Sunday, October 23, 2011

From the Crates- Innercity Griots

Bit of a programming note to start with, I'm introducing a new series on here that will shine a spotlight on albums of the past and will be coming out periodically, with a heads-up a day or two before. Some of these will be ones you've no doubt heard before, but still deserve to be dug up again anyhow, whereas others will be ones few have ever heard. For the first installment of the series, I'll be focusing on the later. A tragically overlooked album that has always stood with its peer in creativity, but regrettably not in relevancy.

Innercity Griots- Freestyle Fellowship

The album I'm referring to here, is the second-release by LA alternative-rap collective Freestyle Fellowship. Almost immediately, this criminally overlooked second album from LA alt-rap crew Freestyle Fellowship works as a critique on both East and West-Coast gangsterism with a well-placed opening skit. “I’m talking about physical blood that you bleed, I am not talking about no motherf***in' gang,” warning listeners that if you’re looking for more gangsta’ talk you’re in the wrong place. What then follows is a mind-boggling freestyle that weaves in and out of double time. When the dust finally settles, we are launched in the world of FF.
   From left to right, the members of FF: Aceyalone, Myka 9, Self Jupiter, P.E.A.C.E.

The first track “Bullies on the Block,” is what would happen if the Pharcyde and Wu-Tang were thrown into a blender then laced with some well-placed P-Funk and a smattering of 70s soul. On this opener all four members are determined to outdo each other, with well-timed Jeffersons references, but as with many of the album tracks, Aceyalone steals the show. When all members have had their turn mutilating the mic, the track comes to an end with rapper P.E.A.C.E still going, suggesting they could go all-day if need be. From here on, it’s off to the races and we are treated to many “tried-and-true,” hip-hop subjects, but in the hands of this fiercely talented group they give these subjects new life. There’s the b-boy posturing of “Everything’s Everything’s,” the “wicked women” tale of “Shammy’s” featuring some hilarious story-telling from every member in the crew (with yet another remarkable verse from Aceyalone), and the driving around the neighborhood cut “Six Tray.” Here the group juxtaposes simple cruising around with mentions of cold, calculated violence, which when combined with the warped sax playing in the background yields a strong contender for one of the best cuts on the album.
 "Innercity Boundries"- Innercity Griots

This odd dichotomy plays itself out well throughout the album and reaches its apex with the songs “Way Cool” (ostensibly a serial-killer cut) and “Park Bench People,” which is quite possibly one of the greatest tracks discussing homelessness that rap has produced. Moreover, the album stands out as one of the better products of a decade littered with tragically overlooked rap albums. This is an album that has frenetic fury of The Wu-Tang Clan, the manic humor of The Pharcyde, and the thoughtful introspection of A Tribe Called Quest, all blended with sublime instrumentation tingeing the entire album. The group themselves may very well have realized this was an album destined to be underplayed and undervalued, as they say themselves on the final track “Pure Thought,” “I got some lost damn feeling like I'm feeling in threat. I was the child in the forest with the bones and the bread. I was a train at the point where the railroad ends. Trying to roll across sound on your steam in my hands.” Though this album may never make it out of the forest, it tries urgently to be heard and if you can’t hear what the Fellowship has to say, you might need to listen closer.

"Hot Potato"- Innercity Griots

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