Favorite Track: "Jupiter (with Mereba & JID feat. EARTHGANG, Jurdan Bryant, Hollywood JB, & Benji.)"
Least Favorite Track: "Oshun (with EARTHGANG & 6LACK feat. Jurdan Bryant)"
Few modern hip hop collectives possess the sheer musical prowess that is present in that of the Atlanta based group Spillage Village. Originating in 2010, Spillage Village was founded by the respective members of EARTHGANG as well as the Atlanta based JID. With a lineup featuring the likes of 6LACK, Mereba, and Benji, just to name a few, it’s easy to see that this collective has its hands on some of the most exciting young names alive within the alternative hip hop sphere. Their previous mixtapes included features from associated acts such as Bas and J. Cole, most of which panned out effectively; moments like “Can’t Call It” from their 2016 tape come to mind. In more ways than one it seems like their back catalog has only led up to this moment; mixtapes that have culminated into a group identity waiting for a revelation. The majority of the lineup seems to be coasting off of recent successes that have brought their names more consistently in the limelight. Revenge of the Dreamers III, DiCaprio 2, Mirrorland, and East Atlanta Love Letter, are just a few of the releases from the last few years that have kept people talking about Spillage Village. Despite this growing notoriety of many Spillage members being the case, their major label debut, Spilligion, seems to be consistently missing something and is easily less than the sum of its parts.
Spilligion is extremely underwritten. Many of the ideas presented on this LP are more than ambitious enough on paper, yet in practice Spillage never truly pushes anything far enough to develop into a moment worth remembering. The skeleton of this album is an interesting experiment: a rag-tag group of Atlanta rappers tackling a conscious gospel hip hop album. However, Spilligion constantly feels as if it’s missing something. On many hip hop collective projects with such long lists of contributors like Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III, it always seems to become difficult to associate what you’re hearing with a face or a name. Whether you are familiar with the voice you are hearing or not, too many cooks will spoil the broth. With each new tone you lose connection with the last. Personally as I listened to Spilligion, I began to feel less and less like I was hearing a verse from JID, Johnny Venus, or Mereba, and more like I was hearing the combined consciousness of the sum of the collective parts. Take that as you will, but in this degree of separation Spilligion loses its charm and becomes less personal.
With that being said, the fact that this record plays it safe doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unenjoyable. There are plenty of quality moments to pick through here, they just aren’t fleshed out enough to encourage me to return to them. Singable group vocals seem to be a common theme on Spilligion which adds quite a bit to the record's gospel angle. Most of these heavenly choruses are sweet, and very light on the ears. On “Ea’alah (Family)” JID muscles through one of the best vocal performances of his career thus far, and on “PsalmSing” Mereba helps Spillage transform into a choir. Moments like this one where we see the majority of the lineup spiritually straining vocal cords together just to deliver a simple chorus are fun, they are some of the few where Spillage Village possesses discrete identity. They feel like one big christian family on tracks like “Shiva”, it’s sweet but only interesting on impact.
“Judas” sees Spillage in good company as they perform alongside Chance the Rapper to a deconstructed yet convincing Ray Charles interpolation. Unfortunately like many of the other instrumentals here, this one is hard to come to grips with. It’s just bare enough to lack any true form but somehow still feels clustered. It sounds less like something to rap over and more like what the backstage of a concert hall would sound like if all the members of a big band were tuning up at the same time before a show: It simply needs space. The album's final showing is an oddball, but easily my favorite track here. “Jupiter” has nods to indie-folk but is mostly a full embrace of gospel, most importantly it feels fleshed out. It’s a gospel track, it isn’t a gospel/hip hop/R&B/skit, it feels like an intentional embrace of gospel rather than a nod in it’s direction, especially when you consider it’s endearing acoustic instrumental pallette and spotlit group vocals. It easily serves as Spilligion’s most personal moment.
Every time I get through with a listen of Spilligion it feels much shorter than it really was. The lack of standouts that it offers makes the entire album blend together. The bulk of what this album offers is easy to swallow. It sounds fine as is, it just never really strays too far from where it begins. Spilligion has it’s target in its sights, but seems to be too afraid to commit to shooting it. This timidness is what makes the listen so mundane. Listening to this track list from front to back is about as vanilla as an experience can be. It’s sweet, better than nothing, but it’s not something I would consume on a regular basis.