A few years back critics attempted to box rappers who dropped a 16 about relationship problems or mental distress under the label “Emo Rap.” While well-intentioned, the term vastly undermined the significance of their music, with acts like Atmosphere and Cage connecting with fans on an intimate level that went beyond double entendre metaphors. Grieves makes this same presence felt on his latest effort Together/Apart, an album that caters to the broken and weary.
For those unaware of the 27-year-old’s earlier years, the emcee fills in all the key details with the album-opening “Lightspeed.” Over somber piano keys Grieves delves into his childhood affinity for pogs and tomagatchi’s, getting caught up in drugs and finding salvation through music. The record “Heartbreak Hotel” best displays his balance of vocal crooning and rapping as he examines a relationship gone sour while a dampened melody sets the mood. With that said, Together/Apart is not all gloom and doom. “Against The Bottom” is one of the lighter moments, with Grieves seeing the upside in the uncertainties of life.
A familiar sight from their previous project 88 Keys And Counting, Budo’s layered production provides Grieves with a sound that perfectly complements his melancholic rhymes. Flipping the theme from Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” with Grieves’ own rendition “Sunny Side Of Hell,” Budo decorates the melody with steady drums and trumpet licks that give it a live performance vibe. “No Matter What” establishes Budo’s range of style, where a blend of piano strikes, brooding drums and guitar struts sound similar to that of West Coast mainstay DJ Khalil. The synth melody for “On The Rocks” invokes an attitude that would make Ant proud as Grieves finds solace at the bottom of his glass cup.
While it’s not a glaring omission for artists that make genuinely good mood music (read: Kid Cudi), Grieves’ lyrical prowess on Together/Apart is void of any notable acclaim. This becomes evident on the aforementioned track “No Matter What” featuring Krukid and the Brother Ali-assisted “Tragic,” where Grieves takes a backseat to more seasoned emcees. In other instances, Grieves’ penchant for descriptive lyricism on tracks like “Vice Grip” and “Wild Thing” fall short of any engaging tales that haven’t been covered about drug abuse from the Seattle emcee.
Together/Apart is musical therapy for those who find themselves caught under the pressures of life. Rarely does Grieves discover answers to these problems; however, the fact that he’s able distinguish these personal tribulations in such a compelling manner is a special trait that rightfully puts him in the same breadth as label mates Slug and Brother Ali. Suffice to say, that’s surely nothing to be depressed about.
Directed by John Bollozos