A goon’s sole purpose is simply to scare and get rid of the opponents they face. The methods may vary, but the purpose remains the same, nonetheless. In hip-hop, that very competitive scorched-earth policy is embodied in battle rappers, goons who specialize in rhymed lines specially crafted to boost ego, wow listeners, and destroy opponents. The emcees in Grind Mode Cypher qualify as such rappers, and have collectively brought their brand of hardcore hip-hop onto a full-length LP appropriately with the Snowgoons. The German production team have joined forces with GMC, resulting in “Goon Mode”: A double album which, as Lingo states, is “like Betty Ford: A clinic for bars.” Disclaimer: This isn’t a rap album multi-faceted with different topics, pop-friendly melodies, or genre-bending. It’s just a group of emcees showing off their rap skills over head-nodding hardcore sounds.

GMC’s Lingo and Ayok are the most prominent emcees, having verses on all eighteen tracks (the former even produces several of them, about a third). Surprisingly, the Snowgoons appear less often, producing only five tracks, with the remaining seven in the hands of beatsmiths Evil Dead, Asko67, Boomtact, and Sevin Soprano. Though GM cyphers generally feature hungry unsigned rappers from all over, they often include a special appearance from an established underground emcee. On “Goon Mode”, such rappers come in the form of Termanology, Block McCloud, CL Smooth, and Diabolic, to name a few. Even though, inevitably at some point in the album, a listener will see the aggressive bars become redundant, there are undeniably several quotables from every track. Also, each track is like hearing audio versions of the cypher videos GMC produces as they’re the same time length, some being close to ten minutes.

The title-track is where the album begins, Lingo starts it off with his customary “Uh-huh! Grind Mode Cypher…” greeting intro before delving into his bars. Much like Dr. Greene from “ER”, Lingo sets the tone and is a tough act to follow. He produces the beat as well, complete with record scratches and tough snares. “Time’s Up” actually has a song structure, with Lingo providing the hook twice. The Snowgoons-produced “Skills Don’t Kill” has low-key snares and kickdrums with an overall menacing atmosphere and is capped off with a verse from Block McCloud, though the monotone Arichusestts gets credit for his wordplay and ability to flow over this beat. On “Rap Lords”, Carolina’s Smeag the Scientist breaks the seeming monotony as he had the most standout voice and delivery. Boomtact’s “1-2 Punch” almost sounds skeletal, but GMC mainstay Massaka comes through in the middle with a razor-sharp verse. The single “Fierce Darts” is the first to feature all three members of THR3AT (Lingo, Ayok, and Don Pera) and Aly K, the album’s sole female emcee:



“Savage Goons” has a Snowgoons vibe around the production, but it’s actually courtesy of Evil Dead with its boom-bap drum and sampled instrumental score. It consists of over ten emcees, the most known of which is Long Island’s Diabolic who makes the first of his two appearances on “Goon Mode.” The self-produced “True Story” shows how crafty Lingo is with bars (“90 degrees, taking L’s from the corners / You need to let that shit go, but I can smell you a hoarder”) and also features French rapper Don Tox. When hearing “Light Up the Mic”, it reminded me of a JMT/AOTP track from Evil Dead’s production, consisting of sampling and looping strings. Though it has a Termanology feature, “King $#!+” shows the chemistry between Lingo and Ayok as they start of the track trading bars without missing a beat, so to speak. “I Wanna Know” is noteworthy for being the one track with the smallest roster, consisting solely of THR3AT. The second single, “Slugfest”, is exactly that…a boom-bap-laden lyrical beatdown:



The final third of the album is a Lingo-Snowgoons affair in terms of production, being behind the boards for half each. On “Not Ya Ordinary”, Lingo brings his usual brand of music, but adds the element of a sampled voice to the production before CL Smooth ends the track with his own verse. “Beast on the Mic” is classic Snowgoons, a sampled orchestra flipped into an epic grimy sonic barrage. The best verse on the track goes to Easty the Muscle, with his intense delivery and bars (“Keep that Swisher lit, red hot trip quick to Swtizerland / These Wolves raised a GOAT like Tom Brady in Michigan / The motherfucking muscle, see the bars that I’m liftin’ in”). The organ-sampling “Rah Rah” has funeral overtones, while both the Lingo-produced “Cobra Clutch” and “It’s a Grind” show how he should be a more sought-out beatsmith as he’s versatile with both hi- and lo-fi sounds, sampling, and drum programming. The Snowgoons-produced “Hunting Grounds” is reminiscent of a Wu-Tang Clan track, but only in terms of how the track consists of nine rappers and a rewind-worthy “Winter Warz”-style of verse courtesy of Diabolic. As stated, “Goon Mode” isn’t the kind of album you’ll hear on the radio or the kind to put a listener in deep contemplative thought. In fact, the Snowgoons with Grind Mode Cypher would be too raw for what you’re used to hearing in those cyphers at B.E.T.’s Hip-Hop Award shows. But if seemingly bottomless bars delivered by skilled emcees rife with multis, wordplay, and charisma are what you crave, then “Goon Mode’ is for you.


Snowgoons x Grind Mode Cypher :: Goon Mode
7.5Overall Score