There’s something inspiring about a man who defeats his demons. For anyone who has followed Eligh’s career from a young Living Legends upstart to this year’s release of Grey Crow, it’s easy to say that the man’s exemplifying a rebirth of sorts and it’s fair to say he’s soaring once more. With Grey Crow, the Los Angeles native is poised to display the talent and technique that have already allowed him to garner success, only this time, for the first time as a solo artist, it will be done with a sober mind. After fighting addiction, he has been clean for five years and Grey Crow has emerged as his moment of clarity.
Lyrically, Eligh has not missed a beat. As the Luckyiam.PSC-assisted “Love Ov My Life” notes, he’s not dumbing things down. “When I give you this, my condition is that you listen up real close. Don’t let details fall through cracks,” he says as he starts his verse off. Here, Eligh shines mainly when those details are introspective thoughts. Before that, “When I’m a Dad” shows insight he’d give to his unborn child but it also provides information about his own upbringing. In it, Eligh discusses being “psychologically punked” as a kid in South Central Los Angeles, a matter many rappers would hide. The greatness in Eligh is that he exposes these things, willing to share pain and despair while maintaining a strong positive outlook in the end. One glaring spot is “Wish I Would,” where he shows more about his journey to sobriety, another moment of honesty. That ability to be open also shines through on “Miss Busdriver,” the disc’s first single, a dedication to his now-deceased aunt. Sharing memories, he sings, “Miss Busdriver, can’t find my way home / Can you pick my spirits up and take me to a safe zone? / Archangel of the O, can you play music for your folks? / I’m kind of down, I need to hear the notes / You’re not around but I can feel the hope.” While Eligh holds his own, he has plenty of support from a strong line of emcees. Brother Ali, Aesop Rock, Pigeon John, Zumbi, The Grouch and many more bless the album with verses.
As is usually the case with Eligh, he mans the boards for the major part of this album as well. Save for two tracks, Eligh produced the entire project and used a variety of styles to do this. For instance, with K-Flay’s intriguing performance, “Shine” brings Eligh an upbeat sound. The same can be said for “Whirl Wind” while “Wish I Would” is somber enough to let Eligh tell his story. The guitar in “When I’m A Dad” helps it stand out as an inspiring piece, with the loop leading into a hard-hitting drum pattern. He’s also able to tap into his own emotions a lot better as the producer/emcee. The piano keys and the horns in “Miss Busdriver,” for example, enhance the soothing nature of the track, better showcasing the “hope” he’s rhyming about. Eligh has often said that making beats is his first love and this passion allows him to thrive, particularly when paired with his rhyme writing.
It seems that five years was too long a wait between solo albums, but Eligh hasn’t been slowed by time and perhaps that time was necessary. His delivery’s still sharp and his lyricism has been strengthened by his personal storms. Moreover, he continues to provide intriguing, if at times confusing and different, soundscapes to match his introspective pieces. As a writer and producer, Grey Crow soars to show that sobriety has only enhanced Eligh’s creativity and it could very well be his best solo effort to date.