Church & AP – Postal (Kartel) Album Review

Church & AP have just released their second album, Postal. The 13th Floor’s Jeff Neems weighs in with his thoughts on “Auckland’s favourite hip hop duo”.

In a lengthy media release accompanying the listening links for Church & AP’s album Postal, the artists are described as “Auckland’s favourite hip hop duo” and later it’s doubled-down when they’re declared “New Zealand’s favourite hip hop duo”.

Church & APIt’s a bold claim, and one which took me by surprise since I hadn’t actually heard of these guys. But then again, I don’t live in Auckland and although I am a long-time supporter of hip hop in Aotearoa, my music tastes generally lie elsewhere these days and my radio app dial never slides across to Mai FM or Flava FM, where this music is heard.

Hailing from Mt Roskill and Te Atatu, the duo have been recording and releasing music since 2018 and also had some international experience and exposure. They’ve also won several different music awards. Kudos for that.

Postal’s lead single is Nightmare, purported to be the tales of two immigrant men, and more specifically the “weight” of their ancestry and what their forefathers did in shifting to New Zealand. A noble intention, but I struggled to pick that up from the song’s lyrics.

And it’s the lyrics here which proved to be the major hurdle for me, right across the album. There are moments when it’s genuinely good story-telling – what every good rapper should be able to showcase – but elsewhere it’s just littered with pointless swearing (there are several c-bombs in one track), or gangster posturing which feels and sounds a bit cliché (Mathematics, Throwin Signs). The gangster stuff might be authentic for the artists, but for this listener it’s familiar and sadly rather dull territory. I heard it in the early ‘90s, I don’t really need the 2020s version.

Where Postal does excel is the beats and production. The rhythms here are diverse and genuinely interesting, at times sparse and spooky, at other times more like the contemporary drill and grime sounds, and elsewhere with little country licks punctuating classic boom-bap style most noticeably on Dreams, probably the best track album offers but also remarkably short at just 90 seconds.

To be clear – much like the Larry June gig I reviewed last year, I really wanted to like this album. I wanted to be impressed and go looking for more of Church & AP’s material to see what else they had done. Compared in the press release to Melodownz and Home Brew, I expected something a lot more interesting than I got.

And that’s unfortunate, leaving me feeling like I’ve not done my bit to help out. I’ve tried hard to champion New Zealand music for more than 20 years – particularly hip hop and urban sounds – but on Postal, Church & AP couldn’t hold my attention long enough to make me go back for a third or fourth listen, leaving them consigned to the “also ran” folder.

Perhaps that’s because I’m not the right audience for this, or perhaps it’s because it doesn’t quite reach the peaks it could have with a bit more thought, a bit more soul and a bit more maturity.

There’s some potential there, it’s just not quite coming through.

Jeff Neems