Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My One Hip-Hop Artiste Plug For This Decade

It's been a busy month at work, but things are winding down. I've been working on a complete rewrite of an old Visual FoxPro application, porting it to C# in .NET. I did get to work in Visual Studio 2008, though, and it has been a pleasant experience. However, since it was a Windows app, I didn't get to use the integrated AJAX stuff. I still got to use a few nifty threading tricks, though, which was quite a learning experience in itself.

I've been listening to an online radio station called Pandora for quite a while. It allows you to specify a few seed artists and songs, and then it will try to pick out songs that it thinks you will like. Occasionally it hits the spot and I hear something I really like. Sometimes it plays things that drive me up the wall... thankfully you can tell it when you don't like something, and it will never bring it up again. For the most part, it seems to have me pinned pretty well now, and I'm rarely offended by what it picks out for me. However, it never occurred to me go out and buy something new I heard on the station. That finally changed last week, after hearing the hip hop of Emmanuel Jal.

There's a concise Wikipedia biography for Emmanuel here, which saves me the trouble of having to say to much about the man. In short, he was a former child soldier from Sudan who got rescued from his former way of life, found Jesus and a new purpose, and now spreads his message of peace and redemption through hip-hop. Though he preaches love, his message isn't sugar-coated or banal. It's often hard-edged, poignant, and personal. No matter what tone the music takes, it always sounds genuine.

The album I bought is the 2008 release, Warchild. You might expect someone with his past to hit the same notes over and over. However, there is a surprising amount of variety in what he sings about. Yes, he does sing about his past (on the title track 'Warchild'), the things he had to do to survive('Forced To Sin') , and the way he was rescued from that way of life('Emma'). Along the way, though, he takes time off to sound off on the state of America and its failure to help its own in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina ('Ninth Ward'), offer mainstream hip-hop some advice about the image and values they sell ('50 Cent', 'No Bling'), and even reflect on the insecurities of a young lady who reveals "too much" on a date ('Skirt Too Short'). He often injects a gentle-spirited humor into his lyrics, which makes the message both engaging and accessible.

I got the album on iTunes, which let's you preview a little bit of each track before making a purchase, so you can try that if you're not sure if this would be your cup of tea. There is some digital rights protection that comes with the files you get from iTunes, but a quick burn to CD and re-import later fixes that (am I allowed to say that?). Or you can just go out and get the CD!