Saturday, January 5, 2008

Freestyle Fellowship - 1993 - Inner City Griots

"Freestyle Fellowship emerged on the L.A. rap scene during the early '90s. Given the chance to hone its skills at a health-food store's open-mic nights, the group quickly earned the attention and respect of the city's hip-hop underground. Their second album, 1993's Inner City Griots, is the only completely collaborative album released during the group's career. Surprisingly, each MC (Mikah Nine, Jupiter, Peace, and Aceyalone) seems fully matured at this early stage. On Inner City Griots, the production is improved to match the group's vibrant, dexterous wordplay. Swapping rhymes with agility and grace, the Fellowship is a rap tag team par excellence. At times, the lyrics are so dense and the delivery so quick that the words are practically indecipherable. Yet the rappers are just as adept at slowing down the pace without losing a bit of their lyrical energy or creativity.

Unrestricted by tired rap themes, the Fellowship strikes at a range of subjects. The abrasive opening one-two of "Blood" and "Bullies of the Block" might throw listeners off guard but as "Everything's Everything" opens, they provide assurances that "It's all right y'all." The guns are dropped and microphones prevail. Inner City Griots (a griot is an African storyteller) takes on Aceyalone's twisted nursery rhyme "Cornbread," the positive vibes of "Inner City Boundaries," the locker-room machismo of "Shammy's" (an inevitable ode to the ladies), and "Way Cool," a tale of serial killing horror. On "Park Bench People," the Freestyle Fellowship even asks whether rap music is big enough to take in a sung rumination on homelessness. With live instrumentation provided by the Underground Railroad (whose members appear throughout the album), the song stretches into a section reminiscent of '70s Stevie Wonder. Like all great groups that preceded it, the Fellowship was simply testing the limits of hip-hop and its own capabilities on this multifaceted collection." ~ AMG


01. Blood/Bullies On The Block
02. Everything's Everything
03. Shammy's/Heat Mizer
04. Six Tray
05. Danger
06. Inner City Boundaries/Bomb Zombies
07. Cornbread
08. Way Cool
09. Hot Potato
10. Mary
11. Park Bench People
12. Heavyweights/Tolerate
13. Respect Due
14. Pure Thought