It has been four years since Jackie Hill Perry has blessed us with a full-length studio album and the wait was worth it. Jackie is a true wordsmith. Few in the world of hip-hop can match her verbal dexterity. Being a world-class poet has empowered Jackie to communicate deep and thoughtful content in a way that will make any serious listener reflect.
Jackie’s lyrical content is not for those who want fast food raps. It’s for those who come to art seeking substance that will lead and guide them to truth. With her new sophomore album, “Crescendo,” Jackie delivers confrontational and transparent content that challenges and empathizes. For the listening heart that longs for the artist to be a herald of the One who can ultimately satisfy us, Jackie delivers.
On the opening track, “Lamentations,” Jackie is raw with transparency and her desperate need for the Lord in the midst of seeing her own brokenness:
“It’s rudiments to fight
“But I don’t feel like it
I don’t feel righteous
I know I’m whiter than snow
But I don’t feel pious
I feel Pilate
Trading Saviors for Barrabas
Trading places with Seraphims
Satan made into terrorists”
Jackie’s honest lyrics are a balm to the souls of those who can relate. The amazing thing to me is that her lyrics can almost read like a Psalm – especially in this context of lament. I believe the Church lacks a healthy theology of lament. Both this song and the biblical book can push us to not only see our own weakness and failures (meeting them with lament and brokenness) but we can also have hope in the One who came to bind up the brokenhearted (Isa. 61:1).
Again, being transparent in “Mustard Seed,” she says:
“Finally somebody told me I was a fool for being honest
They probably never knew how hard it was to move in bondage
They probably never seen the conscience when it went to college
And got more knowledge of some doctrine while remaining godless
I know more than I live most times
Women looking up to me, I swear I fear those eyes
I feel those lies, they louder than my voice sometimes
They clouding up my joy, I’m fine
This doubt in us ain’t choice, I’m lying
Believe it or not, we tweeting for props
I’m done trying to prove I’m even with God”
This is something we can all relate to, especially those of us who pride ourselves on learning theology. Knowing isn’t the same as living and as my pastor always says: “Theology is for living! If it doesn’t change the way you live then you don’t know as much as you think you do.”
In this song, Jackie highlights the pressure and gravitas of having women look up to her. Leadership in any capacity is a huge responsibility in God’s economy. We can learn from Jackie’s transparency here. Even those you think are spiritual giants have doubts, weaknesses, and brokenness. Let this inspire us all to be more transparent in an effort to be truly known. Fundamentally what we all want is to take off the masks and be fully known, fully loved, and fully accepted.
One thing that Jackie’s supporters appreciate about her is that she is straightforward with the truth. You don’t have to worry about her sugarcoating it in her teaching, poetry, or music. In an era where sugarcoating the truth is tempting, her boldness is refreshing. In the title track of the album, “Crescendo,” Jackie uses her exceptional storytelling ability to communicate truth in a way that’s masterful and creative. We hear another example of this as she addresses someone who has fallen away from the faith on “Fall Away” alongside the dynamic vocals of Ms. Natalie Lauren.
She also collaborates with our classic CHH legends in her track “Hymn” where Ambassador, Shai Linne, Da Truth, and Braille boasts about the amazing power and magnificence of Jesus and his ability to save. Truth reigns on Jackie’s project in more ways than one and she communicates it with depth, clarity, and conviction.
Jackie’s project is compelling because she seamlessly relates truth that is thoroughly self-reflective. This is a refreshing project because the artist is transparent and reflective of her own struggles, hardships, and sins. When the artists we love communicate in such a powerful way, it forces us to reflect on ourselves, thus allowing us to see our own brokenness and need for our Savior.
A crescendo is defined as a progressive increase in force or intensity in music. But this can also be a grand metaphor for how God sovereignly works in our lives.
Jackie said on Twitter that: “A Crescendo must start somewhere. It usually begins in the place where everything feels quiet. But follow a Crescendo to its highest point and you’ll find that even at your lowest, you were going somewhere higher. After all, at the bottom, the only way to go is up.”