Music is a wonderful thing. Songs and albums contain memories, certain notes sweep us up in nostalgia, with thoughts of a simpler time. For me personally, a lot of my favorite memories are in the early 2010s, along with albums that meant a lot to me. One such album recently hit its ten year anniversary, Sho Baraka’s ‘Lions & Liars.’
This album is a certified classic, made an impact in the CHH world, and is lauded as Sho Baraka’s best album to date. However, before we get into the impact this album had on the culture, I’d like to talk about the impact it had on me personally. The day the album dropped was March 30, 2010, on a Tuesday and I was driving around the city of Clarksville, Indiana trying to purchase a copy. A month or so ago, I didn’t ever think I would be out actively looking for a Sho Baraka album. I was late to the Reach Records movement, I jumped on around 2009. Of course I started with Lecrae, made my way through the roster, but the absolute last artist that I listened to was Sho Baraka. I used to judge whether or not I would buy an album based on the thirty second snippets available on iTunes, and Sho’s ‘Turn My Life Up’ failed to impress me. That all changed when I stumbled across Sho’s single “We Can Be More” on Youtube. I don’t know if it was the official audio or a knockoff, but it grabbed my attention and I kept replaying the song(I don’t even know if there was a loop option on YouTube back then).
That song did something to me, it made me look forward to finding love. Now mind you, I was 22 in college, living at home with my parents, with no prospects, and was working a fast food job. Yet and still, this song and later the music video, opened my mind to possibility of finding love with a woman who loved the Lord. The song “Shut Us Down” featuring Lecrae, also had me excited for the upcoming album ‘Lions & Liars.’ I had heard that single on an episode of “The Wade-O Radio Show” downloaded onto my iPod Nano.
At long last the album dropped and I was riding around trying to find it. I went to two stores without luck, and finally found a copy(the last one) at the Family Christian Bookstore. Looking back, I probably should have went there first, but hindsight is indeed 20/20. I had gone back and copped Reach albums before, but this was the first one I copped the day it dropped, and this set a standard for me in terms of seeking to purchase albums the day they released.
This project was on repeat and I even went so far as to purchase the music video “We Can Be More” from iTunes(remember when we used to do that?). This album spoke to me and did so many things. I got my first taste of poetry in CHH(I wrote my first poem in 2008), was introduced to Propaganda, and I became a fan of Sho Baraka. I would go on to follow Sho to the Lions and Liars Podcast, Forth District, and almost everywhere else he went. I’ve bought all of his solo albums(only thing I haven’t done is seen him perform live) and probably will be a lifetime fan, all because of ‘Lions & Liars.’
Obviously, this album affected more than just myself, it impacted the entire sub-genre of Christian Hip Hop in my opinion. Sho took a lot of creative risks and he talked about content that definitely ruffled feathers during that time. I submit that Sho Baraka wrote one of the first if not the best love songs that was actually a love song. I’m sure people wrote about their wives and courtship, but nobody was writing a song celebrating love without sounding like teaching. The song “We Can Be More” became an anthem for love and was used in weddings(I was a groomsman in a wedding that played this song during the reception) and spawned two dope remixes(one with all women and another with all men). After the album dropped, a lot of albums started to have at least one real love song on them. I think Sho influenced the culture and let us know we can celebrate love in a real way without trying to over spiritualize the content.
Sho Baraka not only influenced CHH with that one song but the content of his entire project as well. Go back and listen to what Sho was talking about then and look at some of the issues we are dealing with now. Sho was ahead of his time in addressing Black identity in the church and masculinity as a Black man, along with many other things. The things Sho was ostracized for doing back in 2010 are the exact things others get celebrated and championed for in 2020.
In conclusion, Sho Baraka’s ‘Lions &Liars’ album is a classic and was released during a time it was sorely needed. This project gave us a glimpse of the man that Sho Baraka would become. When you look at the growth from ‘Turn My Life Up’ to ‘Lions &Liars,’ you would almost swear they were two different people. There is so much I didn’t talk about with this album, but if you want to hear more I suggest checking out the newest episode of The Sho Baraka Show, where Sho interviews people he collaborated with on ‘Lions & Liars’ and asks their thoughts about working with him and what the album means to them. The first part of these interviews are up, and there are some good things discussed as well as facts most of us didn’t know about the album. The artist known as Sho Baraka created a dope project and I just wanted to honor what he brought to the culture ten years ago with ‘Lions & Liars.’ Happy ten year anniversary and I can’t wait to see what Sho blesses us with next.