Morray: Street Sermons album review

For North Carolina rapper Morray, music is an audible beacon of light. He started singing in church at the age of four and took to rap years later after briefly moving from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Being kicked out of school for fighting took him to the streets and ultimately to the comfort of music. His first recorded song was a birthday message to his wife on Facebook in 2014, which turned out to be his gateway to a serious music career. After six years of development, his voice had become a precise instrument, with the power of a gospel singer and the melodic finesse of a rapper.

On his first project Street sermons, this voice is complemented by a story that is both personal and universal. The debut single from the album “Quicksand” combines Morray’s fast-paced performance with tales of his time on the streets, full of close-quarters shootouts and desperation, and elevates the narrative with trills that break the surface of the hearty production of Hagan and Ant Chamberlin as a shark fin. The ethos of the song – the struggle is real, but it doesn’t have to go on forever – turns out to be a worthy thesis of an artist who started from penning hit singles in his bathroom for co-signs by his compatriot North Carolinian J. Cole. Street sermons is at his best when Morray shines a light on his darkest moments and retraces his glow step by step. And even when he occasionally wades through generic territory, his voice imbues every word with dimension and purpose.

Morray’s cheerful approach to his new fortune is contagious: “Smile, nigga. Take advantage of your bag because your good is good there ”, he recently Told Genie For the record on the intention of the project. At first glance, there isn’t much that separates him from Rod Wave, another crooner whose music blurs the tear-soaked lines between rap and blues. But where Wave’s perspective typically lands on the half-empty glass side, Morray’s point of view is the other way around: the glass isn’t just half-full – he can see the bottle containing his salvation. “Trenches” uses an anecdote about five friends sharing a bottle of booze and a bag of weed to highlight how a strong community can make life in the hood bearable.

When Morray has to leave the comforts of home, it is to provide for his family. In “Reflections,” he sings about buying his daughter a birthday cake using an EBT card during a period of homelessness and remembers trying – and failing – to kill someone for profit. Even when he’s afraid of losing his grip on reality, his willpower drives him to become a bard to his loved ones and to himself. “I was there, I did that, I did that, nigga / I saw so much pain,” he says on the song hook.

Which makes Street sermons Morray’s voice is largely so engaging. It’s a gritty sound that doesn’t feel strained as it jumps from mid to high end with frightening ease. His breathtaking performances on songs like “Kingdom” and “Big Decisions” give equal dimension to the sufferings and triumphs that color his world. It even energizes the handful of songs otherwise rote enamelled throughout the project. Street sermons only stumbles when Morray switches from the personal touch of his best songs to messaging. The hymn “That’s On God” and the puffy chest kisses “Facade” and “Real Ones” feel like the lower parts of a rousing speech by a street deacon. However, when the stories falter, Morray’s voice carries them to the end, with every word being an edict delivered from the top of a mountain.

Morray has expressed concerns about his earlier music sounding too much like Drake and Chris Brown. Although he found a unique and compelling voice on Street sermons, the changes away from his hopeful prospect are pulling the seams of what is otherwise a solid project – especially for a start. Rap in 2021 is no stranger to gloom, which means anyone who turns the tide with positive vibes is only going to stand out more aggressively.


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About Ethel Nester

Ethel Nester

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