New York Renaissance – the Album Review
(Written by Keisha L. Clarke)
Salvation Cafe Records
The day is Wednesday April 27th, 2011 and I’m sitting here praying doors open immediately for my beloved former coworkers. As we are all being affected by this recession, those we encounter definitely leave an imprint on our hearts. All of this comes to mind as I remember Karega “Rigz” Carrington, a musical mastermind who is ironically a former coworker. Although we have not known each other long, Rigz has become a great friend to me in a short amount of time. As we have been blessed in crossing paths, I have been led to highlight his music in this write-up as I trust that God has a lot of work for him to do. I recently had the opportunity to listen to his yet-to-be released album New York Renaissance and was definitely blown away! If any of you have heard the Royal Order Mixtape or Hell’s Paradise by Wit & Dre Murray, you’re familiar with his work. Both an emcee and producer, listeners can definitely attest that Karega “Rigz” Carrington has an extraordinary gift. With that said, I have no doubt that his ministry will lead to extraordinary things. This fact is so undeniable that I couldn’t even approach his review in a conventional way. I say this because his approach to ministry in the form of Hip-hop is anything but conventional. Born to West Indian parents, Rigz will admittedly tell you that he was not a Hip-Hop fan from birth. More specifically, he didn’t fall in love with this genre until the 90’s. As this is the case, he decided to produce an album that creatively conveys his love for this era in Hip-Hop history along with his love for Christ. In other words, he’s speaking life as he speaks from his heart. But don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at his words as well. In a conversation initially shared off the record, Rigz and I were able to discuss both of our views regarding his music. As this conversation took place, I knew I had to share it with all of you. Of course I added a few questions once I realized what God was doing, but the meat of this interview was definitely unexpected. And so, here for all to view is my recent impromptu interview with the undercover genius, otherwise known as Karega “Rigz” Carrington. In our conversation, we are discussing specific songs from New York Renaissance, an album you need to look out for! And now for the interview.
KLC: Hey Rigz. Before we start, I just want to thank you again for asking me to review your music. I knew I’d be a fan even before I heard your latest work, but when I actually heard it, my prediction was confirmed! Now tell me, when did you realize you had an ear for music or an ability to write? Was it before the 90’s or during? I know you said you weren’t into Hip-Hop before then, but were you experimenting with Reggae or Soca? Or any other genre prior to Hip-Hop?
My father was a deejay so I was always exposed to music. My earliest memories involved reggae, calypso, or Sade records being played in the background. I loved it and still do to this day. As far as hip-hop is concerned, I started getting into it around 1990. I was into Kid-n-Play; Naughty by Nature, Special Ed, A tribe Called Quest, Masta Ace, Brand Nubian, Black Moon, and I can go on for ages. It’s funny because these days you’ll be lucky to get 5 artists that I like out of me. Anyway, I only started writing back in 1996, which was pretty late in the 90’s. It was mainly because in those days it was cool to be a fan. I enjoyed being a fan and had no desire to make music myself because there were more than enough choices out there for me to consume. I’ve always been a fast learner with anything that I do, so when it came to rhyming, I caught on so fast that people thought I was writing for years. I was a battle rapper and my metaphors and punch lines were far ahead of what most people were coming up with. But it’s just the way my mind works. My extreme creativity got me in trouble a few times but that’s another interview.
KLC: Ahhh ok! And who would you say have been your inspirations? Not only in music, but in your walk as a man of God as well.
As far as music goes, my inspiration has been Sade, Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson and nearly every hip-hop artist/group from ’90-’98. As a man of God the first influence that comes to mind is my father. There aren’t too many people that have good things to say about their fathers, but I’m blessed to be an exception. His moral, attitude, perseverance, and overall example shaped me to who I am today. And I’m still learning from him. I love that dude so much. His story is a deep one, but the short version is that he was shot and paralyzed from the waist down when I was 1 year old. I’m the only child he will ever have. He gave his life to the Lord some years later and he refused to let his disability stifle his life. He is now married, was in the paper for achieving his education in a wheelchair, refused to stay on government benefits, has a great federal job, drives a car, travels all over and has more life than most people I know with both legs. And furthermore his faith in Christ is so dedicated in spite of. His focus in Christ is salvation alone and with that he is satisfied. I’m writing a book, which will tell all this in more detail which is also called “New York Renaissance.”
Anyway, he’s ministered to me my whole life and when I eventually recognized Christ, he was ecstatic. And these days I’m breaking things down to HIM in the Word. Besides my father, my influence is the world around me. The good and the bad make the way a much more beautiful thing as I continue to seek the Lord.
KLC: Wow! Well that’s some testimony! Getting back to your love for the 90’s, which artist or group would you say was your favorite and why? Which song on New York Renaissance would you say is your favorite and why?
Wow….um…. Honestly I can’t give you a favorite, which is the beauty of that era… the golden era… It was because I liked so many for different reasons. I like the feeling of not knowing which album to get, because I like ’em all. It may be the beats, the lyrics, the flow, the style, or just the overall vibe. There are so many different flavors. And coincidentally, that’s the way I feel about New York Renaissance. I approached the album being in that vibe and it has the same result to me. I can’t choose a favorite, because I LOVE every song for different reasons. I’m a very picky person when it comes to music. It’s hard to impress me, which is why I had to be convinced that I hit the nail on the head and manufactured a classic.
KLC: If you can say that about your own album, that really says a lot! Well I have a few favorites. For example, “Project Bench” is interesting… The stories you’re telling. I say that because it’s very creative. And I really love “a Beautiful Day.” I realized the melody was from Quincy Jones’ song while I was listening. I don’t know the title and couldn’t put my finger on it before. “I know tomorrow will bring a better you, better me…” That song. The first time I heard you say the chalk was for hopscotch it painted a picture.
I heard the sample before but never the original. I didn’t produce that one. But the messed up part is I got the phone call about my boy being shot in the head right before I recorded it. Oh Lord what irony! I did that song specifically because I usually do a lot of street topics and wanted to get away from that to show people that I’m not one dimensional. And to bring some light vibes. But the reason my content is usually not like that is because the dark stuff is usually my reality. A lot of people wan to glorify it or “Christians stay on the street” topics because they’re attracted to it. When I’m constantly forcing myself to get away from it. It’s crazy.
KLC: I know. This is definitely not an album of glorification in that sense. It’s sort of melancholy, which is another reason the composition is so on point. The vibe of the music you choose with the stories you’re telling. It’s really 90’s in respect to those who were telling the same type of truth. Not to be glorified. But because it was what it was. People who appreciate true music & the art of storytelling, who appreciate legends like Rakim and Slick Rick… will appreciate this album. You mastered their formula. 70’s samples, jazz samples… creativity and the truth. You could have used 90’s samples and did a mix cd. But you did it right. You sampled what the 90’s emcees sampled and then some. It’s CRAZY… in a good way!
Thanks. Yeah that’s the era that made me get into rap. And when I did current rap it was uninspiring to me and I forced music. I was uninterested in my own songs. That’s why I nearly never did the album. Because I boxed myself in without realizing and felt maybe I just don’t care no more. Then I decided whether it ever sees the light of day or not, I want to do something I’ll be proud of. Nothing is worse than being embarrassed by your own work.
KLC: I’ve heard artists say that before! I’m glad you worked things out. And I’m glad you did the album. For real. This album is really… This is real music.
KLC: Ok, I only have one set of questions left. What would you say has been your greatest challenge in pursuing music as a form of ministry? And what words of wisdom would you give to those pursuing ministry in the same way?
Rigz: The greatest challenge in pursuing this is staying true to my lane. When you’re in the Lord you’re a part of a whole body. No man is an island, and only a fool hates correction. Sometimes there are too many opinions from believers on how I should do my music. I’m a person that rarely feels too arrogant to take on everyone’s opinion and after a while I find myself living according to another man’s opinion. Then I spend energy getting back to my true self without becoming bitter from being thrown off course. Most times when God gives me a revelation, it’s when I seek to unlearn myself and abstain from most people. Then I get clarity, and that’s how I approach most major decisions i.e.: this album. And that’s what I needed in order to give my best work to date, because I’m confident the Father is pleased although the minority may not understand. A word of wisdom I would give anyone is to find yourself in God. Only then will you be comfortable in your own skin, and not live in inner-torment. Full expression with the counsel of God is so liberating and the yoke of men is removed. The key is having enough of a relationship with Christ to hear the counsel of God without the crutch of opinion.