Buy Now! Grayskul & Maker – Graymaker
Hip-hop fans that have been complaining that hip-hop has failed to progress and grow (you know you’re out there) must have been sleeping on many of the musical movements that have been going down in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest over the past decade or so. The Seattle twosome Onry Ozzborn and JFK teamed up with Rob Castro to complete the Grayskul lineup, and to continue the tradition of boundary-pushing, hard-hitting hip-hop. The latest installment in the Grayskul catalogue has Chicago-based producer Maker crafting absolutely dizzying beats. The result is Graymaker, which may actually go down as some of Grayskul’s finest work to date.
The Grayskul emcees have mastered the art of trading verses, and even bars, between each other. This makes for a lyrically cohesive album because they sound remarkably in-tune with one another. The rhymes here are heavy and dense, and may require multiple listens and rewinds to decipher exactly what is being said. And while the quick-fire lyrics sound very nice with each syllable accenting the lush beat that backs it, unfortunately those repeat listens do not always yield remarkable substantive matter. Many of the rhymes are free-associative, however there is also the occasional subliminal political jab thrown in. Furthermore the album is sprinkled with vulgar (but undeniably fun) lyrics about everything from OxyContin to violent battle rhymes. The reason that their rhymes so often work is that they’re driven by creative word choices delivered in somewhat unconventional patterns.
To add to the success of this album is the production from beat-wizard Maker. Fresh off his fantastic work with Qwel, Maker is focused as ever. He employs a wide array of tactics, so trying to label the beats here under one term simply won’t do. Twisting guitar tracks, horns, and throbbing synths wrap themselves in layers around frantic drums. In addition to making a sonically unusual (a good thing) album, Maker paces Graymaker very well. The fact that the album’s strongest tracks fall at the beginning (“Mars Voltage”, “We Android”) and the end (“Bloodwork”, “Drapes”) means that there is never a clear-cut centerpiece. Therefore, Maker had to pace the album well in order to ensure that boredom was averted during the middle tracks.
Graymaker is definitely an attempt to bring something new to hip-hop. It is an aggressive statement against the traditional, and it succeeds and fails at the same time. The ending of “Drapes” (the first half is incredible) is an utterly confusing rewound sequence that is just a bit too drawn out. That said, Graymaker gets it generally right, and at the end of the day delivers very enjoyable hip-hop.