For fans of Eligh, Grey Crow was a long time coming. Despite being only one year removed from the critical success of both Say G & E! (with fellow Living Legends member The Grouch) and On Sacred Ground: Mother & Son (with his mother Jo Wilkinson), this is Eligh’s first solo project since 2003’s Poltergeist. And, as is evident right from the outset of the album, those seven years were like an eternity for the artist. Lost in a battle against addiction, the MC and producer spent some time living on the streets of Los Angeles – not knowing what was next for him. But he has been clean for the last five years, which makes Grey Crow a rebirth of sorts for the artist – a rebirth that we, the listeners, certainly get to enjoy.
It is clear from the album’s intro that this will be a personal album and Eligh wastes little time in delving into introspection. “Angel of Death” features a neck-snapping beat and the artist’s familiar rapid-fire flow, but the lyrics showcase his maturity and reveal the inner thoughts of a man who, at one point, was very close to the edge. Both the production and the MC’s flow are altered for the reggae-influenced “Soul on the Road,” but Eligh’s lyrics remain mature and thought-provoking.
So much to do and not enough time/Age is but a number, but I ponder my demise/Only 30 years old as my fingers take a ride/Grippin on my pen, I got what’s hanging out the side/of my ark that I sure to build by feelings in my chest/My hearbeat is my guide I take what I need and bleed the rest/Yes, Eligh my title is vital I’m on a quest/Yes one more recital recited for all my guests.
Grey Crow is filled with very personal lyrics, with “When I’m a Dad,” “Miss Busdriver (Rachel)” and “Maybe So” offering listeners the type of insight very few rappers are brave enough to include on an album. It’s clear that Eligh is finally happy with the person he has become, but he doesn’t limit his self-expression and the baring of his soul to just lyrics. His production on the album (15 of Grey Crow’s 17 tracks) showcases his eclectic taste in musical accompaniment, as well as an ability to craft tracks that suit his lyrics and mood.
But his production shines brightest on Grey Crow’s collaborations. The minimalist production behind “Stuck With You” complements Aesop Rock’s vocals and allows the Def Jux veteran’s lyrics to take centre stage; on “Love Ov My Life,” featuring Living Legend compatriot Luckyiam PSC and Paris Hayes, Eligh layers a vocal sample under some instrumentation that compliments all the artists on the track; Pigeon John and Eligh sounds like they’ve been working together for years on the slightly more mellow “Whirlwind;” and the Project Blowed meets Living Legends offering, “Skitzo” (featuring Ellay Khule and Basik) fits perfectly into the discography for either crew – each MC is given his own production, yet the track never loses its underground flavor.
And for those worried that Eligh’s clarity would lead to his abandoning the West Coast sound that made his crew famous, he links up with Zumbi of Zion I and Living Legend bretheren Scarub for the outstanding “Beneath the Sea.” Each MC sounds at home over the synth-heavy, hard-hitting, up-tempo production – and it’s a track that will give your rewind button a workout.
In fact, the entire album is rewind-worthy – as it showcases a mature artist embracing his second chance at life. And sounding so good doing it.
4 out of 5