If I could use one word to describe "No Dope On Sundays," it would be faith.
If I could use one word to describe No Dope On Sundays, it would be faith. Hailing from Georgia’s Stone Mountain community, the same Atlanta suburb that brought us Donald Glover, CyHi The Prynce made a memorable introduction when he snuck onto Kanye West’s “So Appalled.” His songwriting abilities went on to earn him respect within industry halls and record studios; in fact, Cy has writing credits on 9 out of 10 tracks on Yeezus. Yet ever since his clever wordplay and raspy flow graced My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, CyHi the Prynce has spent the last seven years in debut album hell.
Fast forward to 2015, where CyHi was released from Def Jam and offered a career-saving opportunity from Sony, who decided to put their faith in one of the best writers in the industry. The long-awaited debut from Cy features Kanye West, Pusha T, Jagged Edge, 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, Estelle, BJ the Chicago Kid and others, and the Prynce fuses gospel and trap to create one of the best rap albums of the year.
Although faith is the ongoing motif throughout No Dope On Sundays, it never gets too preachy. In the wake of Christian rapper Lecrae’s success, the lines between gospel and secular music have been unintentionally blurred. Rappers have often held true to their religious roots, as constant battles of good and evil play out daily in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods that birthed them. Recently, gospel and rap have fused into becoming more than mere Jesus pieces and insightful Bible verses disguised as catchy hooks. Instead of taking the Chance the Rapper route, Cyhi decides to keep it hood. At no point did I feel like the content was attempting to convert me like an exasperating Jehovah’s Witness. In fact, it made me feel the opposite. As the album played through, I dug deeper into the meaning behind Cy’s words.
No Dope On Sundays opens with “Amen,” a lyrical onslaught that sets the tone for the entire album. There are so many metaphors and punchlines on "Amen", it seems as if Cy had a chip on his shoulder while crafting this record. His faith intertwines with the hood that raised him, and his flow fluctuates between peaceful and distraught over the head knocking percussion. “Moving Around” featuring Schoolboy Q features an auto-tuned chorus that feels out of place at first, but as the song matures it begins to make sense. Cy’s slithering flows meld perfectly over the ambient instrumental, and Q does what he does best: delivers vivid pictures of hood life.
“Nu Africa” highlights another ongoing theme throughout No Dope On Sundays: Black pride. The afro-centric single finds Cy on his Chuck D tip, rhyming about black empowerment and returning to the motherland, as a sinister piano riff, a kazoo sounding synth, and a jazzy vibraphone combine to form a powerful yet catchy anthem. “Dat Side” featuring Kanye West employs an instrumental that sounds like melting piano keys, and Yeezy delivers one of those verses that makes you grimace in both respect and disgust. “Pulled a Lambo out and then I went and got it baptized/ Moved into a neighborhood where I’m the only black guy,” spits the G.O.O.D. music creator, a clever matrimony of religion, race relations, and braggadocio.
Usually, auto-tuned laced love songs get the “next” button from me, but “Looking For Love” is a surprisingly enjoyable ballad, bolstered by the addition of an immaculately placed sample. Another pleasant surprise is the Jagged Edge assisted, “Don’t Know Why,” which samples Tupac’s “Pain” (originally an Earl Klugh sample). At first, when I saw Jagged Edge, I assumed a depressing break-up to make-up song was about to play; like the sample from whence it came, pain is the emotion on display here. Cy and Jagged Edge contemplate the future of the Black community in the wake of the rising racial tensions, onset by increased police brutality and continued systemic oppression. It was refreshing and enlightening to hear a rapper employ a legendary R&B group to create a modern-day equivalent of “What’s Goin’ On.”
Overall, CyHi the Prynce delivers an engaging and powerful debut album. He finds a way to display his faith, paint stories of his hood, and rally for Black power without ever sounding preachy or overzealous; if Malcolm X had a rapping descendant, Cy would be him. Equally menacing and welcoming, raspy and smooth, CyHi the Prynce proves to the world that he will not be another rapper doomed to watch his debut sit on a dusty shelf, waiting in limbo for a release. He broke through his own struggles and crafted an album that deserves your attention. No Dope On Sundays may be one of the best rap albums of the year.