What's In a Name?

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 18:34

album promo image for What's In a Name?

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com

Throughout a career that's now spanned six studio CDs, John Reuben's always ascended the artistic ladder with incredibly contagious break beats, rhythms and rhymes, alongside envelope-pushing lyrics. Though grounded in faith, the singer/songwriter/rapper has an undeniably street savvy appeal. The same can be said of the brand new, provocatively titled Sex, Drugs and Self-Control (Gotee), which is arguably his most ambitious to date on all fronts.

It's all in a name
Let's start with the title. It begins with two taboos, especially in the Christian rock/rap scene, followed by a qualifier to put it all in perspective. Even so, it's gotten people talking, which in the world of hip-hop, is the ultimate way to stir up pre-release chatter. Granted, Reuben's glad to have the attention, but he probably would've received a substantial amount anyway considering his ten-year career is amongst one of the genre's most enduring.

"When I first came up with the title, I wasn't trying to be controversial," he unveils. "There was no agenda other than thinking it was a good and fitting title for the album. However, I think that we tend to forget how controversial Jesus' message to Christians was and is. He wasn't scared to talk about the 'provocative' issues in life. A lot of the record is about being a believer and trying to find your identity in the music scene. I used 'sex, drugs and self-control' in one of the lines of my songs and I found it fitting for the album."

Of course, that theme about breaking through typical Christian comfort zones and simply lightening up from time to time is apparent throughout the album. Some of the most colorful, quirky and inevitably catchy tunes include "Radio Makes You Lonely," "Paranoid Schizophrenic Apocalyptic Whisper Kitten" and "So Sexy For All the Right Reasons." But what about the muse behind the personal moments in his message?

"That's a tough question to answer because it's really hard to break down where inspiration comes from," he confesses. "I'm guessing it would be everything going on
in your life, from the music you're listening to, to what's happening in your home, to the people you meet in your day-to-day interactions. Good times, bad times, etc. My relationship with God, along with its ups and downs, is always at the core of my writing."

Unconventional release cycle
Though the street date is stamped "December 22, 2009" for Reuben's latest ruminations, buzz has actually been building all fall beyond just the phrasing behind Sex, Drugs and Self-Control. For starters, four video and single bundles were released to digital download outlets, while YouTube was crawling with the clips in the rapper's very own channel (www.youtube.com/johnnyreubonic).

"You do your best to adapt, realizing that things are going to change," Reuben relates of the strategy. "I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit lost in the way people are now taking in music. I still prefer going to the store and buying a physical album with well-thought-out packaging. [In terms of the early digital singles], it was good to just get some new material out. We put a lot into the videos so hopefully they'll get out there for even more for people to see. The verdict's still out on whether or not it was a good idea to put it all out there before the record dropped."

Regardless of how Reuben's old-school personal tastes merged with this unconventional method of generating attention turn out in the long run, Sex, Drugs and Self-Control is poised to be the first faith-based blockbuster of 2010. And even if younger fans turn towards the internet to consume the tunes (either as a full package or in individual segments), it won't change this artist's ability to connect with crowds of various faith persuasions on a grand scale.

"I try to write the best songs I can," he credits to the longevity thus far. "I try to act my age and be honest with where I'm at in life and I try to genuinely care about the people who support my music."


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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