For years now, fans of experimental hip hop have been able to rely upon John Reuben for musical satisfaction. From his not-so-well-known independent EP Monuments to his recently-released sixth studio album, Sex, Drugs and Self-Control, he's become a staple in the Christian music industry. Even music listeners who wouldn't generally find themselves listening to hip hop have found lots to like about John's unique approach. For those who need to catch up with some of his best work, Gotee has compiled some of Reuben's best work from the last ten years (a big eighteen songs) and put them on what they're calling Zappin: The Best of John Reuben.
Best-of albums are always kind of weird, because you could ask ten different fans to name their favorite songs by a particular artist, and you'll most likely get ten very different lists. But what John Reuben and Gotee Records are offering on Zappin are very good selections, most of which would probably find their way onto any Reuben fan-made list. Classics like "Do Not" from Reuben's label debut Are We There Yet? and "Doin'" and "Hindsight" from his sophomore effort Hindsight bring back memories from my late teen years (especially since those albums came out when I was first coming into a relationship with God and was some of the first Christian hip hop I ever knew). "Thank You" from Hindsight was also well-chosen and well-placed on this compilation, and I had forgotten how awesome the verses from Othello and Manchild were. "Divine Inspiration" is another standout track from the debut, and it's included later in the compilation. It's a little odd that the tracklist doesn't start in the early years and move in chronological order, but it's a good listen regardless and it flows really well from start to finish.
Reuben's first two albums were more rooted in straight hip hop, but with his third album, Professional Rapper, he began to evolve musically. It was still hip hop, but it became more experimental, yet somehow still accessible enough to both keep and enlarge his fanbase. Professional Rapper only has two tracks representing on Zappin. The Spanish flair of the lively "Life Is Short" (featuring TobyMac) and the more popular hip hop track "Move." The album got good reviews everywhere, so it's odd that when each of Reuben's studio albums has three songs included on Zappin, this one would only have two, with Are We There Yet? getting an extra track instead.
Reuben's fourth album, The Boy VS The Cynic, changed even more. He still made some hip hop jams, but it acted more like a pop rock record, which Zappin displays more of. "Out of Control" has hip hop style vocal delivery in the verses, but has some rock guitars for the chorus. "All I Have" and the super popular "Nuisance" (which features Relient K's Matthew Thiessen) show how different The Boy VS The Cynic was. The pop rock didn't really continue into album five, but the experimentation did. Word of Mouth returned more to hip hop, as shown in the compilation's farewell track, "Good Evening" and the southern style of "Make Money Money" (the banjo and the gorgeous beat combined with Reuben's signature satire and biting wit make this a personal favorite of mine). Reuben's latest endeavor, Sex, Drugs and Self-Control, came out this past December, and while there could've been better songs picked from it for Zappin, the selections do a good job representing that album. "No Be Nah" and "Town Folk" were definite highlights and do qualify for a best-of compilation, even if they're less than a year old for fans. For what this compilation is, the tracklist is superb. I can only think of a couple songs that could've fit right in that weren't included, like "Up and At 'Em" or "Everett," or even "God Is Love" (the first John Reuben song I ever heard). Sadly, in the digital era, best-of's don't have much use anymore outside of being a collectible for hardcore fans (especially without including a new track). However, it's a good way of introducing some classic hits to a new generation of hip hop fans (in a time when most hip hop is getting worse and worse, and focusing more on what's hot instead of innovation, quality or even talent). While longtime fans who have all of Reuben's albums have no reason to pick this one up (unless they love Reuben that much. Also, there is a link inside the CD jacket that leads to a place to download all of Reuben's music videos), Zappin is a fabulous tracklist for new fans to check out.- Review date: 9/1/10, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Gotee Records
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