CF Entertainment (release date: September 12, 2023)

By Robert M. Marovich

“I hope you all ready for this one.”

That’s how Elohin (pronounced EL-oh-in) introduces his album, El3vate. And it’s no idle threat, because the Detroit-based Christian rapper (aka Lon Harris) has a great deal to say. In a battering-ram delivery, he mixes social commentary with spiritual messages. The batch of bite-sized selections features incisive rhymes, understated but insistent beats, and a haunting atmospheric backdrop.

The album’s main theme is reaching higher levels of humanness. As if to hammer home the point, “Bloodline” opens with a snippet of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,’s “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington. Afterward, Elohin presents a litany of cities, nations, and continents that need to hear King’s message.

The album’s highlight is “Ghetto Blues,” a slice of brutal realism that opens with dramatic strings and keys. As an example of the plight of underserved neighborhoods, Elohin raps about one man who “a few people told him to pull hisself up from his bootstraps / he ain’t got boots / tell him what he’s supposed to do with that.” The point is to not let your upbringing define who you are or who you want to be.

Elohin is critical of politicians on both the left and right because words don’t matter; action does. And on “Safe Space,” he criticizes capitalism at its most hypocritical, when people wave money at us “just to flatter us.” The point is reminiscent of The Undisputed Truth’s 1971 single, “Smiling Faces Sometimes.” And as for those who seek to be media influencers, he recommends that “peace of mind is more glamorous.”

On “God is God,” Elohin decries society’s embrace of self-importance, reminding listeners that just because we are made in the image of God doesn’t mean we are God. “Love yourself but don’t put yourself on a pedestal. . .God is on the throne; the rest of us are beneath it.”

The album ends aptly with the melodic, rhythmic, and compelling “Up,” a hopeful track featuring Xay Hill about the journey to a new life through salvation. He had to “unlearn everything that’s been programmed,” Elohin rhymes, and now he “no longer carr[ies] dead weight like a pall bearer.”

El3vate is incisive and sparse, leaving the listener feeling the heavy weight of the message. Most of the electronic techniques work, though the use of auto-tune seems unnecessary and anachronistic.

“I’m staying hungry,” Elohin raps, “‘til I reach perfection.” So far so good.

Four of Five Stars

Pick: “Ghetto Blues”

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.