Partners in crime Seven Heads Entertainment and Uncle Junior Records are a pair to keep an eye on, as their rosters collectively boast the likes of Djinji Brown, Kon & Amir, and Asheru and Blue Black, among others. The Saint’s Grown Folk Music is a serving of hip-hop-inspired dance tracks fit for the couches off to the side of a dimly lit and overpriced club. It’s most definitely house music, ridden with a constant pulsing dancefloor tempo that rattles almost all the way through the record, slowing down a tad bit conveniently for the closing track.
Steve Luthy, or “The Saint”, as he’s dubbed here, discovered hip hop on Long Island in his youth, after developing an affinity for Motown soul. His love for hip-hop led him to making beats and rhyming eventually in a crew called the Break Emperors, but somewhere along the line he must have picked up some house records that really turned his head, because Grown Folk Music is a full-fledged dance record.
Grown Folk Music launches with “Another Day”, an up-tempo jazzy number that sounds like The Saint is sharing a rehearsal space with the Thirsty Ear musicians. There’s a stuttering tribal beat and a sax sample that moves over the other jumbled percussion before the house beat enters. It’s compelling in the headphones, where one can really appreciate The Saint’s efforts to skate past the house record formula. But the pesky house formula makes its way into every subsequent track, as the host provides a solid party record, and not much else.
The Saint has room for guests at his party, the list boasting the likes of Mr. Man from Flatbush’s Da Bush Babees, some run-of-the-mill soul from Reggie Watts (“Let’s get down to it all / Let’s have us a ball”), and some colorful harmonies from Vinia Mojica, bringing the same brand of quality she brought to Talib Kweli on Reflection Eternal and the slew of other artists included on her resume. Outside of this, Grown Folk Music is specifically for the grown folks. The Saint is recalling the likes of danceable early hip-hop platters, ones that Turbo and Ozone might have spun as a backdrop for their cardboard workouts in Breakin’. The punchy basslines, the running dancefloor rhythms, it’s all here: a look back and somewhat of a look forward, but specifically for Saturday nights.
Hip-hop enthusiasts will appreciate perhaps the album’s finest moment, other than its funky opener, as Grap-Luva takes the vocal reigns with undeniable skill on “Words of Life”. How could he not? He’s Pete Rock’s brother, and a member of InI. He flows ever-so-capably over The Saint’s best beat here, and reps his brother and his well-respected crew with tight conscious rhymes, speaking of “brothers who are true to what they do to come through / Bringing in original tracks and real raps / Snapping the backs of the fraudulent”. The two make a solid team here, and I wonder if The Saint’s record would have more lasting power if he shared every track with this devastating wordsmith. “Words of Life” allows for the man behind the beats to adhere to his house-heavy regimen while infecting the track with the old hip-hop style that he fell in love with. Perhaps such a formula should be considered for his next venture, but this is merely the opinion of a jaded grown folk, who’s appreciative of grown folk music while a bit bored by house music.