Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Freestyle Fellowship - To Whom It May Concern... 2xLP


Key Systems (2022, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Despite this album coming out in 1991, right in the thick of my obsession with hip hop, Freestyle Fellowship is a group that I only ever knew the name of back then.  They were rumored to be extremely innovative MCs and I'm pretty sure I read about them in The Source, but I don't believe I ever saw them on Yo! MTV Raps and I definitely don't remember their CDs being around at the time.

So, these guys are another group that I've come to after the fact, trying to find some new-to-me sounds that take me back to the golden era.  It's something of a mixed bag.  As a whole I like the album and liked it enough to buy the newly reissued 2xLP of this album as well as the recent reissue of their second record as well.  The lyrics are strong and they are certainly innovative in a left-of-center kind of way.  

Each of the various members has a unique flow and they pile words and rhymes on top of each other.  Their styles are more complicated than even some of the most tongue twisting Hieroglyphics songs, but the downside is I don't find them as catchy or as memorable.  In a lot of ways it feels complex just for the sake of being complex rather than elevating the proceedings in a meaningful way.

I think if the beats were a little stronger it would probably help things out.  Don't get me wrong, they're perfectly serviceable and pretty strong in places, but they don't stand out in a way that a group that's hanging their hat on their inventiveness probably should.  This probably sounds like a lot of complaints about an album that I actually like quite a bit.  I think that more than anything the reality of the album didn't quite live up to the hype I'd created in my head for Freestyle Fellowship.  I had built them up in a mythical way and the reality is that they're a good group with a good record.  And that should be enough.

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