Minister Kai Brown
I Don’t Look Like What I’ve Been Thru
Independent (release date: March 11, 2023)
By Robert M. Marovich
Minister Kai Brown is no newcomer to gospel music. After having sung with his family during the 1980s and 1990s, he cut his first solo album, an R&B project, in 1995. He switched back to gospel soon after and has been singing and recording sacred music since 1998.
Musically, Brown’s new album, I Don’t Look Like What I’ve Been Thru, pulls liberally on his R&B experience, while the lyric content offers messages of praise and thanksgiving, encouragement, healing, salvation, and a heartrending testimony about his children’s health scares (“I Know A Healer”).
I Don’t Look Like What I’ve Been Thru is also a family affair, with featured vocals and raps from various Browns, presumably parents, siblings, and children. Tracks like “Praiseworthy” and “God Has Been Good to Me,” the latter featuring a rap interlude from William Brown III, have an electronic smooth jazz underpinning. “God Is Not Pleased,” which spotlights Alyche’ and Alicia Brown, riffs on Matthew 18:6. The lovely and gentle “Yahwey” is an ideal praise team selection and, it turns out, the album’s finest moment.
The title track and single, released at the end of last year, is a ballad that expresses gratitude to God for delivering us through trials and not looking the worse for wear. Opening with
2 Chronicles 7:14, “Heal Our Land” is a forthright acknowledgement that we humans have made a mess of the world, what with all the bigotry and disease, but we still come, humbly, to seek forgiveness and healing. Hearing the younger Browns on the chorus puts a fine point on what our mess could mean for future generations without God’s healing hand to fix it.
All of the songs are radio-sized and have a certain sonic similarity, though the pillowy soul of “Just Passing Thru,” which contains a vocal assist from Ronald Coaxum and quotes from Psalms 23 and 84, stands out. The album would have benefitted from a final mix that brought the lead vocal further to the front so it is as sonorous as some of the rap sections.
While the singing is sometimes strained and less confident, I Don’t Look Like What I’ve Been Thru is nevertheless earnest and genuine, with messages wrapped in Biblical wisdom.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “Just Passing Thru,” “Yahwey”