Cyhi lost his major label deal two years ago, presumably because he wasn’t able to produce an album as big as Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, on which Cyhi made an appearance that got him everybody’s attention. Labels fought over him, and tried to fit him into their neat little A&R boxes. For seven years. It took that long to get a debut.
And it was worth waiting for.
“No Dope on Sundays” is the kind of record where you have to constantly stop and rewind, because the depth and complexity of his lyrics is relentless, constant, and rapid fire. It’s not that he talks fast—he’s got a steady delivery—it’s just that every song is so rich, so dense and full of ideas. After a terrific intro track that is all-meat and no filler, we get the title cut, begging God to stop the dealers from selling on the Holy day. Pusha T shows up and spits pure fire over nothing more than an acoustic piano. Yeah, he’s a Christian rapper, but this isn’t Christian rap. But it’s got Pusha instead of No Malice. No foul language, but hard as hell. “Never gangbanged but I can call ‘em if I need to, my homies was crippin’ so hard, all they eat is seafood…” He knows the streets, he’s been raised on them, but they didn’t turn him into something he didn’t want to be.
He even manages to sing a “back to Africa” song that doesn’t make me, as a white listener, feel defensive or isolated. And he does it brilliantly: First, by focusing on how blacks can progress by supporting their own businesses—instead of how the evil empire keeps them down, he proposes a solution, and he clearly feels love for his people much more than hate for his foes. And second, he does it through humor. It’s a truly laugh-out-loud funny cut, in which he begs Oprah to build more schools and Michael Jordan to buy everyone shoes.
He’s also able to pull off what most rappers can’t: Love songs that are truly loving, no front, no facade. Cyhi is a sensitive, self-aware man, who can be mature without sounding silly or soft. Quite a feat, in the rap world. Even Jay-Z has trouble doing that and didn’t really succeed until much later in his career.
With guest shots by Schoolboy Q (on the advance single, “Movin’ Around”), 2 Chainz, Estelle, Travis Scott, and, of course, Kanye West, this is an album you really don’t want to miss.