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Government Name

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Album Review

There's just no question that Bobby Bishop is a good guy. He spends about half his time producing underground Christian hip-hop and devotes the other half to his work as the founder and youth pastor of an inner-city church in the gritty Boston suburb of Lynn, MA. The goodness of his heart is palpable on such positive story-songs as "Song for Amy" (about a teenage rape victim) and "War Cry" (about a young rapper's journey to spiritual awakening and to a reconciliation with his father). The problem, as is so often the case with Christian pop music whatever the genre, is that his rhymes descend regularly into a kind of maudlin squishiness — which is extra embarrassing when Bishop clearly believes he's sounding hard and edgy. "The Laundromat" is a sweet, but ultimately rather sticky, account of spiritual insights gained while doing laundry; on "Government Name" he insists that Bishop really is his last name, as if that were likely to be an issue in most of his listeners' minds. On "Like This" he intones solemnly that he "won't cave to Caucasian clichés," shortly after saying "yo" several times and addressing his listeners as "dawg" (so apparently wigga affectation doesn't count as a Caucasian cliché). The beats are minimalist but nicely bass-heavy and generally very effective; his flow is also impressive. But lyrically speaking, Bishop needs to work on finding that line that separates inspirational drama from cloying bathos, and he needs to work on keeping to the right side of it.

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