Ray Swoope’s “Thou Shall Not Kill” is an undeniable classic. The Chicago rapper has released his full length album with heavy hitting features such as Sonny Blanco, Kcirrem KSO, and Tony Stanza with some eclectic production by Lord Hakim. This 18 track project is full bodied, bloody, beautiful and bold. As we travel through the streets of Chicago with Ray, it’s clear he is an artist marred with pain, triumph and glory. The narrative is rich with topics, each song building off the last and exploring its own theme. We learn the law of the land, the codes you do, and do not break in the game of life. We learn the unspoken law of respect and the dangers of disrespect.
From the street to the sanctuary, these creeds tie into what we as an American society have been raised with. We are taught not to steal, we are taught to not slander, but Ray argues justifications must be made upon application in real life. Justifications must be made in the REALEST life, which is life in the Southside of Chicago where no bad deed goes unpunished. Ray’s theology asks what are the commandments for the dealer simply trying to feed his family, what are rules of killing if you yourself fear being killed. His ecclesiastical lens transfers the point of blame from the sinner to the syndicate. In other words, don’t condemn the player, condemn the game.
“Though Shall Not Kill” is full of pithy aphorisms and aggrieved anecdotes. It is a pre-cautionary tale and makes a case for modern theology all in one. Ray Swoope has clearly spent his 10,000 hours in the game. His skillful bars and masterful rhyme scheme is one that cannot be replicated. His style has been formed through years of repetition and evolution. This album breathes life into the inflated world of street rap and pays homage to its inspirations and founding fathers. This album is definitely one of my favorites to come out of 2020 and will stay in rotation for years to come.