Local, Chicago based hip hop artists Alert312, recently released a new album, Of Vice and Virtue, and it's another album from the Humble Beast label worth thoughtfully listening to. This is an exciting, creative, and "deep" thinking album that emphasizes our existence in a fallen world as fallen people in need of Redemption. Start listening to the album below, and read my brief interview with Boogalu.
Tell us about this new album, and how it's different from your previous releases.
"Of Vice & Virtue" is "tribal street funk." How you like that for a genre? Moral One and I grew up in one of the most diverse pockets in the world - Chicago's Northeast Side. So musically, we went back to the roots with this one and forged a unique sound that is true who we are - raised in ethnic families and neighborhoods but surrounded with good ole' boom bap Hip Hop. What makes this different from our past albums (from 2 previous bands and the Red Opus .45 EP) is that it finally clicked! "It" being our sound! Live musicianship, content driven writing, analogue affinities, and ethnic percussion make what we love and is unique to us as Hip Hop artists. This album brings all that together - something we have searched for for many years to make happen.
Does this album have a unifying message throughout?
Definitely. There are songs that focus on "Vice" and others that primarily focus on "Virtue." I'm using those terms to represent the human tension between the evil that we experience outside of us as and within our own hearts, and the good that every human naturally has written on their hearts but cannot follow. Because of sin, no one can be completely virtuous person.
We use terms like"Vice and Virtue" because language has become too dumbed down. "Good and bad" do not explore the depth of evil or the beauty of virtue. We spilt the record in these two basic ideas to tease out the need in humanity for a "new identity." One that is right with God's virtuous standard. Songs like "Dragon Bragging," "Ceasar," "Babble," and "Damn" explore themes of human depravity, man's bent toward power and pride, and yes - man's deserving destination of hell and God's wrath.
Then we get to the Good News - "Invisible Man", "Life's Wonderful" and the capstone of "Supreme" explore the beautiful core trait of Gospel proclamation: Man can be saved from God's wrath and his own sin and be given the perfectly virtuous identity of Jesus Christ for all eternity by saving faith in Him.
There are more personal tracks as well like "Jaime," which speak to my father's example of Christ and "Kill the Elephants" that is a burning call for reformation in the body of Christ.
The album opener sums up the album though:
Vice Versa, Either way you are who you are. No curtains. Lay it out bare. Truth will hurt ya. Virtue or Vice either way you are who you are. No curtains. Lay it out bare. Let it hurt ya. [In order to] Rework your very person.
Redemption starts when we admit we have eternal need.
Alright, you mentioned the song, "Damn." I know some will raise an eyebrow (or a complaint). Why don't you talk about that song.
It's pure unadulterated satire. For any theology (of which recently and historically there have been many) to underwrite God's declaration of his wrath, the place of hell, and the need for the forgiveness of sin - yes, sin - is pure arrogance - of which you can even see in our daily language ("Damn you. Damn this. Go to hell" Etc…) As my pastor, Pastor Steve Laughlin would say, don't gut the Gospel. The Good News is and always has been "good" because it provides an amazing answer of grace and mercy to the bad news. I knew this might fluff feathers. It's a song for the mature. Please listen to the pastoral excerpt at the end to gain perspective…and look up the definition of satire if you want context.
Overall, I just ask the listener to think with the music and enjoy our latest humble offering.
Your heart clearly breaks, not just for the world, but for your city and neighborhood. Can you tell us about that, and what your hope is for the city?
Growing up in a setting like Chicago, you experience much of the spectrum of human need. On a daily basis, Alert312 hears heart breaking tragedy as well as cinematic type "hope stories." Our music is inspired by day to day ministry in our city. It's not fabricated to make it in any industry or please any listener. That being said, we feel the only hope for our city is the power of Christ and making disciples of his throughout our neighborhoods. Chicago is a hot bed for media because of its never ending gun violence, yet we remain confident that the only hope for lives is supernatural change - meaning one by one hearts being turned from vicious ones to being transformed to "hearts of flesh" - ones that are inhabited by God's Holy Spirit. When this happens, lives affect other lives with Gospel power. At the end of the end, our heart breaks for our city's condition, yet our hope is in the age old Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
What role does hip hop play in speaking the truth into the lives of others?
Hip Hop is a medium to deliver truth - to teach it boldly, unashamedly, with musical accompaniment to accentuate the meaning of the reality being spoken off. I like to teach and preach on tracks - for the most part this is why I continue to write. Hip Hop still plays the role it did since its conception in New York - to be a bold poetic medium to speak truth - much like the psalms.
You can download Of Vice and Virtue for free at the Humble Beast website. Go get it.