Living Legends The Gathering [EP]

[Legendary; 2008]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: fiercely independent hip-hop
Others: Anticon, Ninja Tune, Strange Famous, Rawkus

It appears the name of this Bay Area-via-Los Angeles collective, Living Legends, is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since forming in the late-’90s, group members MURS, The Grouch, Luckyiam.PSC, Eligh, Scarub, Sunspot Jonz, Aesop Fables, and Bicasso have released over 50 full-lengths in various incarnations, selling over 300,000 units on the back of grassroots marketing and a devoted cult following. That wingspan assures a certain kind of immortality, made lasting through their considerable DIY effort. However, since their reach has been continually spinning wider and wider, it has become increasingly difficult for the entirety of Living Legends to hook up all at once.

The Gathering represents their first new work in a few years. Every song features contributions from every emcee, and the production has never sounded better. It definitely paid off to book time at the same Encore Studio that spawned The Chronic 2001 and other notable Dr. Dre projects. Getting it mastered by the hands of the Grammy-nominated Mike Lazer (Gnarles Barkley) was also worth every penny. Dare I say: it's their most complete batch of songs yet.

They don't really cover any new ground lyrically, but they hit all the right hot button topics that have simultaneously made them a force in the indie scene and kept them there. And they do so with rapier like wit, good insight, humor, and a flawless pop culture vernacular. "She Wants Me" obviously outlines the group's attitude towards club girls, though in a far less objectifying fashion than mainstream Akon acts, and they still work in a nod to Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's." Over a beat that pairs growling subbase and 8bit plinkery, "Pants On Fire" is a devastating teardown of liars in politics, pop rap, and relationships. The EP's major anti-war statement is found in "War And Peace," in which they beg for understanding while outlining the Bush Administration's criminal antics, served over a tasty reversed guitar lick and no-gimmicks beat.

The Gathering does feature one curious moment: during the outro of the funky hip-house future classic "After Hours," they say, "If you downloaded this for free, you're never gonna get laid again." That'll probably kill at least half of the Fiddy-raping fleet from contention. Hip people tend to be internet-savvy and well-versed in MP3 law. Oh well. At least the other half is dedicated enough to make up for them, and as a teaser for their next full-length (due later in '08), The Gathering does the job. Mainstream believers have nothing on these conscious rhymes and tasty beats.

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