G-Love has been around for quite a while, first making a splash in the 1990s with his group Special Sauce. I’ve often heard about him and how good he is, but being the hardcore rap fan I am I had a hunch that while G-Love’s music was technically rap it wasn’t necessarily my preferred flavor. His 2006 offering, “Lemonade,” proves the point as G-Love’s mix of blues, funk, and folk is sure to be an acquired taste to most rap fans. Despite featuring Blackalicious and Lateef the Truth Speaker on a track, G. Love’s latest has more in common with other genres than it does rap.
The basic formula used by G. Love is getting together a band to provide his “beats” in jam session style. Despite The Roots being able to use that formula to create and reproduce authentic hip-hop beats, G. Love’s band tends to put together folk, rock, or blues songs and G. Love just happens to rap over them occasionally. “Ride” features no real rapping as G. Love sings the whole song through. “Ain’t That Right” is closer to conventional rap as G. Love flexes his mic skills, but most of the time he sounds more like a rock singer trying to rap than an actual rapper. “Banger” is the only real rap track on the CD and that’s because Blackalicious and Lateef lend a hand, the beat itself is unimpressive.
So far there’s been nothing but complaints thrown G. Love’s way and that isn’t entirely fair. After all, G. Love never has put himself out there as a hardcore emcee, from the beginning his appeal to his fans has been the fact that he’s the safe and non-ethnic version of rap. Fans get to hear the beats and rhymes that they like about rap but don’t have to put up with the pointless profanity and ignorant subject matter (this is being written with MUCH sarcasm). G. Love himself probably didn’t put himself out there to embody the “good” (read “non-threatening”) version of rap, but frankly that is what G. Love and his music translates to. It’s harmless and the music isn’t bad for what it is. To his credit, G. Love gets deep on a few tracks, thanking the lord, and reflecting on his family, childhood, etc. So his music isn’t entirely superficial. Matter of fact, on tracks like “Ride” his lyrics are bit too abstract to be quite understood. But when you look at some of his guests it’s evident who his fan base is geared towards. Ben Harper and Jack Johnson make appearances and we all know that such acts appeal to college kids looking for an identity.
So basically, if you’re looking for something that is technically rap but doesn’t feature rap beats and isn’t all that deep or socially heavy, “Lemonade” is the album for you. Regardless of what genre you judge it by, none of the music is extraordinary but it does its job well enough. G. Love isn’t that gifted of a rapper and a somewhat decent singer. G. Love is just a regular guy who goes through what regular people go through, it’s not all that exciting. He delivers his material in a way that makes it sound more important that it really is, and for those looking for an identity and importance in their own average lives this album is ideal. For those of us who believe that there are probably more important social issues than G. Love feeling down sometimes, this album probably won’t be worth the listen. None of the tracks have that much energy or much of a message. I’ll admit that not every good rap song needs to have a message or be energetic. I’ll also admit that part of the reason I won’t ever feel G. Love is because I can’t relate to the man’s personal experience. But quite honestly, if I wanted to hear what the average Joe was going through I’d actually talk to the people I ride the bus with.