Humans have an indwelling propensity to lean towards “grey area” thinking in order to attempt to remove the responsibility that comes with God’s established absolutes. We prefer fluid, adjustable understanding of what is fact or fiction, depending upon what suits us and our desires at the moment. Where absolute truth draws a clear line between what’s righteous and sinful, we try to marginalize and excuse our way to an alternate reality that fits “our” truth. Big Cleve, of Pardon The Movement, examines this fact from a street perspective on his new album Generation Of Grey. We’ll listen and find out just how black and white Cleve can make things for his audience.
The title track starts things off well as Big Cleve breaks down the inconsistencies of man over a smooth track. Cleve’s flow is steady and lyricism better here than some might assume based on the instrumental. “Customized” is up next and, quite frankly, the beat is super annoying to the point where I end up skipping the track most of the time. The extended metaphor on the song is pretty good, as Cleve talks about being uniquely made in Christ, but the beat might not allow for many people to really enjoy it. “Different” is a little less annoying than the previous but still not a track I will replay often. The album really steps up a couple levels with “Left To Myself” (Bumps brings real rawness with his verse) and “Unbroken”, combining solid beats and ministering rhymes.
After “Triumphant” comes one of the top tracks on the album in “Black”, featuring Lil Prophet. In spite of Big Cleve ad-libbing “yeah” about 302 times, he and Lil Prophet’s verses go into detail about staying focused on the God-made truth. Big Cleve’s lyricism is pretty strong on this track and Lil Proph’s charisma shines through on this top notch instrumental. “Not Like God” hits hard as Cleve addresses the misconceptions and cop outs that many people lean on in their decision to dismiss God and His Word. The tone of the album shifts with “Bliss” as Fred Council joins the scene to help dedicate a song to Cleve’s wife. Why more people don’t go to Fred for hooks and whatnot, I still don’t understand. Next, “Pardon My Movement” is a crew track that lays out the vision of PTM as a record label and active ministry about Kingdom work. Everyone showed up on this one and it solidifies that I will continue to have interest in hearing what comes from this camp.
As we get to the home stretch of the album, Cleve calls on L9 to help him create an interesting track, “A.C.E.”. I say interesting because it seems to be a direct answer to a certain popular radio song without carbon copying its musical formula or even referencing it directly. That said, it is an average song with a certain unavoidable infectiousness to it. “Man U Fresh”, the lead single, helps capture the theme of the album pretty well as Cleve speaks to the block over a trap-style beat. As is the case for much of the album, Big Cleve uses repetition in his hooks in a manner that some will love and others will tire of. There are a number of standout beats on this album but the best might be “Life Support”, just because of the sample from Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack. The album closes with a sequencing that left something to be desired as “Curtain Call” seemed like it should come after “Turn Up” (featuring a sharp cameo from Kambino) and “Last Time”.
Overall, Generation of Grey is in line with the new standard that seems to be taking hold in the Christian Rap landscape. The combination of (mostly) crisp production, honest writing with a focus on ministry, and a an album theme are present on this PTM release. This project is for the folk that would be interested in the MMG’s and UGK’s of the world, meshing up to date musical stylings with a rugged tone that makes it plain, black and white. Sonically, this project delivered on more than half of the tracks but missed by anywhere from a smidgen (“Triumphant”) to a larger margin (“Customized”, “Different”), on the others. Big Cleve’s delivery is a strong baritone with steady cadence and little flash; it fits with his subtle but solid lyrical ability, which ends up being hindered by his overuse of ad-libs (I lost count of how many “yeeahs” peppered this project). The concept that GOG looks to adhere to is smart but I found myself unsure of how a few songs fit into the ultimate flow or sequencing of the project. All subjective opinion aside, there’s no question where Cleve stands and what he sees a need for in this generation, this project will be a good tool to show just how separate truth is from lies.
Categorical Ratings Breakdown:
Beat Selection/Production: 3/5