Lifesavas Gutterfly

[Quannum; 2007]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: bay area hip-hop, spiritual, gospel, funk
Others: Quannum, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, Braille

The soundtrack to a non-existent movie is an interesting premise for a concept album, and if a soundtrack could actually determine a movie's plot, this one would be about the ghetto, the cleverness of these MCs, and Christianity. Which, honestly, became a bit of a problem for me. See, I'm an atheist. Not agnostic, not "sitting on the fence," but also not someone who wags their finger at theists for thinking differently than I do. That said, I feel the religious themes on Gutterfly are out of place; they're not subtle enough to be ignorable and not extreme enough to be labelled Christian hip-hop. Which is why I'm torn. If every track was about God, then it would be easy to write them off, but when the boom bap of "The Warning" exploded out my stereo, I couldn't do it. I had to give these guys a fair trial.

If I could of glossed over the whole Jesus thing, I would of just stated that the album is a collection of (mostly) excellent tracks with a '70s funk vibe that has become the trademark Lifesavas sound. The MCs present on the album are in full force, with Jumbo The Garbage Man providing his best lyrical and stylistic output yet and Vursatyl decimating the mic like he always does. He is one of the best-kept secrets of the underground, and he's the highlight on nearly every track, no doubt. The production is incredibly consistent and ensures the proceedings are easy on the ears, if unfortunately a little lacking in variety. As a first impression, and even for a few subsequent listens, this is one of the best hip-hop albums of the year, and it's quite an impressive follow up to Spirit in Stone. After a while, however, parts of the album blend together, and you may find yourself drifting off while listening to it. Not exactly a fault, but there's nothing groundbreaking going on here.

For some, the overtly religious lyrical themes on tracks like "Take me Away" and "Serpent's Love" won't be a problem, and if so, there is more goodness to be found here than on your average hip-hop outing. "Dead Ones", featuring Fishbone, is one of the best crossover hip-hop tracks in recent memory (and with ska of all genres), and the rapid-fire spitting on "Shine" is just spectacular. Other guest appearances by Camp Lo, George Clinton, and Smif 'N Wessun are engulfed by the production, once again to ensure it's easy on the ears. Plainly put: this is a slick album. Highly recommended for people of faith, generally recommended for those on the fence, but anyone crusty on religion should proceed with caution.

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