Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Lifer's Group - Living Proof LP


Intercord / Hollywood BASIC (1992)

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.

While I never heard any music from Lifer's Group back when it was originally released in the early 90s, I was aware of their story.  Born out of the Rahway State Prison's program that was highlighted as part of the Scared Straight documentary, the group came about as another idea to reach out and share their message through music and try to dissuade young people from activities that could lead to imprisonment.

What I didn't know is that the record is pretty great.  It came out in 1992, which you could really make a case for being the highlight of the Golden Era (it's either that or '93, for sure).  The beats are pretty much what you'd hope to hear on a record that came out at this time.  It's hard hitting, with aggressive drum breaks and tons of low end.  While not anywhere near the perfection that EPMD was producing at the time, there is something about the sounds on Lifer's Group that does make me think of Erick and Parrish's production prowess.

Lyrically, there's a bunch of MCs an the album and all of them are pretty great.  To be honest, I don't really know who is who from song to song, but everyone steps up to the mic and does an excellent job.  Lyrically it's a mix of positive lyrics encouraging people to stay out of trouble and tracks that play out as cautionary tales of what can happen if you engage in some of the activities that led to the participants being in Rahway to begin with.

At the end of the day, it's just a really strong, entertaining listen.  The beats are always what opens the door for me, but in this case the lyrics are what keeps me coming back for more.

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