[White Swan, 2008]
“Devotional Hip Hop” sounds an oxymoron. It’s not. On his debut release, MC Yogi craftily fuses modern America (Hip Hop) and ancient India (devotional chanting) to form a unified whole: Elephant Power. Yogi uses the rich metaphorical imagery of Hinduism to tell stories about its gods. The remover of all obstacles, Ganesha, gets wrapped in new school lingo, “Ganesh is fresh” while the monkey god Hanuman becomes “Hanuman G.” The songs on Elephant Power play out like mini-history lessons on Indian spirituality. For a dose of modern history, “Be the Change” is a powerful biographical sketch of Gandhi’s life. An inspiring song about an inspiring man, the catchy lyrics keep the message of change ringing peacefully in the ears for days after listening.
Beyond its contagious rhymes, entertaining storytelling and meaningful mantras, this album offers the opportunity to chant along with Western devotional favourites Krishna Das and Jai Uttal in the Indian tradition of call and response. To satisfy listeners who’ve got ants in their pants and need to dance, funky interludes “Chakra beatbox” and “Bhakti boombox” inject a danceable vibe.
The song “Rock on Hanuman” sums up the intent behind Elephant Power with the lyrics: “compassion in action, devotion in motion.” This rare musical gem blends equal parts spiritual activism and Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion), drops in groovy beats and tops it off with tight production. As diverse as it is deep, it’s an album that offers something for all music lovers—if not for the music, for the universal narrative of love and truth that it so creatively speaks.