By EVAN MIYAWAKI
CyHi the Prynce is one of the most talented lyricists in the game—and he knows it. On Kanye’s 2010 masterpiece “My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy,” CyHi, virtually unknown at the time, stole the limelight on the final verse of “So Appalled,” proclaiming, “If God had an iPod, I’d be on his playlist.” Despite nine mixtapes and a few high-profile features, music industry politics and album delays have prevented CyHi from blowing up like many believed he would. Yet even those not familiar with CyHi have likely heard his skillful pen work, as he is one of the most influential co-writers of the last decade. For years CyHi sat on the bench of G.O.O.D Music’s star-studded roster, crafting clever bars behind the scenes for some of the biggest artists in the game, including labelmates Kanye West, Kid Kudi, Travis Scott, and Pusha T.
Luckily for hip-hop fans, the long wait for a new CyHi project ended Nov. 17 with the release of his debut album, “No Dope on Sundays.” The album spans 15 tracks, featuring a stacked list of guest artists, including Pusha T, School Boy Q, 2 Chainz, Kanye West, Jagged Edges, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Travis Scott. Despite the high-profile features, the album is all about CyHi. From start to finish, the skilled lyricist shows off his ability to write dense, intricate verses, as well as catchy hooks and memorable punchlines. The album also combines a colorful array of beats and flows, preventing the lengthy album from seeming long-winded.
As the title “No Dope on Sundays” suggests, the album is deeply influenced by CyHi’s Christian beliefs. Born and raised in Stone Mountain, Ga., CyHi grew up with strict Baptist parents. His roots within the Southern church are seen clearly throughout the album. CyHi often takes on the role of a preacher, his verses serving as testimony. The album is also interwoven with biblical verses and short interludes by pastor Cortez Harris, stressing the importance of traditional Christian values. However, CyHi’s beliefs are nuanced and reflect his own spirituality within the context of his tough upbringing on the street. For CyHi, selling dope is not something to be ashamed of. Instead, he takes pride in his ability to hustle, getting a customer anything they need from “crack to puppy food.” For CyHi, selling dope is not about self-serving materialistic gain, but rather a means to support one’s family and escape life in the projects. The interconnectedness of street life and spirituality serves as a central crux for the album.
Throughout the album, CyHi keeps listeners on their toes. High-energy bangers with catchy hooks, clever word play, and high-profile features are interspersed with more introspective tracks. On these introspective tracks CyHi shares his fiercely pro-black messages through lyrical storytelling. This message is clearly heard on one of the album’s best songs, “Nu Africa,” which features stunning spoken word by Ernestine Johnson. The song depicts an Afrocentric vision where prominent figures such as Jay Z, Beyoncé, Akon, Oprah, and Michael Jordan work together to create a new black utopia or “new Africa.” This song is the creative pinnacle of the album. CyHi combines his various inflections, wordplay, creative vision, and one of his most dynamic beats to create a memorable listening experience.
For the most part, CyHi provides a consistently great album, but there is still room for improvement. The track “Looking for Love” features uncomfortable-sounding, strained vocals sung by CyHi; his lyrics come off as sappy and lack the depth he achieves on the majority of the album. The instrumentation and lyrical delivery CyHi uses on this track also feels forced and brings to mind a cheap emulation of a Chance the Rapper song. Perhaps most disappointing is the last track on the album, “I’m Fine,” featuring Travis Scott. While the song itself isn’t terrible, it seems to be an overly optimistic and light-hearted ending for an album that tackles serious societal issues.
Ultimately, these criticisms are minor considering the overall strength of the album. For a debut album, “No Dope on Sundays” is an impressively consistent work, wherein CyHi proves that despite years of setbacks, he is one of the best rappers in the game. There is much to applaud about “No Dope on Sundays,” and at the ripe age of 33, the future finally seems bright for CyHi the Prynce.