Maze of Life

Some Gospel rap projects are deeply introspective. Some ignite serious Word study, and others bring home heavy prophetics.

Other albums are simply straight up praise parties, hands-in-the-air celebrations of true life in Jesus Christ.

CleverMCTwenty-nine-year-old Cali native CleverMC (aka Carl Brown) drops a dazzling and independent debut, The Maze of Life, that falls into that last category, and yet maintains his testimonial message throughout.

Clever states that the album is “focused on one’s journey to the Cross of Calvary through a labyrinth of difficulties and successes”. Not dark, never preachy, always relevant to (and referencing) scripture, this project is the essence of what good news hip hop is all about.

And there’s some of the tastiest hip hop sounds, with big name MCs joining to boot.

Here’s a rundown of some of Clever’s self-composed musings:

  • "Natural Method": this is a ‘fresh coast’ track with an appealing, bright jazz-flava’d beat from Jendor that brings in rap luminaries BTwice, Peace 586 and Sup the Chemist for some superior, pass-the-mic rhyming. Addressing the mindframe difference between believers and those who don’t, those who walk in faith, and the faithless. It’s a blast.

  • "New Testament": Clever and Sup get together for one of the best tracks on the CD — a ‘power joint’. Not only is the contrast in vocal flows intriguing, but the hook of the storyline, the analogies, in fact the entire package grabs hold. Fashioned into a prayer format in that it addressed God directly, the track by Jendor has enough kick to drive the cut, but is sparse enough to keep the focus on the lyrics.

    Maze of Life CD
  • "Hot Flashes": Peace 586 provides the whimsical beats to this honest take on battling visual temptation in church. Clever (with co-writing from Noahdeeakili) uses humor fitting to the track that has a Merrie Melodies-ish appeal.

  • "My Spot": Sweet strings prelude before Clever offers a personal perspective of how sin (spot) afflicts, stresses and inflicts pain, progressing to freestyle to show the Stain Remover to be Jesus Christ. Jendor produces, with plenty of vinyl hissing and scratches from DJ Shep to contrast with the sweeter elements.

  • "Freedom": Vocals from Kerry Drew and Cordell warm this storytale history of Clever’s path to Calvary. The MC lays his fast-flowing flows on top of a softly urban bass groove with sustained keyboard musings and crisp, resilient rhythms.

The beauty of this project lies in the inherent joy of new life in Jesus that CleverMC stamps all over it, delivered sonically by way of excellent guest collabos, a diversity of innovative beats and rhymes, and finessed by Clever rap skills.

It’s a marvellous 15-track personal testimony of the work of the Gospel, in beats and rhymes.

Producers: Various
album release date: October, 2001
Mace ENT Music

— reviewed by Stan North

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