Nate Robinson better known to some as theBeatbreaker, quietly dropped his newest album “Heard Not Seen II” on July 29th. This album is the follow up project “Heard Not Seen” which was released in 2015. While the former album was made from music from years prior, this current album uses more of Robinson’s more current music and emotions that he is feeling. For those who have listened to the previous project you will note some familiar returning faces on the album and some new faces as well. Let’s dive into this album and see why Nate Robinson prefers to be heard and not seen.
The album starts off with “theReason” and the first thing you hear is a scripture reading about doing everything for the Lord whether you eat or drink or in all that you do (1 Corinthians 10:23). Next we have some very epic sounding music, a buildup of sorts and we hear Vanessa Hill sing about spending her whole life looking for the meaning and reason for being alive, and enduring the fight over her soul. You hear drums that sound as if they are sending Vanessa off to war as she sings about allegiances needing to be made between good and evil. You hear a haunted sort of singing in the back drop and the drums come in as Vanessa still ponders the reason for being alive. Given that scripture at the beginning answers this, the answer has already been given but Nate creates music giving Vanessa the room to explore this question lyrically. At around the four minute mark we hear a woman start doing some spoken word, whether it’s Vanessa Hill or not isn’t very clear but she ends by saying “the bottom.” All of a sudden very different music starts playing and we hear a woman speaker talk about the School to Prison pipeline and suddenly we are in song number two “theBottom” featuring Derek Minor and Lecrae. This music is very dark and gritty which serves as the perfect soundscape for Lecrae and Derek Minor to spit about coming from the bottom, whether the bottom of the slave ship or from an urban ghetto, they came up and plan to win no matter what. This track served as the first single from the album and to answer the question of if Lecrae would be on this album as he was noticeably absent from the first project (it was intentional).
The album then transitions into “theHope (Ghetto Heaven)” featuring Alex Faith and James O’Neal. This track just oozes soul which you can hear from the funky twang of the guitar and the horns. James croons about asking if there is a ghetto Heaven and maybe he belongs there because he’s been working past eleven to make the ghetto streets his home. James’ voice just adds another level of soul to this track. Alex spits two great verses about living life in the ghetto and about having hope of living in Heaven with Jesus Christ. Alex then reads a passage of Scripture of when Jesus spoke about having many mansions and preparing a place for his followers. This seems to tie into the song as the hope of one day living with Jesus provides the strength to make it through one’s everyday life. The track then breathes for a little bit and O’Neal croons a little bridge/outro singing “my home” repeatedly as the track fades. For those who don’t know, Nate was born on the Southside of Houston in the state of Texas. His love for the city shines through on the album and always on the tracks about Houston such as “theH (We Made it) featuring Corey Paul, Dre Murray, and Coby. The track starts with someone speaking the oft used chopped and screwed voice about Houston city life and taking what the city taught him and using it to become a better man. The emcees speak about Houston from their vantage points and marveling at how God has allowed them to survive such an environment. This sentiment is echoed from a lady’s voice echoing how Houston used to be and how is she even here and it’s crazy but she made it. This track is even more soulful than “theHope” and musically Robinson pulls out all the stops with “Southside” being chopped and screwed and repeated throughout the entire song. “H town til I’m in the ground” the love for Houston is so real. Next is “theMusic” featuring Texas native Shy Speaks who laments about how easy it has become to be an artist, over some very ominous and smooth music crafted by theBeatbreaker. Shy has some heavy bars including the last bar of her first verse “If I was just rapping for the paper I would call it Origami!” The hook has a man’s voice saying that everyone is an artist now and then a woman sings about how no one cares about the music anymore. Shy Speaks talks about how the digital age of music has created lazy artists and a lack of appreciation for musicianship. She closes this verse with another hay-maker “These catchy choruses got us dancing over the dead and clapping over corpses!” Shy definitely knows how to end a verse.
Sho Baraka and Chantae Cann follow in the same vein of the previous song speaking about music made from the heart on “theHeartbeat.” Robinson gave these artist some very airy music to articulate their views on as Sho rapped and Chantae sang. Sho said “give the drummer some”, an ode to what James Brown would say as he gave the drummer some space to just show out. This is ironic because this whole album is theBeatbreaker’s chance to show out and say what he needs to say musically. Song number seven “theLove (Instrumental) sounds reminiscent of a late night at a jazz lounge or club as we listen to a brief spoken word piece about what love is and isn’t. The music then rides for a minute and then spoken word picks back up talking about the true love that can be found in Jesus. Vanessa Hill and Misunderstood are the artists on “theOdds” gliding over some very lush instrumentation laid down by theBeatbreaker. This song speaks about betting it all on God and following Him no matter what it looks and feels like. The album closes out with “theVibe” feat Chantae Cann and “theSea” featuring Lizi Bailey. Chantae sings about wanting nothing but good vibes in her life and to live life to the fullest over some very chill vibe music. Lizi closes out the album sings about finding her way and navigating through the sea of life. This music sounds very solemn as piano keys and violin strings paint a canvas of emotion accompanied by drums. The music sounds as if Lizi is about to set sail and leave some loved ones behind and she doesn’t know where she is going, but she promises to return. This is a very fitting closing song for the album.
In conclusion, Nate Robinson has crafted an album that captures his thoughts and feelings and presents them to the listener to digest. This soulful and emotional music along with the content each artist spoke about will not easily be forgotten. It’s amzing how Robinson was able to create such a masterpiece and still be so behind the scenes with it all. To upcoming artists I would say to not worry so much about being seen as you are with being heard. As is the example of this album, some of the best things are seen not heard.