Shiwan is not new to the game. He has a number of EPs and full length projects, but THIS is his first true solo album. I always thought Shiwan would put out a good album, but Project 27 is a masterpiece.
From the beginning, it’s clear this isn’t your usual album. Before I get into the highlights of the music, I want to discuss the overarching aspects that make this album so good.
1. Cinematic Arrangements
Each track is not just a story, but often is a story in three or more parts. This is achieved through production, samples, interludes, and lyrics. I have never seen individual tracks constructed so creatively and cinematically. This style gives tracks a sonic story along with the lyrical story. It’s brilliant.
2. Quality Auto-tune
I’m not a fan of auto-tune, but the harmony between the production, the auto-tune and the flow, make most uses of this technique very good.
3. Great Guests
This album does not have many guests, but all of them are on point. You’ll find that some of the guests have the best lines on the album. Rarely does a great album have a lot of guests, and this one is no different. Quality over quantity.
We see the trend of Christian Hop Hop albums carrying a lot of guest artists and this album bucks that trend. Shiwan has a streamlined focus on his own artistry and it’s appreciated. However, the guests featured on a few tracks are some of the best delivered. Rarely does a great album feature a lot of guests, and this is no different.
4. Great Lyrics & Storytelling
Shiwan shows out on this album and all of his powers are on display. The equal parts of production to Shiwan’s flow and lyrics are directly attributed to the cinematic nature of the album. I’m not going to make this a full deep dive into his lyrics, but needless to say, if you love great lyrics and a diverse flow, this album won’t disappoint you. From a lyrical perspective, the top three tracks in my opinion are ‘Abba’, ‘Spazz’, and ‘Life Ain’t Gibberish’. Storytelling-wise, ‘Underground Prince’, ‘Jekyll’s Talking’, and ‘Wonder Years’ are major standouts.
Harmonies Are Colors
This track sets the tone that this is not constructed like the typical album, let alone a hip hop album. Also, the underlying story line of the album begins on this track. A story of neighborhoods and relationships and how they affected Shiwan. A particular standout aspect of this track is its daft-punk style sample.
This track is the ultimate example of Project 27 at it’s best. It starts with a screwed intro (Screwed, I believe, is under-appreciated in what it can add to a track). The track continues with a voiceover on top of some chopped and screwed production. Next, there is a short interlude introducing the story of vengeance. Shiwan then starts in with his new production. This track has great energy and Shiwan attacks it from the very beginning. His verse transitions into production of sounds in a park, then rolls into another beat and of Shiwan telling his momma what it’s really like out on the streets. The story ends violently and a D’Angelo sample with a voice-over completes the story. 1 track, 6 scene changes, 4 beats, 2 verses… Project 27 at its best.
High On Life
This is arguably my favorite track on the album. It has all the things that I outlined that make this album great. The samples, interludes, production, flow, and lyrics are definitively the best on the album. My favorite line from the track is “my wealth is in that skybox the heavens showing love; my soul is more important than money climbing up, even though I was broke”. Shiwan purely at his best.
Jekyll’s talking really highlights the cinematic nature of the track arrangement and Shiwan’s lyrical ability. The concept for the track has been done before, but it’s executed perfectly here. It is the first example on this album regarding the great guest verses. Shiwan’s brother produces a counter point to the first verse and sets up Shiwan’s final verse. The story is fully told in one track. Love it.
Old Thing Back
A track talking about how we can’t go back to those old things. The production on this track is my favorite, and the flow and lyrics really blend with the beat. The guest Zabbai lays down the best guest verse and also delivers my favorite line from the album, “Taking territory, the kingdom coming, I’m just on the planet terraforming.”. I can’t stress how much I love the complexity of such a simple statement, truly a great line. To cap off a great track, the producers once again show full creativity and increasingly distort the vocals as the verse progresses.
I could literally write about almost every track on this album, as basically every one of them is a highlight, but I’m going to stop on these 5. However I think ‘Bonkers’, ‘Spazz’, ‘Wonder Years’, ‘Prodigal Kicks’, ‘Life Ain’t Gibberish’ (particularly the final verse), and ‘Abba’ (Shiwan’s flow and lyrics at their best on the album) are all standouts.
If I didn’t already make it clear, I love the creativity of this album. No aspect of the album is closed off to this style. Vocal distortion, complex track arrangement, lyrical dexterity, few but great guest verses, concept tracks, creative and varied production; this album really has it all.
The best CHH albums are just great albums that share the artists faith clearly. Shiwan Project 27 is not only a great Christian Hip Hop album, but just a great album, period.
For other album recommendations and thoughts check out our Music section.