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SPEAK LIFE (2002)
Speak Life - Click to view! Hailing from Albany, NY, Sev Statik is another name on the growing list of talented Christian emcees. He belongs to both the Deepspace 5 and the Tunnel Rats supercrews and his collaborations can be found on many dope projects throughout the 90's. Like many other Uprok artists, Sev has waited a long time to put out a solo album and while this is not his debut, another project from "The Pointman" is long overdue. For those who don't know, Speak Life is clear evidence that Sev Statik is a dope emcee.

While Sev represents both major crews, this is definitely a Tunnel Rat project. Most of the production is handled by Rat beat genius Dert. From the very beginning, it seems that the formula for this record's success is solid beats. The album gets going very quickly with an electric guitar that flirts with a techno beat on "All For A Purpose." The party tracks, like "Rock of Ages" and "Warning," are hype but somewhat uncharacteristic of Dert. Tunnel Rat production continues to develop and expand from album to album. Dert toys with all different kinds of samples on Speak Life. Catchy guitar riffs are used in "I Apologize" and "MIC," a Latin influenced jam with mainstream potential. An almost overpowering string sample is used for the LPG collab "Global." Other beat submissions are made by Peace 586 with the downbeat "Medicinal Purposes," and David Santos who contributes two brilliantly elaborate samples in "Disappear" and "Invisible Bars." Finally, DJ Cheapshot of Linkin Park: Reanimation fame drops a East Coast underground head-nodder with "Close" and an upbeat, catchy number "Over the Influence." The beats on Speak Life are worth definite notice and serve as Sev's way in the door to drop some positive and intriguing rhymes.

Sev uses his experience to provide the listener with a variety of song topics. Songs like "All For A Purpose" and "Da Pointman" introduce new listeners to Sev's hip-hop motto, to make his art conscious and soul stirring. "I Apologize" speaks to emcees caught up in the business aspects of hip-hop, while Tunnel Rat tracks "Warning," "Global" and "End Up" express the Rats' confidence in their future success. "Seasons of a Tear" contains fascinating imagery and heartfelt expressions of what moves an emcee to tears, personally and professionally. This track features female emcees Zane and Elsie in a strong collaboration. While the other Tunnel Rat emcees represent well on Speak Life, the sharpest lyrical material comes from Sev himself. The title track is a deep and inspiring song with piercing lyrics delivered over layered piano and keyboard samples. Sev humbly reveals what is going on in his world as he tries to grow. He also has some hard things to say about the current president. "Since 9-11, he's gotten a new job / Instead of a war on corruption / He picks a fight with Islam." "And how about that red, white and blue / took prayer out of the schools / but Bush has no problem saying God bless you / He must take us for fools." The excellently produced "Now" deals with three topics: a teenage girl struggling with self-image, a young man whose proposal to his girlfriend is rejected, and a particular view of the September 11 tragedy. The chorus brings the message that yesterday is gone and we as people only have the power to affect our future. Finally, "Over The Influence" provides a witty message to those who indulge in drugs to find their creativity. Sev comments, "I don't believe that lie that it frees your mind / more like freezes your mind I don't smoke dope / I stay dope and smoke emcees to get high."

While the Tunnel Rat projects continue to get stronger and stronger, this album has some unfortunate weaknesses. It is a big disappointment that there wasn't more Deepspace 5 involvement on this record. There was the potential for him to include both crews but aside from a guest performance from the Listener, Speak Life is very one-sided. Also, a few of the hooks need work. Sev is not a commercial cat, so there is no expectation of hook heavy tracks that are going to land him on MTV. He does succeed on a few tracks ("Da Pointman," "Invisible Bars"), leaves some for his TR brothers to perform ("Seasons of A Tear," "Now," "End Up") and struggles on others. "Close," "I Apologize" and "Global" should have been sent back to the lab for some tightening up.

Chalk another one up for Uprok and the Tunnel Rats. The beats excel on this record, drawing the listener in for a meaningful ride. The lyrics are thoughtful and well developed, continuing to prove that the Christian underground is housing some emcees that are set to do some serious damage in this industry.
- Jon Corbin
December 2002
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