Amid the chaos and confusion that this year has brought, Spillage Village has dropped an outspoken album where rap meets gospel. “Spilligion” delivers a chillingly perceptive commentary on the various issues happening in the United States. If you haven’t heard of the Atlanta-based rap group, this won’t be the last time you’ll see their name.
The latest release from the group, produced by J. Cole’s Dreamville label, is sure to withstand the test of time. The album is an experimental collection of clever lyrics and insightful verses that speaks on racism, police brutality, wealth and, of course, religion. After listening to “Spilligion,” you’ll find yourself reflecting on the profound lyrics as you reach to play the songs again.
While Spillage Village originally started in 2010 with members from EarthGang, Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot, the group has grown to include JID, Hollywood JB, Jurdan Bryant, Mereba and others. The album has features from notable rappers like 6lack and Chance the Rapper, both of whom add a signature flow to their respective songs. After signing with Dreamville Records in 2017, the popularity of the group has been on the rise. Their fourth studio album, “Spilligion,” is their most recent work of art and is slowly but surely gaining the recognition it deserves.
The album is cleverly titled “Spilligion,” implying that this is Spillage Village’s take on religion. Each song is titled with a different god, holy land or biblical figure. With names like “Mecca,” “Shiva,” “Judas” and “Cupid,” the album is a promising reflection on how individuals may turn toward religion to cope with this year’s events.
The album not only explores different faiths like Hinduism, Catholicism, Islam and Christianity, but it also spans a variety of sounds and genres. Besides R&B and rap, the 12-song tracklist includes gospel singing, acoustic instrumental breaks and pop-inspired beats.
One of the most famous and lyrically ingenious songs on “Spilligion” is titled “Baptize.” Along with a catchy beat, each member featured on the track takes their turn rapping lines that, when woven together, perfectly capture the state of our nation over the last nine months. I’ve admittedly played this song on repeat until I learned every word. The shrewd lyrics coupled with the memorable chorus might be why this song is one of the most popular on the album.
In one verse, Johnny Venus raps, “Police, they beat me, we storm the same streets/ We storm the same block, won’t stop ’til we free/ … Fightin’ for my freedom … ain’t no more askin’.” The rapper makes a clear stand on his views on police brutality. After thousands of protests broke out following the death of George Floyd in May, the social justice movement motivated millions more to continue working toward ending systemic racism.
The fight for racial equality is a noticeable theme throughout “Spilligion.” The rest of “Baptize” alludes to biblical figures and stories, like the Garden of Eden, Moses and David and Goliath, while including snarky lyrics that point out the many disparities happening in our country.
The ingenuity of each carefully curated lyric is unmatched. Each artist brings their own creativity to the table, showcasing a colorful mix of voices on every track. The collaboration of so many artists works well because the verses lyrically relate to one another, and the sound of each rapper is distinct but adds to the overall masterpiece of each song. While the most memorable verses come from the original members of the group, the features from 6lack, Chance the Rapper and others also make the songs worth listening to.
Spillage Village takes an innovative approach to deciphering moral righteousness, and it jumps at every opportunity to challenge the conventions of religiosity. In the song, “Ea’alah,” JID harmonically begins the song with, “I pray for my family/ I pray about money/ … I pray about peace.” Though this chorus perfectly encompasses what individuals are thinking about every day, the song goes on to describe the harder events that most people are still processing.
Many listeners may be seeking an album that resembles normalcy; however, “Spilligion” delivers the exact opposite. Instead, “Spilligion” encourages its listeners to think about privilege and how they’ve benefited from it in the past year.
In his verse on “Ea’alah,” Johnny Venus laments, “See we’ve been wrestling with this nasty plague/ that’s kinda like the flu/ I ain’t a doctor, I don’t know, but I know rich folks dyin’ too/ And I know they gon’ get their treatment first when that shit gets approved, and that’s some BS.”
Instead of catering to their audience’s desire for mumble rap or verses about life before a pandemic, Spillage Village chooses to comment on the injustices occurring in different facets of our society. As each rapper takes their turn “speaking to God” on the track, listeners can think about what it means to cope with destruction and uncertainty through practicing religion.
One of the more fun and retro-inspired songs, titled “Cupid,” is an Outkast-style love song dedicated to the romantic interests of the rappers in the group. The soulful beat mixed with expressive rap lyrics makes this song a brief but very sweet reprieve from the other lyrically vehement numbers. Preceded by the intimate and more lo-fi song, “Oshun,” the two tracks provide a feel-good moment that takes a break from the heavier topics discussed on the album.
Despite the few good things that have happened this year, 2020 has been painstakingly long and full of bizarre twists and turns. From forest fires taking over the West Coast to a stressful presidential election, some individuals have begun wondering if we are experiencing events leading up to the end times. Spillage Village incorporates worries surrounding the rapture in several songs on “Spilligion.”
The 10th song on the album, “End of Daze,” has each rapper remarking on how they will live their lives differently if we really are experiencing the apocalypse. While the idea might be a little far-fetched, the message of the song still holds true: Live life to the fullest and tell your family you love them while you still can. This song adds a larger sense of meaning to the album, and this sentiment is universally encouraged in every theology.
Whether you practice religion or not, the messages in “Spilligion” are undeniably worth meditating on. Lyrics about racism, police brutality, the pandemic and inequality are brought to listeners through a gospel meets R&B medley of genius. This album is a tour de force that will have even the most cynical individuals bobbing their heads along to the songs.