Grieves is quite an intriguing character. A self-made artist of sorts, who has climbed his way into view within the indie-hop scene over the course of the last few years. Grieves produced and released Irreversible, his debut album. He then linked up with fellow Seattle hip hop head and producer, Budo. The duo released a couple of projects before signing a deal with indie label and underground powerhouse, Rhymesayers Enterainment. Since being on the label, Grieves and Budo have re-released their first joint project, 88 Keys and Counting and in June of this year put out their first official release under RSE, Together/Apart. Grieves and Budo sit well among their label mates at RSE, but embody a quality all their own. The duo pust so much soul into their music that if you listen to their Pandora station, you will shortly find yourself immersed in contemporary gospel – you can hear it in the keys, synths and organs primarily lain down by Budo. Together/Apart carries the duo’s discography to new heights, surpassing Irreversible (Grieves minus Budo), 88 Keys and Counting and The Confessions of Mr. Modest in creativity, quality, diversity and content – not an easy feat.
The tone of the album is set with the opening track, Lightspeed – soulful production and honest, reflective lyricism make for a serious, while not depressing, tone. Grieves reels the listener right in by walking him/her down the sidewalk of his personal history, pointing out select details, but also letting his passenger just soak up the atmosphere. If you haven’t yet done so, make sure to watch the video HERE. It is quite nice that he also gives us the third verse which let us get a feel for where he is at now. This song is a classic. That said, it’s scary to hit the “next” button after listening to Lightspeed a few times with the likeliness that even good songs might be eclipsed by such a giant.
Bloody Poetry (click the link to watch this video as well) comes in so eerily that you forget about the previous song and are enveloped in the strange undead world Grieves dwells in in relationship to his writing. Writing about writing can become trite and even a bit pretentious, but read these first lines from his second verse and decide for yourself whether or not Grieves avoids such a pitfall: “I spoke a whisper in the dark one night/watched it take form in front of me and mimic my life/ it seemed natural…” The rest of the verse depicts the life of his words, his poetry, which is quite a powerful image. The last trumpet note dies and a brief silence prepares the aural pallet for Falling from You.
The broken voice in the verses rubbing up against the melody of the chorus perfectly compliments Grieves’ telling of what sounds like the story of a love gone wrong. Falling from You will become that track that thousands of high school and college students kids will look back at as the track that gave them hope after the apocalyptic destruction of what they had previously believed was the love of their lives. Therein lies the power of hip hop, and music in general, when the emotion and content are both authentic.
While the album never strays from the formula evident in the first three tracks, it never becomes repetitive and it continues to reveal bits and pieces of both Grieves and Budo with each new song. Some of the standout tracks are: Sunny Side of Hell – here Grieves describes his battle to see the glass as half full, Tragic – label mate Brother Ali jumps on this track and describes the yin and the yang of the life of an emcee, Boogie Man – Grieves manipulating a page of his rhyme book and collecting his breath is just audible and allows the listener to be there in the booth with him, and the track is super minimal, but very powerful, No Matter What – we get a chance to see that Grieves has the ability to write with a bit of bravado and that he may just knock some fools out in a battle, Wild Thing – just another “make chicken salad out of chicken sh!*” type of track, speaking with disdain for negative behaviors that, in the moment, seem useful, and Growing Pains – the mellower, more introspective Lightspeed, which balances the album well and Grieves’ singing is impressive here.
This is one of the albums at the top of my list for 2011, and I apologize for the lack of timeliness in sharing it with all of you.
Peace and Love,