Album Of The Week: Loss Of Religion by Shank Jay
Listening to Shank Jay’s Loss Of Religion isn’t going to bring about your own crisis of faith, but it will certainly reinforce your love of hip-hop and affirm you to the genre’s innate ability to bring about unique clarity, catharsis, and concord to all who listen, something Shank Jay proves time and time again on this record with effortless skill and unavoidable charisma.
Throughout the record, Shank Jay examines his own personal apostasy, joining a long line of musicians who tackled the issue metaphorically (R.E.M.) and candidly (John Lennon) in order to address the struggles and aspirations of their own experience. In doing so, the record travels down a variety of paths as Shank makes sense of his reality and his own beliefs, migrating to foreign ideas of femininity (“welcome to womanhood / or what you thought it was”) and revisiting the more antagonizing spiritual experiences of life (“rich or poor, hate the lord nipping at your heels”).
Helping to drive this lyrical dissemination is Shank Jay’s own skill, but also, more importantly, his dedication and commitment which permeates each track. Here is an ardent performer, stretching and enforcing the bars of each soul to empty his mind and soul of his weighty, conflicting thoughts, and then phrasing, rhyming, and flowing to deliver those thoughts in the most vibrant, direct way possible.
Shank Jay works with a variety of producers on this record — seven in total on the record — and they all provide him the perfect backdrop upon which he unleashes his verbal torrent. On one song, he may be rhyming over top a sultry sax part (“Struggle3”) while the next, he’s getting his bars in between a thumping instrumental track (“Respeck”). Whatever pushes the music behind him though, none of it looms over Shank Jay’s own contribution, offering a sturdy platform for him to perform on that’s flexible but also inconspicuous, much in the same vein as beats from the golden age of hip-hop, something that’s evident from the very start of the record with “Lightweight.
On the closing track, “Spirit World Letter,” a specific section pops out after the record’s 12-track journey. “I worry about the what-ifs / drawing hypotheticals / drawing out juries to testify the untestable.” But by the end of this record, there are no what-ifs to consider, no hypotheticals to draw. Just a dynamic musical orator verbalizing his own identity through impressive patterns and striking cadences. His talent may be untestable, but it’s also undeniable, delivering a gem of a record that exemplifies the banner year Richmond’s hip-hop scene had in 2018, one that’s as diverse as ever and also more potent than the city could have ever hoped for. And with talent like Shank Jay adding more skill and power into the scene, that potency is only going to continue to grow through the coming years.