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Back of The Billboards: 'ATLast' by Alex Faith

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Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of.

Week of 11/15/2013

WHO: Alex Faith

WHAT: ATLast

SPOT: 193

WHY?: There's a tendency to believe that Christian music doesn't have bite. This applies especially to hip-hop and metal, two genres that have continually delivered at the same volume as their secular contemporaries. 2013 has been a particularly telling year for Christian hip-hop with new albums from Lecrae and former Clipse-member No Malice having released albums both moral and forceful. Add Alex Faith's ATLast to that list.

If you ignore the lyrics and focus only on the flow and beats, this album sounds just as mean as anything released from Atlanta's more gangsta stars. Piano keys over trap-rap rattlesnake cymbals, and Faith's rapid-fire flow give the impression this is typical hip-hop fare, and that seems to be the point. "Light Up" could be an easy pot homage, but it becomes a make-the-world-better anthem. "Pull Up" temporarily befuddles, opening with the line "Every time I pull up" and a few bars on material success, but soon flips face to prove itself a mockery of conformity within the genre.

We wouldn't go as far as to consider ATLast a concept album, but the rapper cleary had a plan with the tracklist, carefully drawing invisible lines between songs on the different halves of the record. "ATFirst" obviously connects to the titular closing track, and "Holding Me Down" previews "Letting Me Go," a song a few tracks down the line.

Christian rap can be a tough sell, but even Faith's most straightforward raps about his personal faith are skillfully executed to deserve recognition, even from nonbelievers.

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