I met hip-hop artist Signs (aka Sunny Ade) on a cold Chicago sidewalk, when he handed me his album All I Need and told my wife how beautiful she looks (which is an effective way to get my attention if you want me to listen to your music). The album consists mostly of life-affirming songs that veer into holy hip-hop territory — but with a dose of gritty realism, too. One such example that has grown on me is “Game Light,” which tells the story of “trying to survive the streets just to be a success.” In “Game Light,” Signs addresses pain. The lyrics alternate between asking for God to transcend obstacles and just giving up and maybe checking out permanently — a real struggle with no promise of making it but a resolve to deal with life. And the music just adds to the mood, especially the samples, which combine Isley Brothers style funky keyboards and a killer horn riff a la Isaac Hayes.
According to Signs, the song “Is about inspiration and faith,” but he does not consider the song to be about religion, either.
“This is not a Christian song,” he said to me in an interview conducted over Facebook. “It is simply a song about struggles in life and how we are to constantly maintain ourselves within those struggles by believing because the just shall live by faith and not by the problems they see. ”
“Game Light” is what happens when you catch someone’s ear with music and a story. In this case, the story happens to be spiritual in nature. You can usually tell when an artist sets out to make a statement, whether spiritual, political, or social: too often, you get cringe-worthy crap. Why? Because the artist who focuses on the statement foremost forgets that you have to make compelling art, too.
That’s why it makes total sense for Signs to sing about his spiritual inspirations but also claim that he’s not creating a “Christian song.” And because he puts the songwriting first, “Game Light” succeeds.