Winstrong: Ghetto Hymns

winstrong, ghetto hymnsWinstrong: Ghetto Hymns
California’s Bay Area is known for socially conscious hip hop and hyphy. That is what makes Winstrong an oddity in the scene. His mixture of dancehall and hip hop does not quite fit in with either scene yet he has been making inroads since his 2008 debut album, Eye of the Storm. On his sophomore album, Ghetto Hymns, Winstrong continues to hone his style while getting help from some heavy hitters from the Bay area and beyond.
Ghetto Hymns features artists like Johdan Blakkamore, M-1 of Dead Prez, Haiku D’Etat, Ishi Dube, and Jthasarge. The record is sequenced wisely though; with all the guest appearances coming in the second half of the album.
The first half of the album works as a kind of introduction to who Winstrong is and what his music is all about. “By My Side” sounds like it could be an Akon club track with its synths and dance beats. “In The Hood” is a little more traditional hip hop with Winstrong doing some of his best rapping on the track.
The album’s turning point is “Fi Mi Nation” which features M-1. The track is the first to feature a guest and arguably features the album’s biggest name. The track is also the first real hip hop banger. The production is big and anthematic while Winstrong switches between rapping and singing. M-1 adds a nice depth to the track with a different rapping style and his socially conscious lyrics.
The socially conscious lyrics seem to be more pronounced in the latter part of the album. “Hungry Days” is a reggae tour-de-force talking about struggling and hunger of poverty. The album’s lead single “Rude Boy” is a dancehall track speaking out about violence.
While all these tracks are catchy, there is a lack of originality in Winstrong’s music. “Rude Boy” does nothing that numerous other dub track do. What saves Winstrong is his eclecticism. If every song was ripping off numerous dub tracks, that would be a problem but because he borrows from such a wide swath of influences, it somehow seems more acceptable.
Rating: 7.6/10
MP3: Winstrong featuring M-1 “Fi Mi Nation”
Buy: iTunes