I recently took a trip back to Northern California to see one of my best friends from childhood get married. In the years since I’ve seen some of my friends, some got skinnier, some are now parents, one got a real bitchy girlfriend, and another grew his hair out and now looks like Scott Disick. With the celebratory champagne flowing as we all caught up, the chemistry between us was still so strong it was like nobody ever grew up and moved away.
Freestyle Fellowship‘s first album in nine years, The Promise, felt just like the wedding reception. Members have been absent due to solo careers and incarceration, but the lifelong friends are back like they never left. They treat the pulsating “This Write Here” like a gang initiation, taking turns lyrically beating your ears senseless, as if you’re getting jumped into the album. Wu-Tang members used to hate following the GZA, and I imagine FF’s members felt the same way after giving Myka 9 the first crack:
“I remember the Alamo
Saddle up camels on the Nat Geo channel
I’m up on the gallows with two calico candles
The scandal of a bandelero vandal is unimaginable
The gamble for the weak preamble will damage a delicate damsel
I’m branding my Lambo Lando Calrissian.”
And of course, Myka is spitting this at light speed. Have fun following that, guys! Freestyle Fellowship songs have always felt like a friendly competition between members, like they sit in the studio and take side bets on who had the nicest verse or who can fit the most syllables into a bar.
With production by Exile, Black Milk, Eligh, and Kenny Segal, The Promise isn’t as soulful and jazzy as older Freestyle Fellowship releases. While “Promise” and “Know the Truth” carry on tradition, “Dart” is dark and futuristic, a bastard child of the Deltron 3030 sound. Aside from the somber “Popular” and defiant “Government Lies,” Freestyle Fellowship’s main focus is entertaining both the listener and each other via verbal dexterity. They sound like they are legitimately enjoying themselves and are looking forward to the next verse as much as the listener is. Freestyle Fellowship’s promise of never falling the fuck off seemed in jeopardy with Temptations, but The Promise is a covenant kept.4 out of 5