Branching out — or even trying something a little different — as an artist is not an easy task. Typically, this move is met with immediate hostility from fans and haters alike. The term “sell out” will likely get thrown around quite often. And the critics will have a field day. Unfortunately, this is too often the norm. But, to be fair, when it does occur, the fault usually rests on the shoulders of the artist. In this case, the artist to blame is the Grouch, a supremely talented MC who phones in an album filled with uninspired hyphy production from DJ Fresh. While it would be a stretch to say the Grouch hasn’t spit over the handclap-ridden West Coast production before, he’s never done it quite like this. And he’s also never sounded so damn bored.
Three Eyes Off the Time kicks off with an introduction from the Grouch, who wants to let the world know just how amazing his life is with his wife and daughter. And he continues with this vibe on the second track, “Daddy’s Home”, a flute- and harp-driven headnodder that actually features vocals from his daughter and wife. These types of proclamations are nothing knew from this Living Legend, who celebrates life as often as he criticizes society’s ills. But unlike Brother Ali, who was upbeat on parts of his latest opus Us, the Grouch is merely recycling thoughts we have heard from him before. “Whatever I Say”, for one, is basically the regurgitated version of “Daddy’s Home”. The same even goes for an otherwise endearing and catchy joint in “Allieverwantedwas”.
While his skills in the booth are undeniable, that doesn’t mean the Grouch gets a pass on here. He sleepwalks through the haunting “I Love This Game”, which features one of DJ Fresh’s better beats. But instead of matching the production, the Grouch simply rehashes line after line. And it all sounds a lot like an aging comedian whose jokes have now become littered with parenting quips and witty remarks about his family life. It’s true that you cannot expect an MC to stick to his or her script, so to speak. When it sounds like you recorded most of your bars while sleeping on the couch, though, maybe you should have kept this one in the vault.
What is most frustrating about Three Eyes Off the Time is the fact the Grouch’s collaboration with Eligh, Say G&E!, was one of 2009’s best. Perhaps the Grouch needed his fellow Living Legend around to give him a boost. Or maybe he’s just not that strong of a solo artist anymore, which seems likely after 15 years in the game. And that’s not much of a stretch considering his consistent output and the fact that a lot of artists struggle when it comes to going solo. Sure, he dropped several fine solo efforts in the ’90s. But if you heard his last album, 2008’s Show You the World, you knew the Grouch hasn’t truly delivered aside from his verses on the aforementioned Say G&E! and a few guest spots. Hopefully he can recover in 2010, especially after his tour with Mistah F.A.B. and Fashawn, who appear on this record’s last and best track.