how many people like your music, it’s not about how many people are following you, but if someone can listen to your music at the right time and you’re witnessing to them, that’s what it’s all about.’ ”
Like many of his genre, TNV did not come from the easiest of backgrounds.
“I was raised in a single-parent household: my mother raised me and I had four other brothers. We were surrounded by a lot of gang activity. At age sixteen, I moved to Detroit. My stepfather took me in. During that time frame, I was trying to find myself. I spent a lot of time hanging out in the streets, going to clubs, drinking, smoking, doing all types of things, being a part of street life per say. The story that I’m trying to speak about is the part of salvation. You can come from anywhere and change your whole life. Even now when I tell people where I come from, it’s hard to believe, because Christ is within me now.”
For TNV, that transition came later in his life, but the change was immediate.
“Growing up, I knew a lot of people who were going to church who were doing the same things I was doing. So I was like there’s nothing from the church that I want. The thing that made me change was my wife, and seeing the fruit of the Spirit within her. I decided to go to church and it felt like my pastor was actually speaking right to me. He was like ‘if you’re gonna sin, you might as well bust the gates of hell wide open. You can’t live lukewarm, you can’t be straddling the fence.’ At that moment, my life instantly changed. I started reading the Bible, every single day. The one Scripture that I always meditated on was James 1:8: A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
TNV had done secular rap, but had long relinquished music when he felt God calling him to use his talents to share about his faith. Though he has been producing for other artists, currently TNV’s main energies have been focused on his own new release.
“The album is called ‘Systematic,’ and what that means is done or acting according to a planned system which is methodical. I speak about the everyday things that we have to go through with regards to sin. I have a song called ‘Covenant Eyes’ that speaks about all the vices that are in front of us every single day. A lot of times it’s hard for us, even as believers, to not be enticed by those vices. It’s basically saying ‘protect your eyes.’ ”
The old-school record harkens back to TNV’s past thematically, as well as sonically.
“The first song on the album is called ‘Skyzone.’ That song really hits my heart because it talks about my salvation. That song is my favorite song on the album, because it’s a personal song. I pretty much tell the story of where I come from. I think that song is something people will actually feel.”
He additionally tackles the injustice within the community he grew up in, calling people to stand together united.
“[Detroit] is being rebuilt, but we have to make sure that we involve the people that are from that area. I actually speak about that on this album too; it’s called ’Sovereign Soil.’ There’s a lot of revolutionary things going on with people inside the community, making sure that crime is being lowered. It’s just gonna take a while.”
TNV does more than rap about his past; he actively works to help those that are currently facing what he once did, speaking to youth about his relationship with Christ.
“We have this organization called ‘Next Generation’ so what we try and do is speak out to young adults who are going through that transition period between the ages of twenty-two to thirty.”
TNV’s message throughout his rhetoric and music alike is clear.
“[I want to be known as] an imperfect man, trying to live through Christ, someone who is trying to represent God, someone who is aware of all these issues going on this country, someone who has the heart to actually say something about it.”
Stylistically, the album is raw and real. Lyrics are deep and hit you fast. You’ll need time to sit back, sip tea, and absorb it. TNV’s producing is full of textures. Some may find album more artistic, like looking at a Sydney Pollack painting. So it may not be one for the masses, but those who are rap aficionados will appreciate the adroit rhymes and expert delivery. Like Detroit, TNV’s flow and production is complex and you appreciate the history. The album could have benefitted from some real drums to match the realness of the record, fewer midi-feeling instruments (casio anyone?), and less compression on the vocals. However, worth a listen and an example of local color highlighting the state of a great city.
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