Review Date: 01/28/14
Review By: Christopher Johnson
Release Date: 01/28/14
Rating: 5/5

If you are yet to be exposed to Andy Mineo’s music, now is the perfect time.  Andy’s growing library makes its home at Reach Records alongside the music of fellow 116ers Lecrae, Trip Lee, Derek Minor, KB and Tedashii.  Fresh off the wave made by 2013’s full length album Heroes For Sale, the artist formerly known as C-Lite continues his warp speed ascension through the ranks of the hip-hop hierarchy.  The line between CHH and secular rap continues to blur as the quality of music of the former begins to parallel that of the latter, and Mineo and his label mates are a large part of the increased exposure.  Perhaps as evidence of this fact, Andy recently participated in a rap cypher (surrounded by secular artists) on MTV Rap Fix Live and was instantly recognized as one of the standout performers.

Never Land gets going with a track of the same name.  Receiving accompaniment from a mesmerizing chorus from Marz who exclaims “without you I’m drifting low, when you take my hand, with you I’ll never land,”  Mineo navigates his way through the differences between life with and with out God’s embrace.  With his trademark cadence and clever lyricism, Andy points out the silliness of attempting to impress people we don’t even know and running the risk of going broke “trying to look rich.”  As is the case throughout the entire album, “Never Land” displays a meticulous attention to detail.

Paisano’s Wylin” features a guest spot from a rising star in his own right, Social Club artist Marty.  Mineo and Marty take turns delivering whimsical lines that, if nothing else, proves that a Christian artist can be silly and entertaining.  Christianity is often viewed as stodgy and stiff, with its music also being labeled as such, and “Paisano’s Wylin'” is proof that it’s anything but.  “Wylin” will prove to be a successful bridge between 116 fans who have yet to be exposed to the insanity of Social Club’s music, and vice versa.

Within 10 seconds, the forthcoming energy of “You Can’t Stop Me” is made apparent, as the title is belted out.  Shortly thereafter, Mineo states “the only thing I fear is God, and He on my side” and then proceeds to address the fallacy of such roadblocks to his success such as: being that he is white, a Christian, as well as his skill being nothing more than a gimmick.  “You Can’t Stop Me” will be a crowd favorite at concerts for years to come, as the schematics of the track are ripe for participation.  This track will surely be the reference of strength for many a story of people not giving up as well.

Kam Parker brings a R&B flavor to the album on “Rewind.”  Rewind plays as an autobiography of sorts, with Mineo walking the listener through his life’s journey, specifically the introduction of God into it.  Referencing an encounter with fellow emcee The Ambassador, Andy exposes the origin of the accompaniment to his autograph, “represent him well.”  The slowed down track is a great fit for the delivery of the message.

All We Got” features Dimitri McDowell who effortlessly accompanies Mineo throughout the introspective nature of the track.  Maintaining the slowed down nature of the previous track, Andy waxes about the idea of living life with a different feeling surrounding you when “you know you’ve been forgiven.”  Much like a singer often shows range throughout their albums, Mineo takes the opportunity to show that there is more to his skill set than just his trademark speed mode rapping.

Paganini” has Andy sharing the mic with label mate KB, as well as Canon.  The three emcees all deliver mind blowing bars, displaying clever wordplay and insane rapid fire delivery.  As an ode to the derivation of the track’s title, a violin accompanies the lyricists throughout.

Closing out Never Land is “Death of Me.”  Mineo uses “Death of Me” to discuss the conflicting result of popularity.  “My career been growing, but tell me where I’m going if my time with God is depleted (nowhere)” and “My priorities wrong if I talk about you more than if I talk with you” show Andy’s growth and prioritization that can threaten to elude even Christian artists as they grow in popularity.

As of the writing of this review, Andy Mineo’s Never Land currently holds the number 1 spot on the iTunes Top Albums list, and with good reason.  Never Land  joins Mineo’s previous efforts in succeeding where many secular artists fail: delivering high quality, entertaining music that has a message worth listening to.  He also proves to his fellow Christian Hip Hop artists, artificial as that title may be, that it is possible to be entertaining and deliver a message worth listening to, without being the “Christian version of so and so.”

Perhaps both Never Land ‘s biggest detraction, as well as its best selling point, is that it leaves the listener wanting much more.  Never Land takes Andy’s music to the next level and his warp speed ascension through the music world looks like it will Never Land on one particular level.   Never Land is highly deserving of its 5 out of 5 rating and sets the bar extremely high for the rest of 2014’s hip-hop releases.

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