Gutterfly: The Original Soundtrack
Quannum Projects Records
In the best sense of hip hop's innate po-mo message-is-the-meaning production method, the creatively prolific Lifesavas come through with "Gutterfly," a blaxpoitation-esque soundtrack to a movie that never existed. Marrying '70s baadasssss grooves with their West Coast freestyle boom-bap, the trio of Vursatyl, Shines, and Jumbo take on aliases and (very) loosely frame their songs around tropes of survival, retribution, celebration, and other topics universal to the financially and creatively oppressed. The end result is less a Mayfield/Hayes soul vibe-out than a tight collection of fresh joints of grown-folks rap.
Both sonically and lyrically, the potentially restricting format in no way reigns in the 1,000 techniques the Lifesavas are capable of mastering. In-home production (in addition to a handful of hand-picked collaborators, including Oh No and Jake One) throws musical collages on the throwback canvas, filling every corner with (ahem) cinematic sounds. There are bombastic and cheery horns, drunken rhythms full of incidental momentums and blasting bass, sober soul laments, and machine-gun funk. Lyrically, they stock more styles than Macy's, from abstract stream-of-consciousness to heart-wrenching nostalgia. The swagger of Sweet Sweetback is channeled through wink-wink pimp talk, charismatic minutia and funky non sequiturs. The guest vocalists are handpicked from the halls of hip-hop deference, including Smif'N'Wessun, Dead Prez, and Camp Lo (even George Clinton stumbles in on "Night Out"!). Multilayered and thoughtful, this is hip hop grown up, the opposite of radio trash, requiring not instant zombie-head nods, but multiple listens for maximum enjoyment.