8.) G-Side - Island
When I moved to Alabama, one of the first things I did was look into the hip-hop scene in the state. Most everything out of Birmingham was derivative of the Atlanta scene, but I found some stunning originality in Huntsville. The standout act was G-Side, whose two albums prior to 2011 (Starshipz & Rocketz
, and Huntsville International
) featured some of the most lush production I’ve heard in all of hip-hop. G-Side is a duo made up of ST 2 Lettaz (aka Crooked Letter T) – a more East Coast influenced MC who can really rap circles around southern rappers not named Big Boi or Three Stacks – and Yung Clova – a more swagged-out southern rapper who married a chill delivery with deeper-than-you-think lyricism. In 2011, G-Side released two albums and they are getting all kinds of buzz from SPIN, Pitchfork, etc.
is their second album of the year, and it is a Goddamned tour-de-force of rap music. Let me bring up Block Beattaz, the resident producers on Slow Motion Soundz. Mali Boy, CP, and assorted underlings/apprentices make up for perhaps the best and most forward-thinking production team in ALL of rap music right now. They make sample-based beats that are more inventive, more fresh, than anything else I’ve heard from anyone. They’ll sample from indie rock or new age or world music. They pioneered the use of trance samples in rap music. Their work from 2008 is still ahead of its time. Their work from 2011? All you have to do is listen to “Cinematic” off of this album to understand how moving the combination of Block Beattas, Yung Clova, and ST are.
has numerous standout tracks that rank with the very best in all of hip-hop this year. For me, there’s a middle period on this album where the songs are about celebrating how far they’ve come that falls a bit flat. Part of G-Side’s charm is the working man’s struggle that is reflected in their lyrics. It’s what makes their art so valuable. But all of a sudden they can make songs about buying things for girls and about how many international shows they’re booked for and how much Gucci they can buy and along the way their originality gets lost a bit. This is a minor criticism, as the album is still obviously in my top 10 for the year. But I wonder if it isn’t a harbinger of some greater shift in their work. Still, songs like “Recognize” or “16 Shots” are as energetic and thrilling as rap can get. The best part of this album might just be Yung Clova. In G-Side’s previous material, ST often shines brightest. On Island
, Clova steps up to the plate and turns in his best performance yet. G-Side are the new face of southern rap. Don’t sleep.
Recognize: Alabama vs. LSU--The Rematch from Be Xo on Vimeo.