Mind Over Matter

Mind Over Matter CDMind Over Matter is the first release to come out of the enigmatic MSS Records empire. Featuring the sermonic work of dread-head rapper Reality Odio, the project comes hard-hitting with consistent sombre tones and serious lyrical statements, wrapped in very hip-hop, urban production.

AKA John Aaron Robinson, Reality paints his stark Nureau perspective on a soundboard that includes 14 tracks, many of them rife with guest shots, some notable, some not. No doubt, the heads of holy hiphop will flock to this CD, eager to feast on the phat tracks and flows. They will not be disappointed. Those looking for vocal grooves and song will not find much here that satisfies.

Select tracks include “The Day God Called”, which is a testimonial flow with a short vocal loop from Anthony Church (of the crew Divine Order) travelling underneath. It also features a mid-track groovesome beat break that deserves a longer ride.

“Can’t Be Idle: Idol” is a cut with a disjointed feel, partly due to the interspersion of spoken scripture segments without accompanying beat tracks. However, the repeated, multiply-stacked vocal chorus of “can’t be idle, drop the title, ‘cuz what we have is vital” is hype, with nice horn loops and bells. Topic? An strong appeal for unity in the church. I didn't like this one at first bob, but repeated play slowly revealed that the unusual structure of the cut contributes to its effect.

“Touch That One” is a short interlude which samples Evangelist E.B. Williams on preaching vocals and Tonéx on track, from “Untitled”, which Reality Odiowas the final cut on the Tonéx’s legendary Pronounced Toe-Nay album. Reality produces. Cool stuff.

“Seduction” warns that television can trap and deceive even the children of saints. Spoken by Black Wife in poetic format, it’s packaged with a baby laugh loop. Black Wife appears again on “Until I’m Done Singing”, this time offering up backing vocals in support of her husband (Reality), who rides his projects’s smoothest flows and tightest rhymes over a pop-ish instrumental track. It’s perhaps the most upbeat and encouraging track of this project.

The combo of T.Boy and 5’0 take production control of “Soul Control”, opting for a sound that's heavy on light guitar and loaded with scratches from Mazzin’ Feats. Highlighting the lyrics and explaining the essence of the cut is the line, “I give you the key to my skeleton closet, and pray that I don’t make a brand new deposit”.

The same production duo also handle “True Knights”, which is positioned as the lead single. It’s a slammingly powerful call to spiritual warfare, a battle cry against the evil adversary that brings the combined forces of Reality, T.Boy and the Divine Order crew to the mic. Starting off symphonically with urgent strings before the trippy beats kick in, the exhortation and explanation begin in earnest with alternating solo and chorus presentations.

The project is supported with various marketing measures considered normal in mainstream hip-hop world, but still rather a novelty on the righteous side of the elements. “True Knights” remixes have been released on 12" vinyl (a Club Virtue mix and a Euclid & Federal mix, plus instrumental dubs of both), which is sure to twist the ears of theReality and Black Wife DJ society. The same cut is represented in concept video, and with top-scale filming, is aiming to find itself rotating with mainstream hiphop. Shot at night, “True Knights” features a strong ‘guerrilla warfare’ concept approach combined with gritty realism, and includes a cameo from a bearded Tonéx.

Absent from “Mind Over Matter” are party tracks, because that’s not where Reality puts his focus. His message is a true, but often thought-provoking and uncomfortable. Yes, this can be a good thing (check out O.T. peeps like Amos, Obadiah, Hosea and the like), but hardly the stuff that jeepy, hands-in-the-air hip-hop jams are made of. The lyrical content of Reality's rhyme is Word-breathed and leaves no doubt that his Source is Jesus Christ. Never self-righteous, his message is as equally confessional and self-directed as it is directed outward. And while his rap flow doesn’t always perfectly fuse with the tracks, Reality’s production skills are evident throughout.

Call him a 'new mill' prophet in the pattern and lineage of the Old Testament notables. Reality has an undeniably relevant message for those who have an ear to hear God’s reality.

Producers: Reality Odio, T.Boy
album release date: March, 2000
MSS Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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