December 5, 2009
G-Side | Huntsville International
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
It’s sad that ever since Nas’ first shock album title gimmick in 2006, hip hop discussions have mostly revolved around whether or not hip hop is dead. Everyone yaps on about how much music sucks now compared to the Golden Age of their fantasy. Then everyone else yaps back when they find something half-decent, trying to prove to the hip-hop-is-deaders that it isn’t dead after all, you cynical dummies. Even The New Yorker got in on the game recently, declaring Jay-Z’s loss of trendsetting ability as a sign that hip-hop was “aging out” of relevancy.
But the worst consequence is that many great artists start making music with this focus, music to “save hip-hop.” They make art for art’s sake, forgetting the sage words of Dead Prez: “it’s bigger than hip hop.” G-Side has clearly not forgotten. While artists from Raekwon to Slaughterhouse try to correct the ways of unartistic, lazy hip hop, G-Side recognizes music as a tool to connect with people.
G-Side is a rising group out of Huntsville, Alabama, consisting of rappers ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova. Huntsville International is their latest project, a title culled from the name of their town’s airport and also one that reflects their broadening horizons. Last year, the duo found modest success with the release of their album, Starshipz & Rocketz, a space-age experience taking the down-to-earth wisdom and humility of Outkast to a new sonic level. The well-received album landed them on the radars of a handful of influential niche blogs. This bit of success was enough to let them travel outside of Huntsville for the first time in their lives, and their trip is an inspiration.
On Starshipz & Rocketz, G-Side used the idea of outer space as a metaphor for escape – escape from their past lives as drug dealers and towards…something better. Huntsville International turns that metaphorical escape into a very real escape out of their hood into cities across the world. Sure, the drops from the nationwide bloggers are a little gimmicky. But G-Side’s elation over their success is not gimmicky. These guys take great pride out of anything from being able to travel and meet new people (on “So Wonderful,” Clova spits: “Jimmy said ‘Your network is your net worth’ so I’m on this plane trying to touch the whole universe”) to something as mundane as finally being able file their taxes, y’know, legally after leaving a life of crime (ST brags “I’m a W-2 boy!”).
And for all their boasts of where they are now, they always have a constant, humble eye on where they came from. G-Side has no intention of forgetting or abandoning their hood. If anything, you get the opposite impression: that they want to bring their entire hood up with them. Of course, they talk about looking out for their family (“This Is Life,” “In The Rain”). But more importantly, they offer words of wisdom and advice for the entire ghetto to take heed so they can lift each other up (“So Gone,” “Whats It All About”). None of the wisdom hits harder than on “Rising Sun,” when ST admonishes anyone glorifying the act of dealing drugs: “The game got it twisted as shit/ The whole point in flipping them bricks was to flip it legit.” It hits home because it carries the weight of experience behind it, carries humility. They’ve done the dirt but they never lost sight of what they were doing it for and had a strong enough moral compass to quit when they had the opportunity. It’s the sort of line that’s so epicly sobering, you just can’t hear rap the same after this.
The bulk of the production is handled by in-house team Block Beattaz, who continue to expand on the space-age futurism from Starshipz & Rocketz. The album is full of fluttering synths and wavy electronic sounds with blips and bleeps sprinkled across. All of this on top of some serious 808 drum programming for that Southern bounce. Really, in terms of dynamics, the production seems to have more in common with rave music than anything else, often building piece by piece into a full-blown climax before breaking down, and then building back up again. Other producers crowd the first half of the disc and hold their own, especially Mick Vegas who flips the space vibe excellently on his “Paradise” and “My Aura.”
Mos Def tried to tell us that hip hop wasn’t some giant living in the hills, that just by living our lives with each other to the best of our ability – this is how hip hop would stay alive. G-Side seems to recognize this. So they keep pushing themselves and pushing us to be better than we are. This isn’t for hip hop. As ST says, “They say you can’t change the world through a song/ so I did this here to prove ’em wrong.”
by Quan Vu