Philadelphia rapper, GrandeMarshall, “channels classic Rap City basement vibes”, amongst other things, for his brand new Risk/Reward EP, out Monday (January 23) on Fool’s Gold.
He’s described as retired basketballer Allen Iverson’s practice “…speech on wax: incisive, headstrong, and not here for your bullsh*t”.
His work varies from “his teenage 800 and Mugga Man mixtapes to last winter’s My Brother’s Keeper LP”, and in summation he “has built a catalog of high-grade, highly personal Philadelphia rap music that answers to no one”.
Risk/Reward, his latest exploration, includes single, “Stress”, and also features fellow Philly emcees, Tunji Ige and Pauly Sue. Producers on the project are Noah Breakfast and HeavenInStereo.
Things open with a “Risk”, which rings in ethereal, a strange and eerie soundscape. Then the vocals and deep bass kick in, the former suitably thoughtful. It ends before it even begins, really.
Then comes the “Stress”, which starts similarly but has an air of what can only be described as being tragically triumphant. Like victory at a price. The backdrop’s a real chopped up affair, but subsequently its horns become more pronounced and clear. An insight as to how the beat came together. The drums boom and clap, as emphatic as his spunky delivery.
After, he tells you “That’s My Word”, which’s quite a ponderous one, with a kick backed foundation complete with rattling drum and deep, practically bottomless bass. It features what sounds like processed vocal samples, chopped up and put through some sort of chorus effect.
There’s no “2nd Chances”, featuring Tunji Ige. It opens with grave piano and the emphatic rattle and clap of drum. The chorus seems to have a light autotune effect, but nothing too gratuitous. A refrain sees the backdrop take more of a backseat, really letting the vocals permeate before kicking in proper, once again. It ends as it began, with that grave piano ringing with much clarity.
“Pauly Speaks”, featuring Pauly Sue, is short at just over a minute and a half. It’s a doomy landscape, like the heavens being torn asunder. War of the Gods type soundscape.
The expansive “Adore” is also of that ethereal element, drums with a bit of a swing to them. “Big wheels keep turnin’/Primary keep burnin’” conveys an insight into life that is as such that it evokes that of, perhaps, death not really being the end of things.
A new beginning, indeed, cuts in as the track’s new backdrop. Like that glare of light when you’re introduced to the world, though maybe this light of life isn’t necessarily a positive one. The lyrical content in this one’s a bit more fatalistic, with money, women, etc: “Cash, that’s a must have” and, “Ladies steady talkin’ jackin’ ‘cos my melons rocked”.
“Aah Man” opens foreboding with deep, squidgy processed bass and eerie ethereal whirring akin to an angel singing in impossible falsetto. Given the practically horror movie soundtrack to the song, maybe this is the scream of a woman as she gets hacked to death. Disconcerting how hellishly evocative this song is.
The project, you could argue, ends with introspection, maybe akin to a diary entry, come “In My Lifetime (4 Summers)”. Ringing, fading in and out with drums that have a real click to them. “All I’ve got is my word and my d*ck” a blunt statement to end proceedings. It certainly suits, and sums up, the vibe of what’s a track rooted in that adage of reality.
Highlights include “Risk”, “That’s My Word”, “Pauly Speaks” and “Adore”. Half of the total eight. These tracks, to boot, are spread reasonably throughout the course of the EP. Track’s one, three and five. Then followed by track six. This’s not a bad return given the fact that a few of these tracks are quite short, two of them under the two minute mark.
Opener, “Risk”, is remarkable in that it’s a, as said, highlight and also that it doesn’t even clock two minutes. It rings in ethereal, a strange and eerie soundscape. Then the vocals and that deep bass kick in, the former suitably thoughtful. It’s over before it’s begun, but really enforces what to expect, a snippet of what to anticipate sonically and lyrically.
Two tracks later is “That’s My Word”. It’s quite a ponderous one, with a kick backed foundation complete with coiled snake rattling drum and deep, bottomless bass. With processed vocal samples, chopped up and put through some sort of chorus effect, there’s certainly an ear for the curious.
Another two tracks later is the first of two consecutive highlights, “Pauly Speaks”. It’s also remarkable in that it’s another highlight which also doesn’t clock two minutes. It’s a doomy landscape, like the heavens being torn asunder. Indeed, it’s such a War of the Gods type soundscape that it sends the imagination into overdrive. The immersive quality of a good book, really painting pictures with sounds.
The second of the two consecutive highlights, and final highlight, “Adore”, has a swing in the drums quite uncharacteristic of the genre it’s spawned from. It’s split into two sonically different halves, with slightly different lyrical outlook, too. The first is seemingly philosophical, the last more materialistic. Indeed, is “Big wheels keep turnin’” an existential reference to life going on, or a big fancy new car?
GrandeMarshall is, at times, a thoughtful rapper. He, however, can also revert to type regarding the typical fare in the genre. You could suppose he’s versatile in a sense. Largely speaking, his beats are quite curious, too. They buck the trend, sound wise, arguably more than his aforementioned lyrical content. GrandeMarshall’s Risk/Reward EP can be purchased on iTunes, here.
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Words by Andrew Watson