My History with Hip Hop + Big Announcement

The Beginning: Every great love affair has an equally great beginning. Unfortunately, my affair starts with a lot of hate. During the early 1990’s, I straight up hated that crap. I hated the very albums I adore and praise today when they were first released. My siblings and their friends would play it obsessively on the large speakers we had in the front room. Bass was everything. I don’t remember if they ever actually blew out any speakers while doing this, but I know it drove my mom crazy. I know she didn’t want her speakers broken. So I wanted nothing to do with hip hop. It was the genre that broke stuff and caused pain. Nothing that was worth my time.

The Walls Come Down: By the late 1990’s, I had gotten over my initial hate. I had too many friends that liked it and it’s such a silly reason to discount an entire genre. DMX, Master P, 2Pac, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Dr. Dre, Eminem, etc. were now in my life to an extent. I didn’t really seek out hip hop music in high school, but I was okay if it found me. It was a genre on equal footing with the others out there like jazz, pop and rock. By the time college started, hip hop was a regular in my music rotation. My freshman year, I very much enjoyed playing Dr. Dre’s The Chronic 2001 as loud as I could while living in the dorms. Regardless, I still wasn’t anywhere close to where I am now. So where does the story really begin? When did everything change?

The Real Beginning: The end of college is when it all happened. Nothing was ever the same after that night. It the night that Randy K (not his real name) handed me a silver CD-R with the name Oliver Hart, scribbled in black Sharpie, across the top of it. He had been playing it in the car that night, though it was kind of hard to hear since it wasn’t that loud. The point of that winter night was hanging out and talking and not listening to music. So I knew it sounded different and it had potential to be an album that I could like. I was actually much more taken with The Faint album I heard that night, which I also received a copy of. If you haven’t heard their song, Glass Danse, you are seriously missing out. My editor and I played that song a freaking bunch. It’s so infectious. So Oliver Hart kind of fell to the wayside until summer.

How Eye One the Write Too Think: So it turns out that Oliver Hart is actually a Minnesota-based rapper named Eyedea. Hart was just a pseudonym. Eyedea was my baptism into Underground Hip Hop. It lasted a little longer than your average one: three months. While slaving away at my co-op job in a cold research lab, I spent the entire summer listening to The Many Faces of Oliver Hart or How Eye One the Write Too Think on repeat with two other albums. While the two other albums were good, they really ended up serving as filler so I wouldn’t burn myself out on Eyedea’s album. When I wasn’t listening to it, I was waiting for it to come back up on my CD MP3 player.

Going Underground: Eyedea opened up a whole new world for me that, up until that point, I didn’t know was possible in music. His album is more of a philosophical discussion than music. In Step By Step, Eyedea explores the afterlife with two angels: one of them always lies and one of them always tells the truth. He could choose to go with only one of them. Choosing the right one would lead him to heaven and the other would drag him to hell. I’m sure, at this point, everyone is thinking of a certain scene from Labyrinth. Both the movie and the song cover the classic Knights and Knaves logic problem. But Eyedea’s solution to the problem was meant to make you think about it from yet another perspective. The fact that someone could rap a story about a logic problem blew my mind into a million tiny pieces. Bottle Dreams had an equally forceful impact on my views of what could be done with music. The song discusses the story of a young female violin prodigy who spent her life being molested by her father. It’s an incredibly sad song and there was no happy ending for her. Again, I couldn’t believe somebody could rap about such a topic. As unbelievable as the album was, I knew I couldn’t stop there. I needed more.

The Neverending Story: Flash forward over twelve years later and my love of hip hop has only grown stronger. I’ve revisited what was happening in the early 1990’s and I am absolutely grateful that I was alive to witness (even if I wasn’t paying attention as much as I should have been) what was going on in hip hop and the dramatic changes that were happening. Even today, I am astounded by what is going on in hip hop. If you’re still musically stuck in your teenage years and say there is no good music anymore, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you’re just being a lazy f**k. If you want the good s**t, you’re going to have to put some effort into seeking it out. If you do, you end up with hip hop music like dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip‘s first single, Thou Shalt Always Kill in your life. It’s such a fantastic song. Dan le Sac’s beats are mesmerizing, and Pip’s lyrics are thought-provoking on so many levels. The video itself is incredibly playful visually. Why am I mentioning and focusing on this song? Because it is the reason for what’s going to be happening with Project Lt. Morning for the next 4 months.

The Big Announcement: One of the early decisions about this blog is that nobody would know what album was being reviewed until I published the review. The blog is more about the experience of going through my MP3 player and listening to all of the music than the music itself. This is why posts are titled things like Week 15 instead of the name of the album and why sometimes I end up reviewing horrible albums. However, for the next 15 reviews, I will be listening to some of the greatest albums ever recorded and each one makes an appearance in Thou Shalt Always Kill. In fact, I’m reviewing the albums in order of appearance so everyone can know what I’m reviewing long before I publish it. This is a pretty significant change for me, but like everything with this blog: let’s give it a try and see how it goes.

So without further ado may I present my next experiment for Project Lt. Morning: Just a Band.

PS I’m considering doing a tournament of the 15 albums plus Angles (the album the song, Thou Shalt Always Kill, is from) once all the review are done. Just a simple playoff bracket to figure out which album is the best. I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of 5 star reviews so I wanted to do something to differentiate them. There can be only one.

Week 22 Review (End of Summer Blow Up 1)

Rhymesayers hip hop artist, Grieves, is the reason End of Summer Blow Up was started. To start it off, I’m reviewing his latest album, Winter & the Wolves. Grieves has been releasing albums since 2007.

Artist: Grieves { Benjamin Laub aka Grieves, Brad Lewis aka B. Lewis}
Album: Winter & the Wolves [Deluxe Version]
Year: 2014
Genre: Hip-hop
Rating: 4.5/5

Worth Your Time? Absolutely. Don’t you want to say you listened to him before he got big? Feed your little inner-hipster and listen to this indie rapper.

Twitter Review: Grieves’ razor sharp wordplay will slice you wide open as B. Lewis backs him up with intricate but highly accessible beats.

Note: I am using Grooveshark for everything except where Grieves has an official video on YouTube.

Top 3 Tracks:

  1. How’s It Gonna Go
  2. Recluse
  3. Woah is Me

Things to Look For:

  • Fantastic Opening Line. After the chorus opens Woah is Me, Grieves starts out with “My dog died.” and a voice answers back “When you were six!” Grieves replies “Really? I guess I never gotten over it.” After listening to a couple songs, in recent memory, where the musician composes beautiful songs about their pet, Grieves approach comes off as the antistasis of that. It made me smile every time I heard it.
  • Poet First, Emcee Second. Okay, so he probably didn’t start out writing poetry. Or maybe he did. I don’t know. But I do know from listening to this album that Grieves is working on a higher level than your typical rapper. His word choices are potent. He can take the word ‘shit’ and make it sound so harsh and crass because of the words he surrounds around it. In How’s It Gonna Go, after opening with a beautiful and heartfelt chorus, Grieves lays “Until the woman of my dreams took a shit inside my soul” on us and it comes across as shocking because of the vulgarity. I was actually taken back the first time I heard it. In the same song, he delivers another one of my favorite lines “This ain’t love, this is two people fucking…each other over.” Here he creates a multi-layered lyric that captures both the concept of making love vs. having sex and the notion of negative relationship doomed for failure. And it’s all done with a simple pause. In Kidding Me, he says “Cinderella got drunk started spreading her thighs” which takes this pure and innocent idea in your head and absolutely obliterates it. It’s beautiful. His poetic skillset combined with his compelling storytelling, make for an awesome combination that rarely fails to deliver.
  • Repetition. Grieves skillfully makes use of repetition throughout the album. He does this both in the words he chooses and the cadence of his delivery. In Serpents, the first and second verse are identical in structure and delivery despite being a completely different set of words. Supposedly, this song is about Grieves dealing with his sister’s drug addiction. The topic of drug addiction has been covered countless times in music but I don’t know if anybody has done it so masterfully as Grieves has done here. I had my own little Keanu moment when I realized what was going on.
  • Pop Friendly. Grieves’ previous albums were done with long time friend, Budo. Budo’s beats were definitely unique and created this wonderful smoke-filled blues bar atmosphere that I loved, but I think they were too laid back for your average listener. By teaming up with B. Lewis, the album becomes infinitely more accessible due to Lewis’ new, more poppier style. In fact, all three of the top songs made the list because the beat put them ahead of the other tracks. I usually get annoyed when an artist goes pop, but I’m incredibly excited about whatever Grieves and Lewis end up doing next.
  • Anti-Bruno Mars. Recluse is quite similar to the popular The Lazy Song in terms of high level concept but Grieves’ takes it to a far darker and grittier place. He is letting you inside of his head as he tries desperately to shut out his world regardless of the path of destruction it ends up leaving. After listening to Recluse, The Lazy Song seems incredibly shallow in comparison. It’s still a fun song though. You know you secretly sing it in the shower. Or was that me?

Low Points: I’ve probably already hammered the point home that I love that this album because it is more accessible than his past ones. But think it would gain an even wider audience if it was a bit shorter. While listening to it, I noticed some common themes between songs and I think I would rather have had him cut out the the similar songs and went with a less is more kind of approach. Perhaps this feeling could have been avoided, if I didn’t listen to the deluxe version which had two bonus songs on it. It remains a fantastic album regardless. I left out a ton of songs I wanted to talk about.

Anything Else: Grieve’s previous album, Together/Apart, is actually the great grand-daddy of all Project Lt. Morning albums. I spent the majority of my weekends one summer pulling out weeds from the yard by hand. While pulling weeds, I listened to that album on repeat for 3-4 hours at a stretch. The music combined with the repetitious work created an almost meditative state for me. It was probably the only time in my life I looked forward to yard work.

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