Review: SOJA – Strength To Survive

Review: SOJA – Strength To Survive

SOJA – Strength To Survive
Track Listing:
1.) Mentality
2.) Strength To Survive
3.) Everything Changes
4.) Don’t Worry
5.) Tell Me
6.)It’s Not Too Late
7.) Gone Today
8.) Let You Go
9.) Not Done Yet
10.) Slow Down
11.) Be With Me Now
12.) When We Were Younger

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: January 31st, 2012
Record Label: ATO Records
Official Website: SOJA’s Website

Group Background:
Shortly after Jacob Hemphill had returned to the United States from Africa, the roots of SOJA sprouted. In Washington D.C., Bassist Bobby Lee and Singer Jacob Hemphill became friends going into the first grade, finding in common their mutual loves for hip hop and reggae. Throughout their middle and high school days the two transformed their love for music, even performing at middle school talent shows. By the end of high school, Hemphill, Lee, Ryan Berty (drums), Kenneth Brownell (percussion) and Patrick O’Shea (keyboards) were performing at local venues and gigs, and the dream began snowballing. They made it their goal to hit the road after the last of them graduated. In 2012, the group is headlining major venues across the globe, fifteen countries to be exact.

In just the past few years, SOJA has sold over 150,000 albums. The now seven-piece is in the midst of unveiling of their fourth studio album Strength To Survive in 2012, their first for ATO Records. ATO Records was co-founded by Dave Matthews and features artists such as 311, Umphrey’s McGee, Primus, and My Morning Jacket. It was produced by John Alagia, whom has also produced records for Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, and SOJA’s summer tour-mates O.A.R. Strength To Survive was heavily inspired by Bob Marley’s Survival; “The greatest album ever made.”, according to lead singer Jacob Hemphill.

Album Review:
Of all the upper echelon reggae bands hailing from The US, SOJA has one of the most loyal, persistently-growing fan bases in modern reggae music. As political unrest, war, and poverty spanned the globe in Bob Marley’s time, we have found the world in a similar spot in the new millennium. Then came SOJA with a universal message of love, hope, and faith, proclaimed through reggae music . With Strength to Survive, SOJA builds towards one overruling theme of world unity.

Strength To Survive is a SOJA’s best display of musical finesse yet. The ever-so-present horn section, the skanking on the numerous guitars and keys, and most importantly how well the numerous individual harmonies integrate collectively. One of those harmonies is the voice and mind of Jacob Hemphill. Sometimes raspy, other times smooth to the note; exclusive enough to SOJA that any reggae fan could recognize it.

After the album ran through my mind a few times I eventually caught myself reverting to the title track Strength To Survive. Multiple guitars, keyboards, a heavy bassline,and plenty of dubtastic effects accommodate the voice and universal mentality of Jacob Hemphill. His point is that it is amazing that our world is still intact; that as earthly citizens need to look at the bigger picture rather than selfishly. Hemphill sings “Does the dollar really matter when the whole world’s gone?”

This is why SOJA has found an international die-hard fan base. In addition to remaining true to an organic style of musicianship, they have not given in pop-culture mindset. Rather, they promote the underlying importance of values in our lives; happiness, humanity, and the future of our world. Another song, “It’s Not too Late” is another favorite of mine. Partially due to the punch the bass line packs, but Hemphill also sings that everyone is involved with this whole living-on-earth thing together and it is not too late to transform our global mentalities.

“Be With Me Now” hits another subject on the universal radar; love. The song kicks in with the keyboards and guitar skanking around each other, met with the voice of Hemphill who expresses his love to another in first-person. In “Let You Go”, SOJA paired a relatively somber subject with a positively upbeat melody. Rather than emphasizing the joys love brings, the song catches Hemphill begging his former love to come back to him.

Strength To Survive is surely a successful revisit to the music and voices of legendary reggae and roots idols, such as Mr. Robert Marley. It is apparent that the seven instrumentalists played a part in the making of Strength To Survive, and in terms of musical complexity are some of the most creative artists in the industry.

Written & Reviewed by: Matt Emodi

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer, expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, not the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]

“Strength To Survive” music video