Grieves - Winter & The Wolves

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With a revamped production formula, Grieves is still making catchy, accessible music, but "Winter & The Wolves" rarely pushes any buttons lyrically.

Grieves is still on a several-year upswing; his Rhymesayers’ debut in 2011 caused enough of a splash to make Winter & The Wolves awaited by more fans than he’s ever had. Since Together Apart, Grieves and producer Budo have separated, and the rapper has picked up with San Jose, California native B. Lewis. The effect of the transition is noticeable but both producers, and obviously Grieves himself, have a knack for lush poppiness. When Together Apart was released, comparisons between fellow Seattle rapper Macklemore and Grieves might have been a product of seeing them as peers in the same Northwestern scene; now, Grieves will almost definitely have to face the shadow of Pop Rap success that songs like “Thrift Shop” cast over new listeners of his own music. Nonetheless, Grieves himself more than dabbles in a different brand of catchiness and obvious accessibility that predates The Heist.

With B. Lewis and Grieves handling the production on the album, all of the songs are full of instrumentation and free of any obvious samples. The programmed drums are the one outlier in what would otherwise sound like a small and polished Rap-Rock band. Even when he’s just shy of outright singing, which he does plenty of on Winter & The Wolves, Grieves adds a raspy-tinged melody to most of his raps. There’s not much attack in his delivery, but he has a cool way of letting his words patter out naturally.

Lyrically, Grieves leans far into the dramatically poetic, often leaving little to peel back or dig into and sometimes awkward word turns. “I never thought that I’d be tangled in the ropes / ‘Till the woman of my dreams took a shit inside my soul,” he raps to start his first verse on “How’s It Gonna Go.” He’s incessantly introspective and more than a little self-tormenting. Still, and maybe partly because of the attached melody, he doesn’t sound dangerously dark as much as like someone constantly coping. At their best B. Lewis and Grieves are able to weave together pared down Soul productions on back-to-back tracks like “Long One” and “Kidding Me.” Too often though, like in the case of that second song, the hook is painfully obvious and/or full of not-so-productive cliches (on “Over You” B. Lewis belts out, “You’re a sickness, you’re a fever”).

“Astronauts,” which features the rapper’s first collaboration with Rhymesayers mainstay Slug, is about easing into adulthood but gets too bogged down by trite generalities to take-away any new revelations about its rapper. “We used to play connect the dots with the stars / Now we try to make a connection in bars / It’s getting hard,” he raps. For Grieves it sounds hard, but an overall lack of detail in his lyrics leaves a listener with all of the emotional baggage and none of the story. At several points he flips his downtrodden lyrics into better strings though. “Fuck it, let the lines be crossed / Let’s climb up on the roof and toss knives at God / I don’t need a mindless job / I’m fine without it.”

Much of what will drive demanding Hip Hop listeners away from Winter & The Wolves is what makes it so approachable otherwise: it’s drenched in feeling with few details to alienate. On top of that, Grieves doesn’t engage in intricate storytelling and none of his raps are technically showy or complex. Several tracks are primed if not meant for radio, and most of the album makes for an overly-easy listen. It’s the type of release that you can skim through and still retain. Grieves has found another good partner in B. Lewis, and the album is full of glossy musicality throughout. The problem is that lyrically as much as musically, Winter & The Wolves doesn’t push any buttons. It’s a tepid set of songs that will undoubtedly satisfy his growing fanbase and, if lucky, make a run with the right program directors. For the rest of us, and not by design, Winter & The Wolves leaves you more than a bit cold.

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21 Comments

  • Jesse

    Again an amazing album from Grieves. The music has a nice flow, which comes in all of his albums. Unfortunately, it can't be compared with budo's music. The lyrics are, as always, very strong.

  • MC Crae

    I loved Irreversible. I liked Confessions. I thoroughly enjoyed 88 Keys. Together/Apart is my favorite album of all time. But this album totally freaking wumped. Only real tracks I really loved were Astronauts and Like Child. B. Lewis absolutely stunk as a producer. Not even comparing him to Budo.

  • Anonymous

    It's obvious you don't hear the actuall music and words ugggh you probably like Kanye

    • joe

      uhhh.... maybe he did. maybe he just doesn't like listening to a little whinny bitch still rappin' about dumb bitches, lost love, and getting more drunk, this album is garbage. go beg for budo back grieves, he made you big, not your ex-fucks, that bottle, or that catchy chorus... and definitely not these over-produced beats and such... who the fuck is b. lewis anyways??????

    • Anonymous

      But KanYe has one of the greatest discographies of all time...

  • Anonymous

    So many dumb ass comments on here the guy can rhyme and he is way better than Mac lamore people who put him down probably listen to radio shit....

  • Anonymous

    Its just great. Not just Bitches and so on..

  • NaS

    I even think this shit is wack! I mean he is just talking over a beat and not rhyming at all

  • Seduction

    Sorriest rapper that ever existed, I'm guessing he influenced macklemore?

  • sonnie

    Together apart will be a hard album to match, but three stars seems a little low to me... Rain Damage is fucking sick!

  • Anonymous

    Rap music for people who hate rap music.

  • Djj

    Wow the review is way off. This album is deep and has amazing storytelling, just actually sit down and listen to it dude! Great album front to back and you can actually feel what he is saying with these well thought out lyrics. DOPE DOPE stuff man. #RSE bitches! 5/5 And what is the need of complex lyrics just to sound smart/good if it is hallow and doesn't mean shit. All that matters is that you get your point across and thats exactly what Grieves did so you can feel what he felt and went through with each situation he raps about. PEACE AND LOVE TO ALL!

  • Kailyn

    I wasn't absolutely in love at first, but I'm obsessed now. So unique and catchy, with great production.

  • mgf

    I've actually given this album a few spins and it grows on you. Yes, he isn't going to blow you away with lyrical content but then again, most albums these days don't. Its just a good listen. Simple as that.

  • donte bichette

    ZZZZzZZZZ. Cosign kid below...

  • Anonymous

    FUCK! Good albums by Mobb Deep & Cunninlynguists come out today and they prioritize reviewing this bullshit?

    • psynic.

      Funny how you call this bullshit relative to the Cunninlynguists when Grieves is on their new album.. And has worked with them before. Sure grieves is decidedly accessible, but he has nice rhymes and delivery and a knack for dense, evocative melodies. W&W is not quite on par with his last 2 albums but still dope. CL is the shit tho.. Super excited to hear their new shit

  • Anonymous

    Hip Hop DX should hire Lord Jamar to review every new album by a white rapper.

    • wonderbread

      lmao I wanna see what he makes of MGK im white n I cant stand that lame n his weird emo fans. He is an embarrassing wigger

    • twoholla

      Haha...that's the best thing I've read all day. It made me laugh & I needed that today!!!