When I listen to an album, I can usually tell by the first song if the it will be good or not. Don’t get me wrong, I have listened to many albums where I very much enjoyed the first song and the rest was mediocre, and I have also listened to lame introductions that were followed by excellent albums. But in my experience for the most part that first song tells a lot.
All that being said, when I listened to the “Intro” of Derek Minor’s Empire (Please don’t get the album confused with that dumb show that recently appeared on FOX), it packed a punch.
The song starts off with a hallelujah chant, which sounds like it would work well with the introduction of a “Halo” game. Then the beat kicks in and sounds like a tribal drum ceremony. The key to this song, and the album, was actually the first line that Minor said: “You wonderin’, how big an empire is he gon’ make? Just got off a major tour, bet everybody knows his name.”
If you’re going to name an album “Empire”, it would be best to get your audience’s attention as to the point of your album as soon as possible. Minor continues through the song with more well-placed bars and ends his verse with a chant of his own. The song itself ends with a powerful, but in a way still tame, melody from the horn section of an orchestra. If this introduction was just the first song, I knew I was in a treat.
I wasn’t disappointed. Minor crafted a very respectable album. It was crucial for him to do so, because this was his first solo album since leaving Reach Records. Reach Records is a powerhouse the powerhouse in the Christian Hip-Hop community right now. So Derek Minor left to build his own “empire”, and it was nice to see him get a good start.
The album had a distinct sound that you would expect from the artist formerly known as Pro. You hear that in the second track titled, “All Hail the King.” The bass line of the song could not be ignored. It is the first thing you hear, and it continues throughout the song. It sounded like it would be played in a club-type environment, but would also work well in a type of dance battle or something of the kind.
“All Hail the King” feature artists Deraj and Nobigdyl. Those two gained their opportunities to shine almost exclusively because of Derek Minor. Deraj was a graphics designer for Minor, and was actually signed to Minor’s Reflection Music Group (RMG) shortly after he was featured on Minor’s previous album “Minorville.” The same happened to Nobigdyl who was actually Minor’s tour manager not too long ago.
The album also featured the rest of the artists of RMG (Cannon, B.Cooper, Tony Tillman, and Chad Jones), as well as a host of other big names in the Christian Hip-Hop Community including Social Club, Tedashii, and Lecrae. Sometimes a lot of features can overshadow an album, but I feel each feature was able to fit in with their own distinct styles.
The eighth track, I believe, is the most important song on “Empire.” During a time in this country when racial tensions were pretty high, Derek Minor released “Stranger.” It was basically a plea for people to see things from his eyes. The song featured a very talented female vocalist, Roz. She sings the chorus and says, “Walk in my shoes for a minute; ride with me down this lane. Stand with me here for a moment; see if you can bear my pain.” For the rest of song, I suggest you just listen to it with an open mind.
Throughout “Empire”, you get some hardcore/traditional-sounding rap songs from Derek Minor. Then almost seemingly out of nowhere, you start to get some pop-sounding tracks from the leader of RMG. I was actually shocked to hear “Fly.” I’m still not 100% sure, but I actually think Derek Minor was singing this song and let Colton Dixon handle the chorus. It was a very refreshing song to hear after getting so much heat in the first of part of the album. The rest of tracks continued to have a pop feel with “Oceans”, and “Right By My Side.” Those two songs sealed the album’s fate. In my mind already, I thought this album could be a classic. But there were still two tracks left.
You want to talk about finishing an album with an exclamation point? Minor finished with two very in your face songs, with two completely styles along with Social Club featured on one track, and Lecrae and Cannon on the final track. “Party People”, featuring Social Club, was arguably one of the hottest songs out to close the 2014 year.
The final track on the album “Until the End of Time” featuring Lecrae and Cannon was a certified banger. It starts off with a little 8-bit video game, and then it explodes. Actually, when I was listening to the song the first time, I could imagine somebody like the late great Notorious B.I.G. doing some damage on this track. I think Minor, Lecrae, and Cannon did a well enough job though. It was a strong finish to the album.
There isn’t much negative I can say. Even though there were a lot of features, I previously mentioned how they all blended in well with the album. It was an impressive start for Minor on his own without the Reach Records empire. Derek Minor is doing just find building his own.
+ Lyrically strong
+ Production was versatile
+ Songs evenly distributed
- Number of features