[14 November 2011]
If you start out for a destination and enjoy the journey, it’s probably a sign you need to continue to explore. This is my weird allegory for the fact that you should never stop trying to discover new artists (in rap, particularly, in this case). If the most famous dudes on an underground label tickle your fancy, you should dig in the crates a little more and see if the lesser-known artists are as good. Talent usually attracts more talent.
Grieves can sound a little oblique at times, but perhaps that’s just a commonality among Rhymesayers emcees. Goodness knows that Slug—throughout his steady ascent through the underground scene up until Atmosphere albums started debuting in the Billboard Top 10 – has always been that way. Grieves looks like sort of a loner, with black hair, multiple piercings: He’s the guy who seems to always have his head down. Maybe it’s just my impression of him from the “Light Speed” video, but I’ve always vehemently believed you shouldn’t stereotype anyone who makes or listens to hip-hop as long as they do it well.
While everybody seems to have their songs about taking life slower, “Light Speed” is quite pretty and reflective (even though I personally think getting a better singer for the chorus would have enhanced the song.) It’s easy to like, easy to relate to, and one of the album’s most memorable tracks. His mosaic of memories flows easily over a pretty piano backdrop that reminds me of Drake’s “Fireworks” instrumental, and no song here would have started the album better. It’s a bit of a grower, but there’s so much to appreciate here. It’s a song that should put a feather in the cap of Rhymesayers at its best, even though the chorus vocals halt the track, bringing down the quality of the song a notch.
“Sunny Side of Hell” features a much more soothing and fitting hook, Grieves singing about resilience. Despite the fact that the title may make people feel a little uneasy, he makes some excellent points in there always being smaller good points in every bad period in a human’s life. And in those times, that’s what you really need to live for. The beginning of the song’s second verse is where Grieves sounds most impressive on the entire album. “Bloody Poetry” is harder, but it starts out with a glumness that permeates through the instrumental, and it brings to mind gritted teeth and clenched fists with its intriguing mix of moods.
“On The Rocks”’ main disadvantage is the repetitive beat; it just feels awkward, even though the flow Grieves uses here is very unique. “No Matter What” is a mix of self-analysis and really dope spitting from both Grieves and guest Krukid, the latter ending his verse with “I’m human’s all I’m sayin’”. It’s a memorable line, much like in “Boogie Man,” where Grieves says “I believe…and that’s about as far as it goes”. Sometimes just simple lines like that are the ones that hit hardest.
Speaking of when music hits you in the heart, “Growing Pains” is one of the most likable songs here. It starts off as if he’s a six year-old living life with the mind of a 20-something, talking about how he is unable to fit in or adapt. You can’t call Grieves insincere, but he especially wears his heart on his sleeve here, and it works great. It’s almost as good as “Light Speed” in that way. Otherwise, “Heartbreak Hotel” is a despairing lamentation; meanwhile, a distortedly sung chorus and a Brother Ali guest verse make “Tragic” most memorable, where Ali (who’s kept us all waiting for news related to his next album) talks about self-awareness and predestination and Grieves holds it down on the other two verses.
This album did not quite connect with me quite as much as albums by Atmosphere or Brother Ali, or several other non-Rhymesayers white rappers. Am I pigeonholing Grieves? I’m certainly not trying to, but perhaps it’s where he fits. That’s what’s wonderful about rap – on the one hand, if you love it, you fit; but you find your own niche somewhere in the depths of the genre that suits you best. But for me, there are times where Grieves really does resonate – whether talking about childhood, heartbreak, or other matters.