If the title of this mixtape sounds familiar, it's because Nas just happened to drop an album by the same name last December. Rather than go into a diatribe about the stupidity of the saying itself, I'll provide to you the information that E. Grizzly wants to pass on to you. Apparently E. Grizzly went out and got a trademark registered for the saying "Hip-Hop Is Dead" and Nas and Def Jam did not get permission to use it when they put out Nas' album. While I personally don't think Grizzly will succeed in said lawsuit, it's an even worse look to seem like he's piggy backing on Nas' album to stir controversy and get his joint noticed. Album title aside, E. Grizzly is a rapper of Latin-American descent hailing from the east coast via Philly and Miami. He proclaims to be real and not the average criminal thug that seems to be the current persona of choice.
The album opens up with "The shout out" where E. Grizzly and the crew analyze why shout outs come at the end of albums in liner notes and decide to flip the script by putting all their shout outs first in the form of a song. There is a reason shout outs are placed where they are – it's because no one but the person being shouted out gives a fuck. Easily one of the worst starts to an album/mixtape I've ever heard. Things get better from here though as E. Grizzly turns out some decent performances. "Change The World" should have been the proper intro track as E. Grizzly proclaims his wishes to bring something new and fresh to the rap game. The singing on the hook is off, but overall E. Grizzly comes through tight with a quick and gritty flow that will please hardcore heads. "Where I'm Coming From" gives a look into E. Grizzly's life, from his early days in Philly to his current constant quest to make it in the rap game. "Happiness" is the tightest track yet as E. Grizzly condemns gun violence.
Yet despite some of the positive stuff, E. Grizzly still drops ignorance with the best of them. "Hit It Raw" is an anthem promoting unprotected sex. Of all the ignorant things one could say today, promoting unsafe sex given the AIDS rate amongst Blacks and Hispanics is damn despicable. Though E. Grizzly hints at the dangers of hitting it raw, he doesn't do enough to balance the message and the beat is shitty. On top of that the track samples Ol' Dirty's infamous line from "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and I doubt he paid to clear the sample since his name isn't in the credits. Somewhat shady considering E. Grizzly is suing someone else for using his shit without permission. Though that one track was almost enough for me to chuck the disk to the trash, the rest isn't all bad. "Only Tonight" flips a tropical beat and Grizzly does an O.K. job flipping a track for the ladies. "My Way Out" finds E. Grizzly explaining what he'll do once he gets rich, and the track is interesting due to the beat. Instead of the uplifting celebratory track one would expect, the beat is dark and pounding making E. Grizzly sound ruthless like a young Scarface. The album ends with "The Bottomless Hallway," a track with a perplexing title (since when do hallways go up and down?) but with good execution as E. Grizzly stays on his grind and Michael Tirada drops another solid beat.
Overall, E. Grizzly throws down some noteworthy tracks. Though he's not from NYC, his Puerto Rican heritage and flow are much reminiscent of the underground vibes the city has been known for. I'm the last person to follow stereotypes, but truthfully comparisons to guys like Thirstin Howl and Celph Titled wouldn't be far off when it comes to E. Grizzly (and for you out of touch heads, the connection is their Hispanic heritage). With only 8 tracks, "Hip Hop Is Dead" could have been a lot better, but when you look past the shortcomings, the good material is enough so that E. Grizzly should warrant a listen once he puts together a full length album.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: February 27, 2007