Greg Grease: Cornbread, Pearl & G Review
I subscribe to a couple theories about hip hop circa 2013. One is that “mainstream” hip hop is currently in its hair metal phase, meaning that the exciting/creative/fresh initial wave of the genre has given way to the bloated/predictable/”me-me-me-money-money-money” crowd that have essentially pissed the bed on the national level. The other theory is that locally (meaning the Twin Cities), we can have a tendency to see a shiny object and focus all of our attention on it, often to a fault. Case in point? Next time Prince, the Replacements or the Jayhawks (or for a more current twist, Polica or Trampled by Turtles) do something –really, anything at all– check out local music media coverage. This distinction, of being not only important but as being a harbinger of “who we are,” has been extended to the Rhymersayers/Doomtree rap crew, a cemented-in-place reference point that becomes a near hegemony for up and coming artists. Do they sound like Atmopshere? P.O.S? Brother Ali? If not….good luck breaching the gilded palace. With the current saturation at the national level of shitty, materialistic junk and our local scene at times narrowing our focus to specific sounds, it was great to hear the commanding debut record, Cornbread, Pearl & G, from local MC Greg Grease and see the positive reception this great record received.
While some records say they in their press releases that they are influenced by certain sounds and artists, Grease wears his influence on his sleeve. Even when he does call out specifics, like on the Common referencing “I Still Love H.E.R,” it is as much show as tell. As he tells stories of “cutting records in basements” and listening to Dilla and Busta, you not only hear him talking about the references, but you can feel the influences coursing through the veins of the songs. The spirit of ’94 is painted all over this record, giving it a vintage soul that I find has been missing lately in hip hop. The lush beats have the vibe of sitting on the front steps on a warm summer night, with Grease using that canvass to unravel his smooth flow and unique storytelling. From the haunted, sparse “Do it to the death” to the smooth groove of “Flute Beat,” which matches Grease’s seamless flow with a vintage soul beat, Grease makes a strong statement with his first LP. The cold-hard-truth narrative is woven through tracks like “Summer Saturdays” & “Conflict on Conscience,” both of which forgo the “money, cars and hoes” lowest common detonator storyline that is all too common these days. The records high point comes early with “C.R.E.A.M Dreams,” a song which was the introduction to the record for me and is one of the most confidently “classic” sounding hip hop songs I heard in 2012.
In addition to being a great debut record, a collection of songs that has more highs than lows, Cornbread, Pearl & G won points for carving out a spot in a corner of the game not utilized as often as (I think) it should be. Sounding classic without being ironic and telling stories about, without glorification, the underbelly of life he is rapping about, Grease doesn’t cut any corners or neatly fold into any narrative. Cornbread, Pearl & G is a resounding success and a great introduction to an artist who I think we will be talking a lot about around the Twin Cities for years to come.