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Lil’ IROCC Williams
Artist:: Lil’ IROCC Williams
Label: Forefront Records
Length: 17 tracks
At some point we knew it had to happen. In good Christian music fashion, our market had to come out with its own after-the-fact, knee-jerk alternative to the rap tweens that were oh-so-prevalent two years ago, but who are but an item of the past nowadays. Like Lil’ Bow Wow, Lil’ Romeo, Lil’ Wayne, and all the pre-pubescent would-be emcees that saturated pop radio’s airwaves some time ago, Lil’ IROCC’s self-titled debut for Forefront records seeks to do just that, but in the Christian industry. This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t eternalize the notion that Christian music is always behind the times and that everything it produces is contrived, mass-marketed, and has the sole purpose of catering to an imaginary demographic who must be fed with trends and flavors-of-the-month that are parallel and oftentimes deservedly inferior to their secular counterparts.
Before you think I’m jumping the gun, I did sit down and patiently read all the press and facts regarding this lil’ disc, just to not make the ill-advised error of indicting Lil’ IROCC of wrongs and money-making schemes only adults four times his age can conjure up. To my relief, all I could really deduce from his background and partial life story was that he’s just a young aspiring mic-rocker whose only intent is glorify God through his lil’ raps and bring not only kids, but all people, to the realization of His love. That sounds ambitious and a little too all-encompassing, especially since his poppy, Radio Disney-bound entry into CCM is not something I envision older music fans or even K-Love-listening soccer moms jamming to, or even remotely enjoying, not because of the caliber of the music, which is top-notch, but because it just doesn’t feel right.
Don’t get me wrong. The illustrious big-name producers (Incorporated Elements, Todd Collins), writers (Teron Carter, Stacy Jones, KJ-52), and cameos (GRITS, tobyMac, Jason Eskridge) that grace this record did do a fine collaborative effort in endowing this album with the right amounts of sunniness and radio-ready appeal necessary for a top-down drive to the beach or a harmless middle school dance, and rhythmically, its potential to literally blaze the airwaves is evident. But the moment Lil’ IROCC grabs the mic and starts spitting his easygoing rhymes about lunchboxes and playing football with his friends, the smiles and "aww, how cute" sentiments suddenly overwhelm the soul, drastically outweighing the on-point production values and reducing the replayability factor of the album to zero, which ultimately dashes your hopes and forces you to give this album to your niece Suzie or that kid next door with the bike.
A tough decision indeed, since, after all, you did like that one tune with the cool “Jesus Freak” sample (“How We Do It”), and you dug how your boys from GRITS were heavily involved laying down tracks and providing their southern spunk throughout this kid-friendly joint. And let’s be honest: you couldn’t help but chuckle at the action-packed, almost theatrical interludes that bookend the tunes, giving this album a nice flow and a touch of heart-tugging realism those dirty-mouthed Top 40 thugs could afford to use some of. But no! Realistically speaking, adults don’t listen to this, unless they’re pre-teen Sunday school teachers who are desperately trying to be relevant to their students.
In the end, your last-minute resolve was the best gift you could’ve ever given. Yes, the CD undoubtedly costs money and, in all fairness, when you buy music the least you could expect is get your money’s worth. But by exposing the music of Lil’ IROCC to the unsuspicious lil’ Suzie or any of her pint-sized peers, you’re actually contributing to her receiving a good portion of Bible-based songs and encouragement she wouldn’t have otherwise received, maybe planting a seed that will later blossom into a life devoted to Christ, not to mention that you’re providing them with a chance to move from the milk of Jump5 to a different kind of milk, if you get my drift. This, my friend, is what ultimately makes the debut by Lil’ IROCC a justifiable albeit not totally cynic-proof avenue for the right demographic to receive the Gospel. And that’s a commendable thing.
Andree Farias 8/10/2003