May 25th was my birthday. Knowing my love of music, A$AP Rocky and Pusha T decided to give me a gift by dropping their long-awaited projects, following up their most recent 2015 albums.
A$AP Rocky’s “TESTING” is a full-length, 15-track album that features a myriad of styles and guests. The album is solid as a whole; however, some of the songs come across as unfinished or unimpressive.
Pusha T’s seven-track project, DAYTONA, spans only 21 minutes. Even as a short listen, Pusha T makes every song count and showcases why many refer to him as a rapper’s rapper. Highlights of the album include Pusha T firing on all cylinders on songs like “Infrared,” The World Famous Tony Williams’ breathtaking chorus on “Hard Piano,” and Kanye West’s dichotomous production on “Come Back Baby” that contrasts a bright soul sample with one of the darkest beats I’ve ever heard. Drake’s excellent response to Pusha T’s disses, the well-received “Duppy Freestyle,” will give the album even more well-deserved publicity.
These albums have done pretty well commercially and are receiving a lot of attention from well-known music publications and hip-hop fans alike. An album’s quality and their prominence in the music libraries of consumers are not always correlated, however. One example of this is GRIP’s debut album “Porch.” “Porch” was released in November of last year but only received attention from Pigeons & Planes last month.
“Porch” is a pretty short endeavor by the Atlanta rapper, with only 11 songs that span 38 minutes. There’s a powerful darkness to this album, reflecting GRIP’s life growing up in Atlanta with an autobiographical nature similar to that of Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, m.a.a.d. City.” GRIP’s style utilizes a lot of west-side elements.
The first track’s drums don’t kick in for about a minute, giving GRIP a great chance to display his natural ability to flow. The second track, “These Eyes,” starts with a calm piano-driven sample before spontaneously shifting to a guitar-driven chaotic track that has GRIP hysterically rapping as if he has lost his mind. The fifth track, “Maintainin,” sounds almost like Wiz Khalifa doing his best N.W.A. impression. It is a solid track to cruise to that heavily grows on you from the song’s beginning to end. The seventh track, “Liq n Licks,” is one of my favorites to drive to. Over a siren-heavy beat, “Liq n Licks” features a quick first verse, a YG-esque chorus bragging about drinking liquor and hitting licks, a smoother second verse, and a show-stopping feature verse by Chattanooga rapper Tut. GRIP switches his beat selection and voice, displaying his talent and versatility rather than reaching for radio-friendly territory.
The main track that I would like to highlight is the album’s closing track: “Portraits.” The “Portraits” instrumental is a pretty simple 808 drum beat backed by a jazzy saxophone-heavy sample from the title track of Terrace Martin’s “Velvet Portraits” album. I am a big fan of Terrance Martin, with “Valdez off Crenshaw” being one of my all-time favorite homework songs. “Portraits”‘chorus is very powerful, as Dani discusses that there are too many “portraits in the hall.” These portraits consist of those such as Sandra Bland and Eric Gardner, people whose legacies are related to race relations. The chorus tugs at the heartstrings, and almost appears as the internal thoughts of the boy on the album’s cover.
GRIP’s first verse is relatively slow, with great lyrics referencing civil rights activists like Huey Newton, Malcolm X, and MLK. His best lines from this verse are “Sometimes standing up don’t involve standing up, look what Rosa Parks did.” GRIP’s second verse is the best of the song. It’s very similar to a Kendrick verse, as GRIP bounces around with a fast flow, heavy internal rhyming, and themes of navigating racism (especially in regards to cops) in America. His voice even sounds a little like Kendrick’s. He throws words around as fast as bullets; it takes a few listens to truly grasp what he is saying. The third verse is stylistically a combination of the first two. GRIP’s last line of the song and the album, “It’s sad, my melanin makes you nervous,” hits the listener like a punch to the gut. GRIP’s verses on this song are do an awesome job of giving you his perspective.
While “Porch” may not be the most acclaimed album of the last few years, it is certainly the most underrated. It might not be “good kid, m.a.a.d city” but it serves a similar purpose: it introduces the artist by explaining how his childhood and society molded his perspective. Through the eleven great tracks, “Portrait” shines bright as a powerful, jazzy song that will hit you hard. GRIP has made it off the porch, but he still has a long way to go before he reaches stardom.
COVER PHOTO: DJ Booth