A few weeks back, I wrote about hip-hop artists who go out of their way to use live bands when they are recording their album. I made it clear that I felt that it is best to try to review some albums within the contextual environment in which the music was designed to be enjoyed. Bass music was not made for headphones, club tracks were not designed for a leisurely drive in the countryside, and Conscious Hip-Hop does not have a home at a place where raining cash and ass wiggling is the most important movement in the room. You have to get on the same level of the music that you are listening to in order to give it a fair assessment. I feel albums are to be digested, enjoyed or rebuked under their own circumstantial positioning.
Similar to the Look Daggers album, we have an album that appears to have originated from the live music scene, and seeks to take hip-hop music in a more freewheeling direction. The group is led by Iranian-born guitarist Aram Denesh, a successful real estate executive, with a driving desire to work with a collective of musicians to do what he considers his real job: making music.
“The Grind” is the second album by the “Super Hero” collective and seeks to create music that can be easily embraced by a pop forum versus a traditional Boom-Bap environment. The album begins with “Fade to Black”, a live horn-driven track that explores the story of a college student/stripper who is allowing her “dancing” career to push her into the darkness.
The next song “The Money Matrix” features Gift of Gab from the acclaimed Bay Area hip-hop act Blackalicious. It is one of two songs that are dedicated to the consequences that the chase for money and raw consumerism has on people-even when deep down inside, they feel as if the ruthless pursuit of money is leaving them empty inside.
The other song is “Em.poor.i.am”, a song that speaks about wanting to appear as if you have more money than you actually have. The first verse describes, and quite accurately, how it feels to make a visit to your local swap meet and all the quality counterfeit products they have to offer. “Butterfly Jones” explores the underpinnings of the one-night stand from the perspective of the singer.
All of the music for this album is performed live by a competent live band. Aram seems to be happy to provide a few guitar solos and provide musical accompaniment for most of the album, allowing the emcees enlisted to control the spotlight.
This album is not so much a straightforward hip-hop project as it is a musical project that happens to incorporate hip-hop elements. Because of this, it would be unfair to judge it in the same way that I would judge an album by Talib Kweli.
It is a pleasant sounding album and it serves well as casual listening when you are home in the afternoon, perhaps doing some housecleaning, drinking a beer, or smoking some OooWee. Intelligent lyrics, easygoing music, people who sound like they truly enjoy what they are doing, and a professional execution is what you get here. If you are not looking for some music to BEAT you in the head, this is as good as you can get here.
Nervous Picks: “Fade to Black”, “Em.poor.i.am”