Last weekend Dreamville’s own Spillage Village returned with Spilligion. An eight-person music collective consisting of artists like rappers J.I.D., EarthGang’s duo of Doctor Dot and Johnny Venus, and singers Mereba and 6lack (read as “Black”, not “six-lack”), Spillage Village quietly built a solid discography as J. Cole absorbed much of the spotlight these last few years. Before going on hiatus where each member put out several of their own solo projects, their Bears Like This trilogy gave us fairly enjoyable alternative rap, evolving their message where their previous material felt more like loosely related tracks thrown together, lacking a consistent theme.
“Spilligion” is the collective’s first full length project in years, with Bears Like This Too Much having been released in 2016. Compared to the rest of their discography, Spilligion might take the cake as their most consistently thematic project yet. Through the album’s title and tracklist Spilligion explores themes surrounding spirituality, and this attention shows through much of the album’s composition, often pulling from musical traditions ranging from gospel and soul to blues and folk. On “PsalmSings” much of the song’s runtime is dominated by a choir-style hook and funky acoustic guitar strumming. The piano keys on “Hapi” had a vintage feel that can only be compared to a Wild West film. “Mecca” had a strong reggae influence featuring rattling drums and horns that roared throughout the song.
The album’s roughly 40-minute runtime is packed with cameos from many artists, including Chance the Rapper and Dreamville labelmate Ari Lennox. In an album packed with strong lyricists and crooners, Mereba delivers a standout performance. Whether it be spitting a brief 16 bars on “End of Daze” or harmonizing on “Hapi”, she managed to steal the show on every song she collaborated. Because of SV’s size, it can at times feel overcrowded, with some of the songs feeling like posse cuts. Despite that, each artist had enough space to breathe and bust their musical chops.
The thruline of the album is the theme of spirituality and the role it plays in our lives. Spillage Village delivers various lyrical nods to religious sentiments, like community. Johnny Venus dropped a compelling second verse on “Ea’alah (Family)” expressing a pessimism informed by the government’s lackluster response to the pandemic while simultaneously expressing a yearning for community. On “End of Daze” that pessimism reaches its peak, from J.I.D. on his verse commenting on civil unrest and wealth inequality, to Doctor Dot and Jordan Bryant evoking apocalyptic visions. The song encapsulates the “doomer” culture that’s recently sprung up as climate change becomes more prevalent in public discourse.
The album’s eagerness to draw from many musical traditions gives it a level of accessibility for fans not really into genres like Alternative Rap and Trap. An aspect amplified by their compelling songwriting that muses on the human experience. Overall “Spilligion” is a very good album worth checking out and is one of the better rap albums released this year.