|Fresh | Posted September 29, 2014
With their new record Quarantine, the Nashville-based hip-hop duo Grits celebrates at the time of this release 15 years of recording. In that time, emcees Coffee and Bonafide have continued to move forward boldly in shaping (and re-shaping) their sound. While this has been a challenge for fans of earlier work, the group has seen fairly consistent success while trying to make their records sonically relevant. With Quarantine, heralded as the group’s final studio record, it is sad to see this game-changing group go. Although it is hard to believe any ‘retirement’ announcement in today’s market, we will examine this album as if it’s their last.
The record opens with “Fresh”, featuring a very catchy auto-tuned chorus and an energetic Bonafide ripping into the mid-tempo beat. This song is a clear radio winner, as is “Do It Again”, which utilizes synth sounds and drums that walk a fine line between the street and the club. Both tunes emphasize a bravado that is well deserved in terms of skills and experience, but misplaced in bragging about “whips & kicks” – even if the end result of glorifying God is clearly expressed.
Grits push the vibe even further into the club with the techno-infused “New Life” and “Nevaland”. The former taps into Natasha Beddingfield territory for a hook that is an instant winner. Here, the lyrical theme of the record is revealed – the changing power of a relationship with Christ. The latter is an unfortunate miss that is too similar to its predecessor and fails to engage lyrically or sonically. Unfortunately this is one of many missteps on the 10-track record.
The track that will make old-school heads salivate is “Nuance Music”, which lands at the mid-way point of the disc. This three-minute lyrical blitz features jazz & soul inspired keys, stings, vibes and flutes combined with delicious off-time drums. With his varying cadences, Coffee sneaks in the voice of the veteran: “Looking at it like it’s my last chance, to reach the whole world in a single song.” With the ‘end’ of Grits looming, it is noteworthy that lyrical gems are readily waiting for the trained ear throughout the majority of this record (such as Bonafide’s sharp line “We walked with Jesus way before ‘Ye’).
Unfortunately, Quarantine falls flat in the following tracks. “We All We Got” and “Omg”, unsuccessfully aimed at the Trey Songz “Smiley face” crowd, do not resonate with the ‘veteran’ status so clearly emphasized at the beginning of the record. “Outta Body” does continue the theme of spiritual transformation, with a beat that fails to leave an impression. Queue up “Different Drum”, THE banger of the record. The emcees are joined by Verbs for a hard-hitting dirty south joint emphasizing walking a ‘narrow’ path because of Christ’s influence in their lives.
Coffee and Bonafide say a less than fond goodbye on the album’s title track. Brennin Hunt takes a heavy portion of the vocals on this CCM friendly number. Once again, the two emcees shine brightly in describing their career. However, the canvas provided is a piano-heavy, predominantly drum-less track that struggles with pacing over its six minutes. This is a far cry from tunes in their vast catalog that pull the heartstrings while keeping the more recognizable hip-hop form. To finish their careers this way seems like a strange departure.
With slightly more hits than misses, Quarantine is a record to pick through on your digital music provider.
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