It seems like just yesterday I was a young 14-15 year old kid riding in my Dad's Silverado on a normal afternoon. It was at this time in my life where I started to leave behind my childhood years and gradually headed down the trajectory of a moody teenager who hadn't the slightest clue which way was up or down. Growing up around my Dad I was always privy to the latest music in rap and rock, so it was only natural that my first encounter with Linkin Park came while I was riding in that truck with him on that particular afternoon. I'll never forget hearing him say, "you've gotta check this out". From the moment Hybrid Theory started, it turned into a repeated cycle that followed me throughout high school and into my 20's. Hearing Chester Bennington's voice stuck with me unlike any other artist. Sure, I loved Kurt Cobain, Metallica, 2Pac, and many others, but this was different. For the first time I felt an attachment to the words echoing through my speakers from Chester and Mike. I felt like everything I was hearing was something I could somehow relate to and in many ways they kind of did, because in a world where artists made music about things the average person couldn't relate to, Linkin Park made music that millions of people were able to identify with. I'm not sure if it was the anger in some of their songs that connected with me as this young teen or if it was just the shear power in the songs themselves as Chester and Mike traded raps with screaming. Whatever it was, I was singing "One Step Closer", "Crawling", and "In The End" 24/7.
I know that as people we tend to grow and mature with time, but the great thing about Linkin Park is that I never outgrew them. I was able to identify with the band as they progressed even as their sound slowly changed. As they changed, it was as if I was changing with them in an odd way. I never once felt like the songs they created weren't somehow part of who I was as an individual and I believe this because they never seemed like celebrities to me. They always appeared to come across and genuine people who were grateful to be doing what they were doing. They influenced me and made me believe that one day I too could make music that was as impactful.
Fast Forward to May 2017. Here I am sitting in a parking lot outside of an apartment complex in Hartsville, SC listening the the first single "Heavy" from the new album "One More Light". I'm immediately struck by the significantly different approach taken with this song; however, I still find a connection with the music because I too have had my own struggles over the years that have haunted me and it's normal to ask ourselves, "why is everything so heavy?". I remember sitting there excited to hear the rest of the album even if it was going to be gloomy because maybe gloomy was what I needed a little bit more of at that time to help relate to certain aspects of my own life. It helped to remind myself that nobody is without their own challenges. Regardless, as a veteran fan I knew the new songs would always end with a hopeful message, because thats who they were and thats exactly who I am when I create my own music.
As a fan of Linkin Park, I will never stop playing their music and I hope that they continue to play to some capacity, but if Mike, Brad, Rob, Mr. Hahn, and Phoenix decide that they can't without their best friend, then who can blame them? Either way, they helped shape my life and for that I am eternally grateful. I will continue to cycle through their discography starting with "Papercut" from the first album, to "Sharp Edges" from the most recent and last. Thank you for everything! #ripchester
Check out my new song and music video dedicated to the late, Chester Bennington here:
- The first song that I listened to on RE:invent was “The Lion”. I had met Russ Wallace, known to his fans as ThKid, for the first time briefly while visiting The Living Church then officially at his job before I ever become a fan or knew who he was. A friend from the church told me that he was a rapper, and I became interested. I looked on the internet and found some of his music that I could listen too. I fell in love with some songs and was skeptical of others. Overall, I became a fast fan and was excited to hear more.
A few months after first seeing him, I bumped into him and the friend, who had told me about his music, around their work, and I confessed that they were some of my favorite people. Thoroughly amused and overjoyed at my remark, ThKid offered to send me a free track that no one had ever listened to before. Ecstatic, I accepted immediately and impatiently waited for the email containing his gift. Once hearing it, the struggles that I had been enduring were seemingly lifted and my faith in God and His love for me was renewed. The song that ThKid sent me turned out to be “The Lion”. It secured my fan status indefinitely and gained its' creator my thanks and respect even more than before. At this point, RE:invent was not a reality, and I could have never dreamed that I would be asked to review it. I am thoroughly honored to be asked to do so by ThKid. That being said, I will try to remain as objective as possible.
From the beginning to the end, RE:invent is a rapper's dream. It has killer bass and heavenly hooks that keep the listeners thoroughly engaged and begging for more. The album starts off with a powerful introduction to ThKid as a rapper and a person with “Never Scared-Mercy”. Two words to describe this musical wonder are empowering and grace. On this track I could hear two different songs seamlessly blended into one. At the beginning, it seems like the listener could go and fight giants like David did only to be reminded of humanity's need for God's mercy by the end. The beauty of this song and the album is the sincerity and bluntness with which ThKid honors God through his words.
Proving that he has no qualms about what he believes in or who the album is about, he spits out near the end of Mercy: “I don't want to come across as cocky. Just that I know God got me.” With these words, he reveals the heart of his creation for the world to see and judge as they wish. Despite the clarity of his Christian message in the first track and the album as a whole, ThKid wishes to reach everyone not just believers with his music.
Over all, RE:invent is stark and real to its' core, filled with a song for everyone whether they are religious or not. While there are songs such as “All of the Above Ft. Taylor Gulledge”, “IDK”, and “The Lion” which satisfy the typical upbeat and peppy crowd-pleasers, several of the songs have a darker edge that cause their listeners to think introspectively about how they have handled life and its' struggles. Some examples of tracks which might put off people who enjoy the more upbeat, contemporary Christian music are “7PM”, “Ghosts”, “Nothing Can Stop Me Ft. Deion Reverie”, “Reflections”, and “Felt So High”. These songs are the more personal and emotionally charged of the album, but they are also the most visceral. Fans of Skillet, Lecrae, Flyleaf, and Evanescence would be more likely to appreciate these songs and their potent messages. If a listener wishes to see ThKid's heart and who he is, then they should fall in love with these tracks as much as I have.
In fact, “7PM” is ThKid's favorite song on the album. His love for this track is not only because he was born at 7pm exactly, but also because it highlights the struggles he and other believers face each day against Satan and his minions. It is a dark and beautiful song.
Other tracks that walk the midway point of dark and happy are “Never Scared-Mercy”, “Expression of the Brave Ft. IAM Justified and B Cooper”, “Candelights”, “Fire and Snow Ft. Taylor Gulledge”, and “Never Alone Ft. Deion Reverie”. They are in-between upbeat and stark, which everyone will love. These are the most inspirational and chill pieces of the album. Anyone who just loves to listen to good music in the office or needs a reminder that someone cares about them will enjoy these songs.
“Candelights” is one of my favorites out of this group because it targets those who want to make a significant difference in the world around them. One could argue that this song is the closest ThKid comes to speaking about Jesus Christ's Great Commission. In the words, ThKid expresses his longing to be the one whom God uses to light the world with His love. He sings: “Make me a candle! 'Cause I just want to light up the night! I want to light the world. I want to shine in the dark.” Again, he bares his soul to those listening just in a more positive light.
Coming to the end of the album, ThKid ends it on a thankful note with “Reinvent Me Ft. Taylor Gulledge”. He began the album with an introduction of himself to the world as a man who was completely changed by the love of God, with a passionate desire to share his Creator's love with the world and inspire people to persevere through life's challenges. He ends it on a similar note. He admits that he is still not perfect and that he has his doubts adding a dark note to this as well. His message does not stop there though. He sums up his overwhelming need for others as he thanks his Savior, his Dad specifically along with his family, his late Grandmother, his church family from The Living Church or “TLC”, and “anyone who took a chance on” him. In short, ThKid ends the album with an implied promise to keep letting God reinvent him. It is the most bittersweet song of them all and the perfect finish.
So, what are you waiting for? This album and its' artist are both wonderful pieces of art and definitely worth adding to your music library. No. Sorry. You cannot add ThKid himself to your library which would be illegal and weird, but listening to these songs give the fan a clear picture of who Russ Wallace and ThKid are as both man and artist. The best thing about this album is that it is not just for those who believe in Jesus. As one may have noticed, like Skillet, most of the songs on this album do not sound like your generic Christian music. ThK.id's heart is to reach the world which is everyone. As he said in “All of the Above Ft. Taylor Gulledge”, “My jobs not to judge but to show the right way.” ThKid is everyone's rapper and he wants to simply show Christ's love without judgment or bible-thumping which unfortunately has become a given when it comes to anything attached to Christianity. The message of the album and artist is love. I am a major fan of both. This is not the beginning and end for the ThKid. Look for great things from this Kid. I expect him to match or surpass Lecrae as his career continues. He is definitely one to watch.
Now that I have piqued your interest in this amazing artist. You can find his album, RE:invent, on itunes, spotify, cdbaby, his facebook page “ThKid”and other places as well. Also, keep on the lookout for ThKid's next project, "Sunrise/Sunfall”. Now it is up to you! Go check this Kid out!
- Donna Lewis