Life or Death
Dig into the first lines of Ezra and you’ll see that God stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to proclaim His word throughout the land. Remarkably, until that time, King Cyrus was not a follower of God.Producers: H. Middleton, S. Cayson, T. Aikerson, L.E.S., M. Williams, J. Middleton
album release date: Summer, 2001
And so it is today that hip hop’s King Cyz leans on the record of Ezra 1:1 for inspiration, but with an important difference, for he has been walking with Jesus Christ since the age of five.
King Cyz, aka Cyrus Alexander, brings the Good News by way of a royal suite of diverse beats and rhymes on his debut project on NuVybe Records. Throughout the generous helping of 18 tracks, Cyz starkly, frankly, and bluntly states the consequences of the choices he describes to all who will nod their heads with him: Life or Death.
The approach here is predominantly East Coast, with some notable dirty South exceptions. Cyz works with experienced producer Herb Middleton who tracks much of the album (Brownstone, Mary J. Blige, 4Kast, Kelly Price). The result is a nicely-blazed, near-jeepy and organic vibe that Cyz uses as a base from which to explode his deep, earnest and fast-paced delivery.
The self-declaration cut “Man of God” uses some innovative and triumphant trumpet/orchestral samples, with the equally street “I’m God” on a similar flow. Several other pieces on the album follow these standards.
“Listen to Dis” will be much loved by serious hip hop appreciators, as will the blazing “Death Row” and the evangelical “30 Seconds”.
Special mention goes to the freestyle “Battle In the Basement” where Nonsense plays the role of a secular rapper in hot dual with King Cyz. Guess who wins?
Outside quality emcees kick in on other tracks too, including the heads-up and melodic “Should I Go On” which features the contrasting flow style of Non Chalant. Skeez gets introduced on “No Blood Thicker” with a back-and-forth dramatic battle of spiritual warfare between Satan and Cyz.
Chiller vibes come with “Turn Your Love Around” with The Grooves Family supporting with smoothish backing vocals. “Calvary” with Terry Aikerson producing relies on some mid-tempo guitar samples for effectiveness.
Powerhouse vocalist Ann Nesby from Sounds of Blackness fame appears on two songs, both which merit attention beyond the world of hip hop. “No Weapon” is a fast-paced killer with a speeding, drip-sampled track behind Cyz’s rap and Nesby’s victory riffs. On the bonus track “Happy”, the flow is slightly slower as Nesby takes charge of this radio-friendly gem.
Bringing the Good News to all can be done in so many ways. King Cyz has latched onto one of them, ministering Life to his subjects in the land where tight beats and rhyming lyricism reign supreme.
reviewed by Stan North —
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