A hard-charging drumbeat and a chilling melody greet us at the onset of the political hip-hop track “Road To Damascus,” and within an instant of their appearance, we start to feel like we’re in the center of the audience at a Chris Waters performance this spring. While Waters is recording this powerful and emotionally provocative jam from inside the comforts of a studio, his energy is more akin to what one might expect to come in contact with in a live performance given in front of a roaring crowd ready for quality hip-hop music once again. The OG influence is strong from the start, but make no mistakes about this one – “Road To Damascus” is precisely what its title would imply it to be on the contemporary level.
The white-hot groove in this single is one of the more alluring components of the track, but it’s not unsupported by a flurry of unfeeling lyrics, either. A disturbing trend I’ve been coming across in the hip-hop genre lately has revolved around the notion that verses should come second to the presence of a dynamic melody or a beat, but I like that Waters is being a little old-fashioned with this piece and lending equal weight to his words and music the same. There’s something special about having a well-rounded, full-bodied approach to songwriting and execution within the studio and everywhere your music is performed, and if rap continues on the path it’s on right now, players like this one are going to be a rarity for certain. The message here deserves the backing it gets, which is something I felt from the first time I read the lyrics forward.
Waters’ use of tone to convey his emotion in “Road To Damascus” is nothing new for the genre he’s chosen to uphold so emphatically, but it seems a little more defined in this single than it has in his scene’s last couple of one-off releases. He’s not as shy about digging into the tempo to find a place for his voice to shape the meaning behind the music, and when he gets to the sweet spot, he extends the catharsis it contains as much as he can. His is an aggressive strain of hip-hop that I want to hear more of on both ends of the spectrum, and with the hype his new music is getting right now, I just might get my wish sooner than later.
“Road To Damascus” concludes the same way it starts; with a hint of panache and a lingering sense of danger and somberness that begins and ends with the presence of Chris Waters alone. Waters’ scene has been growing for the better part of the last five years, but in “Road To Damascus,” I think he’s truly sounding ready for the next level of fame that comes with cultivating a signature sound – far above what his peers are producing at the moment, I might add. He’s loose but focused, familiar but unafraid of experimentation, which all adds up to good things for the hip-hop music faithful who follow his career.