As one third of the CT-based group Maspyke, Hanif-Jamiyl releases his debut solo album; a disc that lives and dies by one single concept–sex sells. Can a whole album really prosper on such a paper thin and overused rap subject matter?
Maspyke has been previously signed by the likes of label heavyweight Elektra Records, giving Hanif ample opportunity to write and perform along side of several great emcee’s like Wordsworth, Doug E. Fresh and Q-Tip (of who he clearly derived some of his style). So, even though “Krushed Grapes” is not necessarily a mentally stimulating piece of hip-hop music, it is still a suitable journey that will remind you of that mid-90’s sound. After a throwaway introduction in which the featured artist questions a woman about her sexual appetite, the listener is met with the light tones of the title track. It is a soulful little number that opens the audiences’ ears to his nasally, yet effortless flow. He teases with sensual lines like “Let’s play doctor and you can be my patient, let me start the operation.” This is, of course, some of the least forward lyricism to found by Hanif-Jamiyl who constantly flaunts his confident demeanor.
However, by the time you get to the funk-inspired “Wet Dreams” you should have a pretty solid idea of what Hanif-Jamiyl is all about, particularly throughout this LP. He spits bar by bar with a heavy pause between each line in most of his tracks and the narrative grows a bit tiresome. It would have been refreshing to hear some storytelling material or different conceptual perspectives, if he felt it necessary to fill the album with sex songs. Some will see the raw production to be akin to the late J. Dilla but without that certain umph that makes his work behind the boards so special. The production is mainly handled by lesser known beat-makers, save the relatively popular 88 Keys. And it generally compliments the main attraction’s style.
Aside from the more synthesized sound of “She Got it All,” Hanif find most of his success closely following the path of what forefathers like Tribe Called Quest have paved for him, which is a fresh flavor compared to most of the current rap scene. Also, when he enlists the help of others to croon the hook it proves to be beneficial as he does not have the greatest vocals for singing some smooth R&B ish. “Let Him Go” is a prime example of Hanif at his greatest heights as he smoothly raps:
“You a good girl and highly educated
You got a good job and very dedicated
Now when you get off work he’s never on time
But he been acting like a jerk for a long time
You want to talk but he claims it’s the wrong time
He’s on the Sidekick, MySpace, online
You had a long day, stressed out all day
Baby you need to swing by my way
A full body massage, that’s my forte’
And my foreplay sweeter than sorbet
You could have it your way
Just let me know girl
Because you’ve been holding on for too long
Let him go”
Though the lyricism is simplistic by nature, there is still a clear continuity and purpose to the track. It is one of the rare occasions that Hanif-Jamiyl seems to use his sexual appetite for the greater good of his potential partner, though his intentions may be selfish in the long run. He too often equates a given woman’s sexuality as a purely positive attribute (and their only one), which is still a lot better than most terms rappers throw around to describe the ladies.
While the LP is self-described as a ’14-track study of the sensual and sexual dynamics that govern the relationships between men and women,’ the truth is that it is more of an individual’s sexually active mind on wax. Though it is not purely a misogynistic affair, “Krushed Grapes” purely glamorizes the joys of sex. Tracks like “Gyrations” and “Yummy” are two such odes. He even gets the last laugh as he continues the interview from the introduction at the very end, thus creating a more cohesive album, when he tells the anonymous woman, “Will that be cash, check or credit?” to which she responds, “Do you accept any other forms of payment?” with little subtlety.
The lofty comparisons to Justin Timberlake and the ‘hip-hop Marvin Gaye’ are amiss. Hanif-Jamiyl does not have the voice of either and lacks the energy to really get the dance floors shaking. Still, if you know that you are getting into (which you should by the cover art and song titles alone) as a buyer you will not be too disappointed. This is low-key hip-hop that explores sexuality from a man’s perspective with a good ratio of worthwhile material that will make you want to go reacquaint yourself with silky albums like “The Love Movement.”