by Sam Robinson
Suffering. Pain. Hardship. Sin. Trials.
Pressing play on Tedashii’s latest album Below Paradise enters you into a world of hard realities. The album has been described as Tedashii’s journal now made public; personal reflections on the loss of his infant son in early 2013.
Below Paradise isn’t solely fixed on this tragedy, it’s also a study of the world that we live in. A world tainted by sin. A world where injustices happen on a daily basis. This earth is not paradise. It’s so far from paradise.
It would be a great crime to dismiss Below Paradise due to the heavy nature of the content. Tedashii spills his heart on this release so that his listeners might enter into his experience of life below paradise, and be better equipped to deal with suffering of their own or that of their friends. Listen carefully through the rawness and you’ll find great glimmers of hope peppered all the way through the fourteen tracks (seventeen on the deluxe edition).
I found it a great joy that despite his struggles, Tedashii acknowledges that God is in control of all things, and will one day send his Son to bring an end to this imperfect world for good. Which, particularly after hearing the anguish on this record, and as we’re told in Scripture, it is right to desire.
The album opens with the title track, packed with a slow grind, and we’re hit with a complication. This world isn’t perfect. Moving into the second track Perfect (ft. Kam Parker), our sin is brought into the equation too. We aren’t perfect either.
Lead single Dark Days, Darker Nights (ft. Britt Nicole) transports us into the hard struggles and confusion of Tedashii’s loss. He cries, ‘Feeling so lost, I don’t know where I’m at.’ Britt Nicole is perfect on the hook. Nothing I Can’t Do (ft. Trip Lee & Lecrae) is filled with strong production and heavy beats and confirms how far this world is from paradise. Despite our utter helplessness though, we find hope in the resurrection power of Jesus: ‘The same power that saved me can raise me from the dead.’
Tedashii gets real about his sin on Catch Me If You Can (ft. Andy Mineo). He relates his own experience back to the fall in Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve struggle with the aftermath of their rebellion against their creator: ‘Hiding in the bushes, I don’t want to get caught.’ The song takes flight right towards the end.
The pop feels are cranked to Justin Timberlake levels on Paradise (ft. Tauren Wells). Tedashii spits out rhymes on Fire Away and asks ‘Why me?’ before realising that trusting in God’s sovereignty is most important. Perhaps the highlight of Below Paradise for me is Angels & Demons (ft. Crowder). Listening carefully to the words will reveal allusions to Job’s experience of suffering in the Bible – where Satan tests Job and the words of his friends don’t help the situation.
The final stretch of the album is filled with gems. My God is certainly a track to crank with your car windows wound right down. Complicated (ft. Christon Gray) is synth heavy and a statement about the confusion and troubling nature of suffering.
Album closer Chase (ft. Tim Halperin) is one of the most moving tracks I’ve heard in a long time. Compared to the rest of Below Paradise, this track is stark. No beats. Just Tedashii, a piano, some strings, and Tim Halperin on the hook. It’s a song written by Tedashii to his late son. I first heard this track while doing the washing up one day, and I had to stop and sit down for a while. This is heavy stuff, but all the while just beautiful.
I know there’s never been a day that He didn’t love me
Even now it’s hard to see, but He’s there above me.
And every time I think about it, I know you’re with him.
So I’ll keep holding on til I see you again.
It’s a stunning end to what is in many ways a very dark, but even more uplifting, album. Packed with guests upon guests, it challenges us to be chasing and trusting in God and his sovereignty as we live our lives below paradise.
I recently caught up with Tedashii to talk Below Paradise, and here’s what he said when I asked him about how the album explores different doctrines and themes, paired with his own story:
It’s a reflection on the fall, the result of the fall, and then it’s my… not of a real heavy punch or blow, more of a light jab at the fact that a lot of people are unaware of, or they discount altogether, the result of the fall. In life, day to day. A lot of people will say life is hard, and then try to somehow bring a happy ending to it by saying ‘But it’s all good.’ We don’t have any way to specify what that all-goodness is, but we just say that. We just say, ‘Well, it’s tough out here, but it’ll get better.’ When you look at Scripture and you look at the fall, none of that is promised until Jesus. And even in Christ, there’s still hardships – whether you look at Peter and his talks of persecution, or Paul and his lists of things he went through from being shipwrecked to being starving, to imprisonment – life can be difficult. And I think it’s just a subtle look at our ability to dismiss that.
Buy this album. Enjoy the tight production and top-notch rap. But most of all let the words sink deep. This is Tedashii wearing his heart on his sleeve and glorifying his Lord Jesus in the process. I thank God for this album. I’m giving it four-and-a-half stars.