by Sam Robinson
‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ – Proverbs 1:7.
This gem of a verse, alongside many others in the Bible, highlights our need to fear God. God is our creator, he is our God and redeemer. To fear him is true wisdom. But isn’t fear a bad thing?
This is the question that Philadelphia Humble Beast artist Eshon Burgundy explores on his third album, The Fear of God. The hip-hop artist has crafted a theological thesis to music, opening up about his own sin, insecurities, and the universal fall that means that we don’t fear God as we were created to. Across thirteen tracks, Eshon challenges us to consider the way we treat God – does he reign supreme, or do his created things get higher place?
The centrepiece of this album is Fear of the Lord (Interlude) – a spoken word track featuring Shai Lynne. It helps to clear up exactly what the fear of God is: ‘To fear the Lord is to stand in awe before the reality of God… In this sin-infected world we live in, the fear of the Lord is the exception, not the rule.’ Using Romans 3, and the book of Isaiah, the gospel is explained, and quite powerfully. This track lands in the middle of a landscape full of emotional highs and lows, all of which humble the listener. I was certainly challenged by this record, more than any other in a long time.
Winding back to the beginning however, opener The Fear of God is built on a hypnotic and repetitive piano motif. There’s a real sense of sadness and reflection in the poetry here, as Eshon asks the question, ‘How could we not dare reserve fear of God alone?’ The Health (ft. Je-Kob) drips with deep bass and a clubby beat. Again, more sadness soaks through as Eshon reflects on his shortcomings: ‘My sin keep coming back around like the chorus’. Eshon is building the problem here: rejecting God is sin, and living this way is not fearing him as we should.
But the solution to our sin is raised on Blood Money, a full-sounding soul jam built upon a scratchy retro record. Eshon proclaims, ‘My life no longer mine, it belongs to the one who paid for it.’ Jesus bought us at a price, and that price was his blood. It’s rich theology laid over a tight beat, and Eshon sounds as good as, if not better than, any other hip-hop artist in the game.
Higher Learning (ft. Uncle Reece) is a bouncy number, full of uplifting piano chords and handclaps. It’s one of the standout songs on the record, and teases at the end when you feel like it’s going to take off to another level.
Control Issues is a track to strut to, despite being quite haunting in sound and content, as it discusses the lure of sin and worldly power. A perspective of a stubborn unbeliever is shared on Respect, Power & $ (ft. John Gives), which Eshon reveals is actually how he used to be. The stark contrast here is that while many hip-hop tracks would be about the love for respect, power, and money, here Eshon describes them as snares and traps.
Following the interlude, other standout tracks include Sand Castles (ft. Sean Johnson), which is based on a hacked sample, and producer Daniel Steele has made it sound great. Sean Johnson brings his smooth vocals and harmonies, and expands the picture of what happens when we reject God – we build castles out of sand, which clearly is a useless activity. Eshon opens up again on Good Grief (ft. Liz Vice), this time sharing what goes on in his mind. The message that Jesus is all we need is communicated clearly.
Retro Sonday (ft. Braille) is a seriously cool track, which talks about Jesus and the need for him to return and fix the mess that our sin has made in this fallen world. The album closes on A Close Distance (ft. Lee Green) – a full-sounding song with a slow, dirty grind. Eshon uses the final moments of the album to fill out the gospel story, saying that God is so good that he would give us another chance in Jesus. Musically, the track walks this really blurred line between heavy and joyful sounds, and the words throw up a lot of things to chew on.
The Fear of God is an excellent album, and one to listen to with a humble heart. The production is tight, the lyrics deep, and scripture is the foundation. Make sure you get this record and consider the place of God in your life, ready to root out the idols that steal his throne.
I’m giving Eshon Burgundy’s The Fear of God four stars.
The Fear of God by Eshon Burgundy is available now as a free download at Humble Beast. You can also support Eshon’s ministry by purchasing it on iTunes. Keep an eye out for our chat with Eshon about the album in the coming weeks.