Reviewed by Andrew Midgley
There is still a stoner style to the delivery of Jarry Manna, formerly RedThaTeller, on this five-track EP: lazy, blunted beats bounce nonchalant piano riffs along while Manna slurs over the top. Saved in 2011, Manna was the recipient of irresistible grace four years later after a weed relapse and found himself returning to the Lord courtesy of intervention from his grandmother and uncle when he had hit rock bottom. In addition to spiritual provision, Tulsa's hip-hop community were also good to him - Street Symphony and QTheStudent supported Manna's drive to push out four quick-fire musical productions that enabled his expanding fan base to grow as he did, and ZOii and 2Peece produced the tracks on 'Holy Weapon Vol 1'. If there is no doubting Manna's commitment to output - he has become a husband and a father in the last 12 months as well - there is also no doubting his quality. Manna's experience leads him to tell his hearers quite clearly "I was lost and now I'm found," but he does not overdo the evangelism. In truth, it is difficult to know exactly what Manna is talking about in any of these songs, but this is of a piece with the vagueness and bluster of stoner culture, and in that sense this is art that appropriately represents its culture. Does anything differentiate Manna from his mainstream peers in terms of Christian message? Yes - his presence in the industry boasts integrity without compromise, and his personal witness is distinctive: 2Peece reports that since his "reconversion", Manna has ceased cursing and been a faithful congregant on Sundays; small gestures, but solid ones. While the most obvious shout-outs to Christ - after veiled references to faith on opener "Holy Weapon Intro" and on the excellent "64 Palms" - come on closing track "Goin' Down", and even then from the mouth of guest rapper KeezyKutz ("First thing I gotta do is thank the Lord for today") rather than Manna himself, there is something refreshing about a Christian rap act showing assurance that Christ's action in people's lives is a more effective witness to teenagers than setting memory verses to music. The "holy weapon" is not in the rapper's message so much as his personal regeneration.
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