STYLE: Hip-Hop RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 158084-23230 LABEL: Reflection Music Group FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1
Reviewed by Andrew Midgley
'Thank God I made it out', Tony Tillman concludes on 'Camden''s penultimate track, winding up an album of ghettoscapes, street scrapes and grace in grime. There are weak points to 'Camden' - Truth Chile's saccharine guest vocal on "Inspiration" and a similar R&B compromise on "Without You" spoil some of the album's grittiness - but Tillman's dextrous flow guides his story from a series of introductory flash-frames about alcoholism and cannabis on "870" through to "Ghost", an extended tale of bloody woe involving the murder, by her Christian husband, of one of Tillman's friends. It all feels personal, grateful and laced with regret; an over-the-shoulder gangland retrospective about discovering the Rock beneath the concrete. Centrepieces "Lord Have Mercy" (ftg Derek Minor and B Cooper) and "Shadows" (ftg Sye Spence) exemplify this, the former's shoutalong refrain contrasting beautifully with the latter's guest vocal: Spence's timbre, somewhere between Adele and Lana del Rey, makes a welcome, mournful departure from gospel guest acts and creates the album's best moment after Tillman raps "what's the use of going to school if you only die before graduation?" Tillman's crafting of 'Camden''s tone is for the most part as wise as it is clever, choosing earnestness in adversity rather than the anger of mainstream hip-hop, yet emphasising for the sake of truth the despair that other Christian rappers airbrush out. There are lapses into moralising - "Role Models" lets down its compelling verse vignettes of drop-out demises with a chorus of "these were my role models" - but these cautionary tale bum notes are the exception rather than the rule. A convincing listen.
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