5 Sparrows for 2 Cents
he Procussions have been moving. A few years ago, they were an unknown hip-hop group in Colorado Springs, CO. They put out their strong debut, ...As Iron Sharpens Iron, and not enough people listened. I thought the Christian backpacker routine they did at the time wasn’t marketable, but apparently those with the right ears have heard, because now the trio is set to bring Rawkus back to life. For the new disc, 5 Sparrows for 2 Cents, the group's kept the spiritual (but restrained) attitude, but re-vamped the production from throwback to throwdown, lessening the jazz influences in favor of a harder sound. Everything is more reckless this time out, and the more the group veers toward chaos, the better they sound.
Even so, the Procussions know that life is a struggle in the midst of chaos, and they want to help the members of their community move with purpose, even if that means staying still. First single "The Storm" announces it: "My people, you hear the rain coming? / You gonna stand fast or just keep running?" The three MCs spin the track's metaphor around until you can't be sure if the battles take place over progressive politics, vapid pop culture, or the warfare of Ephesians. The group's approach could be boiled down to one line: "Rebel music for my people who've been swimming upstream." As Iron suggested conflict with its title, but 5 Sparrows is part of conflict.
Fortunately, the trio know enough to keep the party alive. "The Storm" precedes "Rain Dance," an electro-influenced number meant solely to shoot down inhibitions and turn the dancers loose. Stro's production builds around a simple 808 riff, using drums to bounce around the groove as Mr. J. Medeiros periodically screams at us through the track. The group uses the same sort of juxtaposition later when they place "Track 10" right before "Little People." The former mocks the vacuity of pop music ("this is the track where we rap about this, about that, and material crap") before indulging in more playful childishness and even nap resistance. Just as it seems like the kids are in charge, the Procussions deliver "Little People," encouraging you to dance until you catch lyrics about the cause and effects of child abuse and negligence.
Know this: dancing is an important way to combat evil. If it sounds silly, dance harder.
The driving "For the Camera" takes on the pursuit of stardom and our culture's fascination with the visual (with its resultant objectification of young girls). Even in the middle of the discussion, the Procussions use the object of their critique for some clever wordplay: "Folks are chasing stars while they throw away their wonder years / It's savage." The humor doesn't detract from the message—we "turn our women into mannequins"—or the solution (knowing "you're beautiful without the camera on").
I might be getting a little heavy, but the Procussions have important things to say, and they aren't slowing down. The youth prostitution track "American Fado" (I said it wasn't getting lighter) even brings on Renee Altson, the author of the abuse memoir Stumbling Toward Faith, when "there were no more prayers." Down low enough? Then just skip ahead to the emotional lift-off of "Mars." Forget it all and focus on the flute and the wah-guitar and do that little boogie you save for when you're home alone.
The Procussions have a religion and they have some messages, but they don't proselytize and they don't sermonize—they lay out narrative instead of instruction. They want to party and they want to scream and they want you to fight and they want you to get down and get lifted. They're going off in whatever directions their needs lead them, making 5 Sparrows a complex and engaging work. And those directions have the added benefit of being able to keep you moving.