The 20th anniversary of one of hip-hop’s fabled years has offered some bittersweet reflections. Seeking the equivalent of an Illmatic, Ready To Die or Hard To Earn in 2014 is an exercise in futility.
Expectations of anything approaching a classic record (in any genre) are perhaps unfair. The most difficult thing to accept in hip-hop’s modern era is the one-note feel to pretty much all of it.
Urban radio is awash with trap flows or faux-retro homages. The underground is mostly uninspired with artists that either end up going thug or the Odd Future route. For some of us, Hip-Hop died along with J Dilla and for every Stones Throw, there’s a Maybach Music; for every Elzhi there’s an Iggy Azalea.
Taking a vastly different approach in hip-hop today is rare and it often requires seeking out non-traditional breeding grounds for its practitioners.
Birmingham, Alabama was a flashpoint for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s and like countless other U.S. cities it has seen its share of hard times. This quintessential Southern city is experiencing something of a revitalization, and with that comes renewed artistic energy and output.
The Green Seed, a four-man outfit from The Magic City, is making some nice overtures with their vintage-drenched release Drapetomania (07/15/14 drop date). The crew—MCs R-Tist and C.O.M.P.L.E.T. and DJs FX and Jeff C.—draw favorable comparisons to Souls of Mischief, Blackalicious and Jurassic 5.
They caught a bit of exposure in 2012 after mtvU featured their video for “Crack Kills.”
The lyrical blueprint here is closer to the countercultural leanings of Public Enemy, taking stabs at excessive social media on “Diss Connect” and the diatribe, “Make Room.”
There’s a dash of Cunninlynguists in the template here as well with social and spiritual consciousness being running themes throughout.
“Make Room” is the album’s showpiece as it delivers on both the lyrical and sonic end.
The latter is an area where The Green Seed could use some adjustments as the beats here have something of an unaccomplished feel in places. R-Tist handles much of the production with some assistance from the folks at Birmingham-based label, Communicating Vessels.
Graphic novel heads will geek on the video for the album’s lead single, “Jude Law”:
Making a left turn in an age of conformity should be commended. We’re not saying Birmingham is the next Dueham, but The Green Seed show promise and individuality.
This is an album you need to spend some time with to appreciate the complexity of the subject matter.
Rating: 79 out of 100