On May 31, 2011, Reach Records’ own Tedashii released his third retail studio album ’Blacklight’ into the world. At the beginning of the 2010s, all Reach Records albums rated high on the charts. The album reached number 1 on the Christian Albums charts, number 2 on the Gospel Albums chart, number 9 on the Rap albums chart, and made it as high as number 63 on the Billboard 200. When Tedashii made this album, his intention wasn’t to chart but rather address things that he felt were missing in the Christian Hip Hop space. He didn’t hear a lot about the future hope that Christians have in Christ, no real talk about the deeper subjects of the Faith. Tedashii made the scriptures 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 the crux of the entire album. This passage of scripture speaks about fixing our eyes on what is unseen rather than focusing on what we see.
One of the first promotions for the album was a short lyric video of Tedashii rapping the song “Can’t Get With You.” I really had no idea what to expect but I was intrigued. I hadn’t really heard Tedashii rap like that before with that type of cadence, but we’ll get into that later. This album, although it was Tedashii’s third project, didn’t sound like anything I had heard from him before. He started off with “Riot,” which seemed to be the spiritual sequel to his smash anthem “Make War.” This song was not as high energy as “Make War” but it still encouraged the listener to fight against or “Riot” against whatever sin that had them bound. This song was produced by Pro AKA Derek Minor and was well received. The hook’s encouragement to “Start a Riot” still rings true ten years later and sounds as good now as it did back then.
The second song on the project, “Rock A Bye Baby,” spoke to how sin rocks us to to sleep if we let it. This record was produced by Alex Medina and Joesph Prielozny and they had Tedashii spitting over a rock and soul enthused beat. While the church organs crashed and the guitar licks howled, Tedashii was rapping his face off. The soul singer sample in the background was also a nice touched. Tedashii dipped a little into his singing bag on certain portions of the hook and this song still sounds great. This song stayed true to Tedashii’s Texas roots but added in some nice layers to make it stand out. Ten years later and T-Dot is still 2 for 2 on the album so far. The third song and first single to be released from this project was “Need It Daily” featuring Pro and produced by GeeDA. This was definitely an anthem and both emcees spoke about how they as well as the listener need the Gospel of Jesus Christ on a daily basis. Tedashii raps in the chorus, “It’s what’s He used to save me, it’s what he used to keep me/ I need it daily!” This song definitely has methods of hip hop delivery that aren’t as prevalent tens years later. Pro speaks that he’s “Gucci Mane no Waka Flocka Flame,” a hard bar at the time as Waka was at the peak of his popularity and fame. I totally forgot about the chant at the end where Tedashii says that he’s good and he’s “Gucci,” a term many of us used to use to say that we were fine and everything is alright. Man, what a time to be alive.
The fourth song, “Can’t Get With You,” was produced by Pro with some additional production from Joseph Prielozny. When this project first came out, I remember this song was one of my favorites. I remember being astonished and feeling like I actually learned something about Tedashii; I had no idea that his name was of Japanese origin until he rapped, ” I am just a man with a name from Japan.” The beat sounded haunting and I felt like Tedashii was taking me somewhere with his monotone flow that he used for this song. There was no fast flow or anything like that, just a story of how Tedashii left behind his life of sin for something better. I liked this song and it still sounds amazing.
The next three songs take us into a slow and laid back vibe. On “That Will Be The Day,” Tedashii teamed up with singer Jenny Norlin on the Cheesebeats AKA Tha Kracken produced track. This is the first song that speaks about Heaven on the project, which gets us to theme of a blacklight like the album’s title. This song speaks to looking forward to going to Heaven and I remember one of the stand out lines to me was “A Different World, Dwayne Wane you remember?” I remember loving to listen to this song on the ride home for work or whenever I felt discouraged; this song still has the ring of hope to it and that is something that is very much needed in 2021. Looking at the album credits I never realized that not only did Jenny Norlin sing on the song, she played the piano parts for it as well!
Song number six is titled “This Is the Life” featuring L2 and Sho Baraka and was produced by Dion “DFREE” Burroughs. At this time in my life, Sho Baraka was my favorite from Reach and any record he was featured on automatically became one of my favorites on the album. While this song wasn’t my favorite, it was definitely a close second. Both artists talked about the tension of living in a broken world while waiting for the Lord come and take us to where we truly belong. I remember loving the sound of the saxaphone on this and how jazz influenced it was. I always liked Sho’s line, ” If we’re using broken rulers does that mean we’re taking broken measures.” This song was a standout to me and still sounds great and I resonate with it now more than I did back in 2011.
Next is “Last Goodbye” featuring Benjah on the song as well as on the production side of the song as well. When this first came out, I remember not really liking this song, which is strange because I’m a Navy Brat and my father served for 20 years and retired in 2004. Although Tedashii painted vivid pictures in his verses on this song, I don’t think I was able to connect the dots until he released the music video for the song the day after Memorial Day. I think this song hits me even harder because I remember the days of my father being out to see for up to three to six moths out of the year. I remember living on base in 2001 and the day after 9/11 the whole base was on high alert. I was interviewed for my school’s paper and they asked me how I felt about the impending war and what it meant for the children of active military folks like myself. Listening to this song in 2021 reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for. That even though Memorial Day is today, I’m not having to memorialize my father. This is such a powerful song and video. I appreciate Tedashii for deviating from spiritual talk to speak to the emotional needs of others.
After such a weighty run of songs, Tedashii wisely provided a shift in energy and atmosphere with the song “He Lives” featuring FLAME and Jai and was produced by Dion “DFREE” Burroughs. This song is exactly what the title implies: an upbeat banger of a song espousing the fact that Jesus lives. The song has a real triumphant sound and with a killer hook from Jai (remember when she was killing all her features around this time?) and a superb verse from FLAME, this song was guaranteed not to miss. Jesus being alive is one of the key elements that separates Christianity from any other religion in the world; it is something that still needs to be shouted from the rooftops, especially in times like these.
In 2011, I always felt like the songs “Go Until I’m Gone” featuring Thi’sl and produced by Street Symphony and “Get Up” featuring S.O. and produced by Cheesbeats AKA Tha Kracken were very similar. At least too similar to be back to back as they are on the project, but I have no idea what I was thinking. On “Go Until I’m Gone,” both artists talk about how they are here to put in work for The lord until he calls them home. Back then this was part of a formula that many Christian Hip Hop artists utilized; this was the “I’m here to do work for The Lord” track but that doesn’t make it any less effective or good. Thi’sl’s verse stands out to me because he said he was putting in the work for Saint Louis back in 2011 and he’s still doing that same work. These verses have aged very well. On “Get Up,” Tedashii and S.O. encouraged to get up when they fall or get knocked down in the Christian life. This song seems like it would go over well live and both artists really deliver a dope message. The lines from T-Dot, ” You can train physically but still not have strength,” speak to the fact that the fortitude he is talking about is more mental and emotional rather than an emphasis of physical toughness.
Next is the eleventh song and my personal favorite from the project, “Burn This House Down.” I don’t why this song had such a draw to me back in the day, but I loved it so much I made the chorus my text tone for the longest time. Joseph Prielozny and Pro handled the production on this one and it shows. This was another song that had a haunting sound to it but then the guitar come in and takes it to another level. Tedashii talks about burning down a particular house and I believe that he is talking about the need for a new life to live because this current one is too hard to live in. He takes through painful memories. I still love the hook, especially when he says “Burn” in a deep gravelly voice; that could also be a sample but I feel like it was Tedashii but I don’t know. My favorite lines from this song are,” Racial slurs, hateful words, people stand there and laugh at ya/Go back to where? I’m not even from Africa!” This speaks to the ignorance thrown T-dot’s way; he was made fun of for being black but he’s actually from Samoa.
The twelfth song is called “Finally” featuring Shane and Shane and was produced by DJ Official and Joseph Prielozny. I remember that when Tedashii first talked about the project and mentioned this song, he said that it wasn’t going to be anything weird. Shane and Shane is a two man worship band known for their acoustic praise and worship; to combine their sound with the southern influence hip hop styles of Tedashii sounded like an interesting combination indeed. The message of this song is that the issues of today, though they hurt, can’t be compared to the day we “Finally” see The Lord face to face. I always thought this song was a bop and still stand by that statement today.
When I first heard “You Know What It Is” featuring PK and KB and produced by PK, I was really excited. This beat was the instrumental Reach had used in some of their short videos about the concept, message, and process behind the album. Tedashii lets us know what it is with lines like, “I gave Him all control, command shift enter” and “This is more than just music, it’s a movement.” I forgot how hard T-Dot went on this first verse, sheesh! Tedashii gave us another dope verse and then KB came at us with the fast flow he was known for back then. I laughed when I heard him say, “Getting good reception with 3Gs,” because we are in a whole new world ten years later. I almost forgot there was a time when 3Gs was considered the top of the line reception. This is still a solid song.
This may have been the break out song and music video for the album; when “Dum Dum” featuring Lecrae and produced by GeeDA hit the net, things went crazy! This may have been one of Reach’s first music videos aimed at the dance community, and having dancers highlighted didn’t hurt at all. Many dancers have danced to this track over the years and continues to inspire dance videos. I am sure that this song probably went stupid when performed live. Whether folks think living for The Lord or making music for Him is “Dum Dum,” the 116 Clique is determined to let the world know about Him.
As we head into the last two songs of the project, Tedashii slowed it down for us again. “Reverse” features Andy Mineo and was produced by Alex Medina and Joseph Prielozny. This features a great hook from Mineo and you actually hear some words reversed as Mineo sings about the last being first and the first being last. This song is all about living with the end in mind and bleeds almost seamlessly into the final song “Bravo” featuring J. Paul. Cheesebeats AKA Tha Kracken put his foot in the production of this song; this song was meant to inspire the listener to keep pushing forward despite the problems in their lives. Tedashii applauds those who are still pushing forward. The premise of the song can be summed up in his lines on the bridge, “Clap clap bravo, clap clap bravo/ this is for those pushing through the pain and the sorrow. Clap clap bravo, clap clap bravo/ this is for the haters who hate us for who we follow!” This is a great way to end the project.
Ten years later and Tedashii’s ‘Blacklight’ album is still as vibrant and relevant as ever. Tedashii took a lot of creative risks and I believe he was well rewarded. I didn’t realize how often Tedashii talked about Heaven or looking to a future hope back when I first listened to this project. I bumped this project a lot when it first dropped, but it saddens me to know that I’ve misplaced the physical album. I think I let a friend borrow it, but I never got it back. Out of Tedashii’s first three projects, this one was and still is my favorite. This sixteen song project was a little over an hour, back when Reach Records was dropping them long projects. This project didn’t feel long, as it had movement and places of highs and lows. The project was amazing when it released and is still worth listening to ten years later. What were your favorite songs from this album, and when was the last time you listened to it?