Monday, December 20, 2010

Good Morning, Gen Z

There's more to Wernerville than just revering the old school. Granted, I don't think Lil Wayne has anything in his catalog that will ever touch one of Kid 'N' Play's classics, but we still appreciate new shit by new artists that doesn't sound anything like the 80's or 90's here. You know what I like that even I didn't think I was gonna like? GMA: Good Morning AMY by Billy Drease Williams.

You may've seen one of his videos getting some shine on the blog circuit earlier this year. Not me, though; just his name was enough to keep me from paying attention. So this album's been out since the summertime, but I'm just hearing it for the first time now. And fuck me - I really like it!

Drease is both the MC and producer. As a producer, he's got a really unique, clean sound. The drums are big and the only old school sounding aspect of the music, but it's covered in upbeat - I daresay cheery - tunes. Some of it's live music... there are a lot of piano, strings and guitar samples in the liner notes, almost all credited to a guy named Alan Evans, though there are a few other musicians here and there, including a DJ Cutler who provides some fresh scratches to a couple tracks.

The resulting vibe is sort of a combination of Common, Kanye West, Rob Base and Kwamé. If you think the album cover is a bit unusual, wait until you open up the packaging and booklet; it's full of his crazy drawings of pancakes, spaceships, ants and rainbows shooting out of his eyes... I think every element is meant to tie into a concept from one of his songs. The content on this album focuses on positive, inspiring messages, though there's some basic braggadocio ("Just Doin' It") and relationship songs ("Shut the Gate").

And as an MC, Grease has a cool voice and confident flow. Lyrically... well, okay, lyrically is where Grease still has room to grow. He has a penchant for the corny and a habit of being out-shined by his guests I've never heard of, like this one by Elgin Franklyn:

"El don't sleep;
I just go in a trance.
Focused on pause,
spiritually advanced.
Second nature natural,
Strong moves are surgical,
Sleep is the cousin of wasted potential.
But I digress, dog;
Never back down.
Big Bank El Frank dominating the platform."

And there are a couple other missteps throughout the album. A guy named Richie English is enlisted to sing hooks on a couple of songs, and it's not that the guy can't sing; but the hooks on those songs are pretty rough to get through. They downright ruin one song ("Never Been To Paris"). And there's also a final, semi-spoken word song, which also features a kid singing towards the end... that's kind of a mess.

But I don't want to blow the imperfections out of proportion. This is a surprisingly enjoyable album featuring some really good music and a lot of evident talent. And when I say "talent," maybe that suggests an album you should like. But really, it's an album that's hard not to like. Even the concept (who/what is "AMY?" It's one of those concepts with multiple, variant answers) is more engaging than these things tend to be. If this is what the kids are listening to these days, then I approve. 8)

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