The Chop Chop: From Milk to Meat
By Jenny Bennett for GospelMusicChannel.com
The Ambassador is a Christian hip-hopper with a lot to say. Why else would his release The Chop Chop: From Milk to Meat include 16 tracks (plus two bonus tracks) full of commentary on some of the heaviest topics in Christianity?
The album's sound it not vastly different than most hip hop. In other words, it will appeal to the average hip hop listener. (Though there are layers in the music that will age like a fine wine, getting better every time you hear it.)
But before analyzing the music itself, it's important to make the distinction that The Ambassador (born William "Duce" Branch) is more than a hip-hop artist who's a Christian. Educated at Philadelphia College of Bible (now Philadelphia Biblical University) and a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Dallas Theological Seminary, where he received a master's in theology, his music places spiritual matters squarely in the center of each song. So if you're looking for totally upbeat, feel-good hip hop, you won't find that here. But if you're hoping to find a great deal of spiritual substance, with tracks like "The Theology of Brokenness," "The Cost," and "Deeper," The Chop Chop is something you can sink your teeth into.
The title alone has several layers to peel back, and Branch devotes a track ("The Chop Chop Defined: Interlude") solely to clarifying its meaning.
"When we say 'chop it up' we mean dialogue, discuss, dissect," he explains. "The Chop Chop Defined" describes the term as an opportunity to "go beyond a concert; get up in the classroom of His grace," and that going from "milk to meat" means maturing spiritually. The Ambassador's bio states: "The Chop Chop calls all hearers to take the meat of God's weighty truth and 'chop it up,' chew it until it becomes a part of you."
"In hip hop today there's an oversimplification and a 'dumbing down' of truth rather than a breaking down of truth," says Branch. "We stay clear of weight, we don't want to tussle. [The album] is a call to make a paradigm shift in hip hop, especially in Christian hip hop, where along with the church universal, local churches would not shrink back from the weight of truth."
The Ambassador does anything but shrink back. This offering is a humble praise & worship album and an examination of scripture, all to hip-hop beats good enough to hold the attention of listeners in any club. That's an invigorating combination. But apparently it doesn't please everyone.
"There's still a contingent of people who hate us for our approach," says The Ambassador's label mate, Da' T.R.U.T.H., who makes a guest appearance on "Love & Grace," an up-tempo, '70s-infused, must-have track. (The album also features guest appearances by Lecrae and Trip Lee as well as production by J.R., Official, Tony Stone, Mac the doulos and T.R.U.-L.I.F.E.) "They don't like the fact that we're so theologically centered. They don't like the fact that we're so Jesus-oriented. Yet still there are many people who are drawn to [the music] from all over the world, because at the end of the day it's the spirit of God bearing witness to the truth of the word, and then as well, to the high-quality music that enhances it."
The Ambassador sums up this complex, multi-layered album simply by saying: "We're on the kick of proclaiming Jesus."
The entire album will definitely add some spiritual depth to your iPod, but if you're looking to download just a few tracks, definitely don't miss "The Opener," "Love & Grace," feat. J.R. and Da' T.R.U.T.H, "Hardcore," "Whatchu Goin' Do?," "The Cost," and of course the title track, "The Chop Chop." Oh, and just for the kids, there's a heartwarming message relayed by Branch's 10-year-old son, Jeremiah, on the bonus track "Glory & Praise." Good to know young ones are growing up strong in the faith.
Vote On Album