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Archive for the ‘G-Side’ Category

Spin: “The Rise of Rap’s Regular Guys.”


On G-Side, Tabi Bonney, and Stalley, and what it means to be moderately famous in rap.

A rapper’s narrative is pretty much always the same: Enter the young, hungry wordsmith who has finally, gloriously, made it. Lately though, thanks to the Internet, which makes it easy to bypass labels and normal promotional routes, as well as a messy, confused industry that often protracts buzz, the next big thing remains on the come-up for far too long, eventually staring down their official debut with a well-defined, often self-satisfied persona.

On last year’s Thank Me Later, Drake skipped the hungry, earnest rapper stage and proceeded directly to the “I’m famous, now what?” point in his career, and producer-rappers like J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T saddled their striving-for-classic mixtures with a “small town on my shoulders” martyr complex that demanded fame they’d not yet earned and had them questioning whether that fame was even worth it in the first place. Recent releases from Huntsville, Alabama’s G-Side (The One…Cohesive), Washington D.C.’s Tabi Bonney (Postcard From Abroad), and Massillon, Ohio’s Stalley (Lincoln Way Nights) make those petulant meta-narratives look a little foolish…

Written by Brandon

March 4th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Pitchfork: G-Side – The One…Cohesive


It’s been very hard not to post some thoughts on G-Side’s The One…Cohesive, discussing certain songs (“Inner Circle,” “No Radio” “Imagine”), or specific details (Kristmas’ “c’mon people” verse on “Y U Mad,” GMane’s “wash my dick off in the sink” verse from “Pictures,” the transition from “Inner Circle” to “Jones,” the way “Never” makes me want to drive my car off the road it’s so awesome) but I got to review it for Pitchfork and wanted to save my thoughts for that review–and you can read it by clicking below:

Last year, Huntsville, Ala., hip-hop duo G-Side took message board buzz and rap blog kudos for 2008’s Starshipz and Rocketz and turned it into a mini-movement with the ambitious, worldly, blog-obsessed Huntsville International. The biggest musical export from Huntsville last year, however, was Antoine Dodson and the Gregory Brothers’ “The Bed Intruder Song”, an embarrassing local news clip turned Internet meme that inexplicably hit the Billboard Hot 100.

On The ONE… COHESIVE, G-Side rapper ST 2 Lettaz, the braying, bold contrast to partner Yung Clova’s raspy skepticism, makes two purposefully crude references to Antoine Dodson. “Never” features a dismissive aside (“tampons for you Antoines”) and on “Came Up”, he warns rappers, “like the Lincoln Park rapist, I’m comin’ through your window.” ST’s ire stems from Dodson’s complicity in presenting Huntsville as another backwoods hood (G-Side calls it “a mini Memphis” for good reason). But Dodson’s use of the web to make a better life for himself and his family is probably something G-Side can get behind…

Written by Brandon

January 14th, 2011 at 6:13 am

Posted in G-Side, Pitchfork

Village Voice, Sound of the City: “Country Rap 2: The Gulf States”


Here’s a discussion with Bertolain Elysee, one of the curators of the “Country Rap 2″ film event which kicks-off this weekend at the Maysles Cinema. In addition to all the films, G-Side will be performing this Saturday night. If you’re in the area, I’d strongly encourage you to check it out.

The Maysles Institute’s documentary film series “Country Rap 2: The Gulf States” and its accompanying program “Katrina: Five Years Later”–both opening this weekend–tie the rich spirit and deep history of Southern hip-hop to recent tragedies like Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. Films about Miami bass (2 Live Crew: Banned in the U.S.A), bounce (Ya Heard Me?), Southern rap (Dirty States Of America, The Carter), Delta blues (The Land Where Blues Began), and New Orleans jazz (Jazz Parades) stand alongside histories of the Black Panther Party (Lowndes County Freedom Party) and the Miami University football team (The U). Alabama up-and-comers G-Side will perform at the venue on Saturday. (And all of this in New York City, a/k/a the town that booed OJ Da Juiceman!) Via e-mail, we spoke to co-curator Bertolain Elysee about the event’s expansive intentions, why libertarians should love 2 Live Crew’s Luke, and Lil Wayne and Lil Boosie’s particular kind of political activism.

Written by Brandon

August 20th, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Metal Lungies Beat Drop: Best of 2009

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I picked my five favorite beats of 2009 along with a ton of other people for Metal Lungies’ Beat Drop. My picks were “Rising Sun” by G-Side (produced by the Block Beataz),”Run This Town” by Jay-Z (produced by No I.D and Kanye West), Rhymefest’s “Pull Me Back” by Rhymefest (produced by The Matrax), “In the Ruff” by Diamond District (produced by Oddisee), and “First Day Out” by Gucci Mane (produced by Zaytoven). Here’s what I said about that Zaytoven beat. Click to check out the whole feature:
“Usually, a great beat brings together a bunch of disparate chunks of sound into a dope, cohesive whole. This beat by Zaytoven does the opposite: It stacks the same sound (a ping-ponging Zombie movie synth) on top of itself until it’s a crawling mess of bleeps, bloops, and whines, all up in your speakers. It’s deceptively simple and the power comes from the like, casual chaos of it all…the seemingly accidental rhythms and syncopations that stem from this sound-stacking.”

Written by Brandon

December 28th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Village Voice: “Huntsville’s G-Side Are Thriving on the Internet—and East Village Radio”

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The reason this blog was relatively silent about G-Side’s masterful Huntsville International was because of this article in this week’s Village Voice about G-Side, the new mixtape, and their connection to East Village Radio’s very awesome “Baller’s Eve”. In the process of doing the article, I managed to lose my driver’s license, spill Crystal Light all over my Macbook, hang-out in New York with G-Side and The Baller’s Eve dudes, as well as meet Joseph of “Geek Down” and yes, the Internets Celebrities Rafi and Dallas. Loads of fun. On the way back to Baltimore, I listened to Huntsville International for the first time and it just totally devastated me. I hope I was able to put some of that experience into words.

“Kat Daddy Slim, one-third of the East Village Radio show Baller’s Eve, takes a shot at summing up Huntsville, Alabama’s finest hip-hop duo, G-Side: “Outkast on steroids.” His co-hosts, DJ Dirrty and Minski Walker, just nod their heads: “Yep.”

G-Side themselves—rappers Clova and ST 2 Lettaz, alongside Codie G, manager of their label, Slow Motion Soundz—are taken aback. There is a moment of modest silence.

We’re gathered in the EVR office after a mid-November Baller’s Eve episode (there’s another one every Wednesday, from 10 p.m. to midnight) heavily devoted to tracks from G-Side’s Huntsville International mixtape, released for free online earlier that day. Clova’s eyes grow big, taking in that profoundly flattering comparison. ST drawls out an appreciative “Shit . . .” Codie G, for once, has no words…”

Written by Brandon

December 9th, 2009 at 2:38 am

Don’t Wrap Up Rap Just Yet: G-Side

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Did you see that interview with Tyler Perry on 60 Minutes last Sunday? Probably not, but Perry called his infamous character Madea, “bait”: “Disarming, charming, make-you-laugh bait so that I can slap Madea in something and talk about God, love, faith, forgiveness, family — any of those things.” The beats on BP3 are bait like that.

Visceral, in-the-now slabs of synth and Euro-house party sounds so that Jay-Z can slip his grown-ass man insights onto a new album. It’s more than “mildly entertaining” as Sasha Frere-Jones said in “Wrapping Up”, it’s a deeply affecting album about standing between two worlds and wisely inching towards the smarter, less “cool” choice.

Hunstville, Alabama’s G-Side released an album full of beats not all that different from those weirder ones on BP3 and they did it nearly a year before Jay and they didn’t reach out to 500k-a-beat business buddies, they were holed-up with their town’s avant-rap geniuses the Block Beataz and crafted Starshipz and Rocketz, a perfect album about looking forward and cringing as you look back. The fluttering synths, the stuttering 808s, the waves of weird space-noise running through their songs are not there to reflect what’s going on in New York City clubs–or on sites like Discobelle–but to musically manifest transcendence. Space and retro-futurism as escape from all that bullshit.

Album-ender “Run Thingz” is basically all-out rave stuff, it doesn’t slow the BPMs down all that much and it doesn’t remove the airy edges of the electronics–as is the production habit on BP3–and the verses, from ST 2 Lettaz and Clova, use their current success and parlay it into rap-it-so-it-happens utopianism: “I stay trill like ST/They put a lock where my soul be/And found a way to break free/Starshipz that’s the dedication”.

It’s a long way from ST’s killer first lines on “Youth of the Ghetto”: “Momma stay gone, Daddy’s been gone, lights ain’t on so I had to get grown/No TV, can’t watch The Flintstones/So I went outside with them boys and flipped stones.” You’ll notice that rarely are G-Side rapping in the present-tense about hustling. They’re not that much different from Jay-Z, only their concerns are, even as they float around in space, much more grounded. It’s the production sound and trends of the ‘aughts wrapped in earthy, deeply sincere rhymes. The stuff Frere-Jones praised Gibbs for, just not as wrapped up in niche sound of rap’s past. Looking into the past and then dragging the past into the future.

Their latest project, Huntsville International comes out on November 9th and in title alone, shows these hyper-specific regional rappers talking to the world. It’s named after their hometown’s airport, but it’s also a reference to the group’s broader scope. Since the release of Starshipz, the group’s travelled up North and West and across the Atlantic, picking up new ideas and sounds, all now to be rolled-up in their forward-thinking space-age country rap tunes.

further reading/viewing:

-”Wrapping Up” by Sasha Frere-Jones from The New Yorker
-”Das Racist to Sasha Frere-Jones: Stop Killing Rap”
-”They Don’t Really Dance: G-Side at Guilford College” by ME
-”Artist Spotlight: G-Side” from KevinNottingham.Com
-Tyler Perry on 60 Minutes

Written by Brandon

October 29th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Blueprint 3, G-Side, Jay-Z

How Big Is Your World? New Raps!

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-DJ Quik & Kurupt “Ohh!”

BlaQKout is this year’s It Is What It Is, a perfunctory, worker-bee regional rap album that gels together to be way more than a perfunctory, worker-bee regional rap album. The appeal of It Is What It Is was the production, but everybody praised the lyrics. The appeal of BlaQKout is the lyrics and everyone’s praising the production. Quik owns the album, for the beats as usual–especially his glitch-hop, rubbery bass, synth/moog handiwork here–but mainly by making a rapper as engaging as Kurupt seem kinda worthless. Quik as 8Ball to Kurupt’s Devius, you dig? Quik drops little pieces of earned guidance counselor cornball wisdom (“I used to slang rocks but I was told to stop/Music is your toy…) and insight (“I know the prison system”) with the same helium-voiced sincerity he once rapped about “Sweet Black Pussy” and/or his fractured mental state, like the changing for the worse world affects him but he’s only gonna let the people really listening to know.

-Mos Def featuring Slick Rick “Auditorium”

“The way I felt-sometimes it’s too hard to sit still”–”Auditorium” is like classic Mobb Deep aiming their insights at the geo-political landscape, with a surprisingly uh, good, beat from Madlib that rings and pings and wanders and stomps like a monster from The Infamous too. Big Secret: Black on Both Sides is about as consistent True Magic, which makes Mos a forever-frustrating but always fascinating rapper-turnt-sanger and makes The Ecstatic close to his best release. The way the beat here almost fades-down, then rises out of its quiet with a verse from Slick Rick is probably the best use of a guest since Jeezy dropped down like Bowser in Super Mario 3 into Kanye’s “Amazing”. “Auditorium” isn’t really about anything, but it’s not swag-rap or space-shit that don’t make no sense either, it’s more about a feeling, one perfectly balanced by Mos’ paranoid angry collage of comments about the fucked-up world right now and Ricky D’s storytelling classicism transported to a warzone.

-G-Side “Paradise”

It was kinda perfect that “Paradise” dropped last week, within a day or two of the previously unreleased video for Kanye West’s “Spaceship” because G-Side, of all groups, are picking up what Kanye dropped: A deep concern for community and poverty, with a biting sense of humor (“Santa Claus fuck around, get robbed in our section”). A few lines later ST admits, “Out of state, shit-faced, drunk-textin/My life ain’t rosey but I roll with it…” and then powers through the soulful-synthetic beat from Mick Vegas because well, these guys are getting closer to paradise and they can’t give up now. On Starshipz, ST and Clova, rapped hard-times flashbacks like they were a part of their present (because they might as well have been and sometimes were) and mixed it with humble thoughts of future-fame (“Run Thingz”). On “Paradise” they’re a little closer and you really feel it, especially on Clova’s verse (he’s the star of this song), where he tempers his of-the-moment flow with a deeper focus on meter and letting every whisper-rap seethe through and echo into the next line–like he’s chanting “paradise” into fruition. Note, Clova’s humble vision of paradise includes the simple act of “everybody compromising”–this is actual “reality rap”, separate from guns and drugs, aimed at the gloomy impossibility for everyone to even just meet in the middle.

-Emynd “What About Tomorrow”

Build-ups stacked on top of more build-ups is the formula for Emynd’s “What About Tomorrow”. Upward moving synths that could be from any of the electro-Rap & Bullshit dominating radio, percolator drum squeaks tip-toeing around the Club music break, pokes of piano, a weird wave of airy noise (almost like a cymbal struck and echoed then played backward), and the vocal, which comes-in mid lyric, the tail-end of a melismatic wail of “tomorrow-owowoowow” and floats all through the song…There’s a lot of influences and ideas flowing through this one, and what makes dance music so cool is how dopes like me can expound on it for hundreds of words but none of that really stops it from just being beyond-words awesome (or not awesome as is sometimes the case, thought not this time)–Club music just sorta works like that.

-James Ferraro “Steel Escape”

Madlib’s “Auditorium” beat born with mosaicism. Would’ve never have checked this out if not for Justin Broadrick’s Twitter because Ferraro belongs to that whole sub-genre on the, “now that Holy Mountain’s easily available on DVD, and I bought a book of Alex Grey artwork at Borders, trippy, cornball spirituality’s available for me to grossly misread” tip, but this guy really gets it. Taking his cues from Commodore 64 and Italian zombie films soundtracks as much as transcendent Lamonte Young drone or even Terry Riley’s mannered trippiness, there’s real tension and menace in Ferraro’s work. This isn’t the best track on Edward Flex Presents: Do You Believe In Hawaii?–that would be “Chrome Wave Arena”, the thirty-minute track that starts off with manipulated seal yelps–but “Steel Escape” is the shortest and works as a primer for the rest of the album which stretches the moaning, warm synths on some 70s film-strip shit and pond of manipulated voices and gutteral groans heard here into humming, fart-noise, synth-bliss epics.

Written by Brandon

June 10th, 2009 at 9:13 pm

They Don’t Really Dance: G-Side at Guilford College (w/video)

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Waiting in a surprisingly swanky Guilford College “V.I.P” room (surprising given how poorly the artists were treated overall, more on that tomorrow), after an aborted attempt to perform—sound issues, no surprise—G-Side sit back, struggling to define their sound to this goofy blogger.

Anyone’s that’s heard G-Side’s Southern sincerity raps over Huntsville, Alabama’s Block Beataz country-rap-space tunes production shouldn’t be surprised that ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova hesitate a couple times before summing up their really hard-to-sum-up sound.

With the same mix of modesty and determined knowingness you catch when he says something like “A rookie in the game but I move like a damn boss” (from “Strictly Buzinezz”), Yung Clova with a smile says: “We, we don’t, we really don’t dance…”

“Yeah…We don’t do the stanky-leg-“ ST 2 Lettaz chimes-in, laughing.

“We tryin’ to bring hip-hop back for real…” Clova comes back quick, saying something every rapper tells you, but you know, G-Side really are bringing back “real hip-hop”–unless your definition of “real” stops long before Scarface, Outkast, and Eightball and MJG. ST expounds a bit:

“I’m a big Scarface fan, big Jay-Z fan…I think what makes our music sound so good is, we gotta make livin’ in Hunstville, and Athens, Alabama sound interesting to the masses, where really nothing interesting’s going on, on a day-to-day basis…but we make it sound pretty cool, know what I’m saying?”

Again with the modesty.

Despite lofty traditionalist goals and a true rap nerd’s sense of hip-hop history–—at a Guilford party after the show, you could watch ST’s lips move with every line from every Outkast, Jay-Z, Scarface, and Z-Ro song blasting from a student’s laptop–G-Side are not about nostalgia.

Rather, they’ve respectfully bowed down before their influences, internalized them, and moved-on to their own odd mix of rap humanism, shit-talk, paranoia, and ultimately, escape or if you want to get all spacey and 2001 about it–transcendence.

Notice that rarely is the group rapping in the present tense about hustling. Their music is about not having to do that anymore and space as metaphor or place to escape this fucked-up world and eventually, bring the rest of us with them.

On “Hit Da Block”, the song that begins the album’s final suite of past paranoid meets current success (after a thrilling three-song detour in R & B-ish rap), ST begins his verse with a crack-rap reminisce: “We three-deep on the interstate…” A lot of rappers’d be bragging about a past crime, but every detail ST drops further illustrates why this was a bad fucking idea.

One of the passengers’ P.O’s told him he’s “supposed to stay in the state” but ST counters the risk with the hood utopian justification: “but we can’t sleep til’ we know that all our niggas ate”. But then we’re back to the danger: “I’m only 21 and I could probably get more years than that if they find what’s in the trunk…”–more a mix of excitement and storytelling morality of Rae and Ghost or Geto Boys than all-out crack-rap bragging.

When G-Side perform “Hit Da Block”, ST steps-up for his verse, sinks into the cicada synths and paranoid, wordless vocals of the beat and puts his hand out like he’s casually driving. Clova bounces by his side and you see them transported to just a few years ago when being “three-deep on the interstate” was real-life.

Clova’s got his flashback moment on the song too, intensely stepping-forward and telling an audience of Guilfordians: “My homeboy just got busted for a few grams/On the back street trapping in a Trans-Am.” The point though is, that’s not what they’re doing anymore and ugly memories are fodder for their raps that contrast with their current situation–not grabs for “street-cred”.

Explaining their color-coordinated outfits for the show, ST notes, “Well they say, purple is like, for nobility and royalty, and we’ve been living like kings ever since Starshipz dropped, so it was kind of fitting.” ST’s voice lifts a bit and he looks over to Clova–the group’s relative success puts a smile on his face too—and I’m reminded of the sense of joy and wonder that races through the still world-weary album.

That mix of joy and world-weariness is the result of the stars aligning–no pun intended. Block Beataz stoned thump finding an ideal partnership with ST and Clova’s confessional rhymes. When the two talk about Starshipz, they use the same word as critics: “Cohesive”.

ST explains that all the work’s done in the studio, Block Beataz playing G-Side skeletal versions of the final product, ST and Clova writing and rapping to that skeleton and then, “after the fact”, Mali Boi and C.P will “go back and build around [their] vocals”. I’m reminded of the making of… stories for those early Outkast classics, but also tales of Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 1, where Dilla had Slum rapping over the most rudimentary of beats that he later exploded into clips of voice, guitar, Rhodes, and whatever else.

And even when Block Beataz and G-Side do a club song, they don’t leave the experimentation or personality behind. “Rubba Bandz” claps and beeps like a joint for Gucci Mane and the last bunch of tracks (“Hit Da Block” to “Run Thingz”) are rave-rap ready but you know, closer to actual rave music. Not Polow Da Don’s regressive retro-futurism, but this powerful mix of joy and sadness, pleasure and pain.

On Starshipz closer “Run Thingz”—the raveiest or rave beats–Clova ends with an image of G-Side destroying their underground status: “they tried to put us incognito/I got a Grammy and walked the carpet with the Slo-Mo”. The genius of Clova’s imagined scene is that he speaks about it like it already happened or that it’s at least, a foregone conclusion. Bragging based less on shit-talk than some bullnecked belief that it’ll happen.

The group seems beyond affected by music bullshit, probably aware that stuff like “Lollipop” gets Grammy nominated and contemporary classics rarely do, but fine with employing it as a kinda metaphor and just happy to have a dope CD out that’s selling “really really well…” as ST reminded me more than once.

When asked about their contribution to Fear and Loathing in Hunts Vegas, “Real Good”, ST affects a Tyler Perry’s Madea sass and angrily but jokingly tells me “We didn’t get paid for that Fear & Loathing song that we was on Hunts Vega…blah…blah…”.

He’s annoyed but clearly prefers to let that one go and laugh with me about the song’s line that rivals any ‘Ball & MJG punchline: “My nuts is numb and then I had to hit her/This bitch tries to put a finger in my shitter”. Clova’s eyes grow big “That song’s on there?!” and ST smacks his hands on the chair’s arms: “Yes it really happened…” They take a similarly wizened attitude towards the nothing short of a debacle that is this show at Guilford.

So….this show. Let me begin by saying, if you want to put a group of musicians to the test, surround them with a group of clueless kids and security guards that’ve scheduled a show for exactly 8 o’clock that inexplicably, ends with a DJ set from a student and begins with the two, higher-paid, out-of-town groups.

Factor in said big-headed student DJ not budging on times and seemingly unimpressed by Baltimore’s preminent out-there, next-level rappers Mania Music Group and The FADER celebs G-Side, despite cribbing his entire laptop DJ style from places like The FADER and Baltimore’s Dan Deacon, and you expect a mess on your hands.

But G-Side and MANIA Music Group (more on them tomorrow) took the entire thing in-stride, really just wanting to perform really bad for a bunch of kids they’d never otherwise encounter.

G-Side at one point, faced the humiliation of walking off the stage when the sound continually cut-off and returned twenty minutes later to only slightly better sound as if nothing was wrong, did a quick set of “Strictly Buzinezz”, “Hit Da Block”, “Rubba Bandz”, and “Speed of Sound” thanked everyone profusely and showed up at a fairly insane Guilford party an hour later, doing JELLO-O shots and chilling-out on a couch listening to Z-Ro, talking rap with me and a few others.

Written by Brandon

March 26th, 2009 at 3:31 am