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TBTS Reviews: G-Side, The ONE…COHESIVE

January 11, 2011

The ONE…COHESIVE is the latest work to emerge from the burgeoning, bountiful rap scene in Huntsville, Alabama. The town’s standard-bearing act is G-Side (ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova), who have once again teamed with the stellar Huntsville production duo Block Beattaz (CP and Mali Boi) for The ONE, just as on earlier albums and singles.

The foursome achieves a certain alchemy on The ONE…COHESIVE, resulting in an outstanding blend of deft production, accomplished compositional touches, skillful vocal flows, and strong, catchy melodies. Importantly, G-Side also present credible, insightful lyrical perspectives on poverty, race, class struggles, ambition, and, of all things, the power of the Internet as a new mode of local-to-global music distribution. With these attributes, The ONE…COHESIVE joins—easily, definitively, thoroughly—the spate of recent rap albums that have featured innovative sound constructions and contained the most interesting stuff I’m hearing from any sphere of popular music these days.

Right now, The ONE is available only through the G-Side Bandcamp site, where you can stream the album in its entirety prior to buying it for $9.99. This commendable tactic, along with their past choices to make much of their music available for free online, align with the nontraditional viewpoints espoused by G-Side on The ONE about generating publicity and building their careers. They not only indicate the belief that they don’t need a major label contract, but G-Side also actively shuns the very idea as disadvantageous to their ambitions. Witness the track “Nat Geo,” which contains the lyric, “Oh you got a deal, congratulations, and my condolences, hope you maintain your ownership,” in the midst of a tune that primarily focuses on the upward, successful trajectory on which G-Side and the entire Huntsville scene find themselves.

The album thus grounds its position on ambition and creative and financial autonomy in a sense of modesty, or in NPR’s word, “practicality.” I find this incredibly refreshing and relevant to the world in which most of us find ourselves, especially when compared to Jay-Z’s insufferable blathering on Kanye West’s album (“I dropped $30 million,” and so on) and the recent pop song about settling for nothing less than being a billionaire, both of which ring completely hollow and false compared to G-Side’s more humble, humane perspective. G-Side is nothing if not grounded, i.e., remaining deeply connected to their home place and their roots, even while engaged in the pursuit of lifting themselves and their city scene to international prominence.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, The ONE is a striking success even if you don’t give a rip about any of the sociological implications discussed above. Nearly every track has at least one distinctive element that catches the ear. Focusing on three, I’m partial to “Y U Mad” for its lovely piano intro, soaring guitar fade-out, and forceful lyrics. “How Far” features some of the album’s most insightful lyrics about success, minus any off-putting ostentation, in the Internet age (“The revolution won’t be televised, it’ll be on Youtube, keyword G-Side”). And for me, the album’s top highlight is “No Radio.” I love the ominous, buzzing backing track—comparable to the best moments on Massive Attack’s classic Mezzanine—as well as the hardcore, street-struggle bent of the lyrics.

Overall, I strongly recommend this album. Go buy The ONE…COHESIVE at Bandcamp and support some exceptionally talented and driven musicians at the height (thus far!) of their powers.

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3 Comments
  1. Rand-0 permalink
    January 12, 2011 2:28 pm

    Heard NAT Geo on 88.1 the other day. Good stuff!

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