Tee Grizzley could have easily settled for 15 minutes of fame. His first album, titled My Moment, was, well, a momentous occasion. The JAY-Z co-sign regarding Tee’s authenticity was on the mark, and the man’s urgent delivery of his street tales set him aside from his peers. The album was largely a one-dimensional affair, though. His studio debut in Activated fared better and answered the question as to what he would rap about once he acquired fame. And Still My Moment leaps over both aforementioned efforts by combining Grizzley’s trademarked conviction with personal growth.
The first three tracks make Still My Moment sound like a direct sequel to Grizzley’s debut. There’s a barely-tangible quality to Tee’s music that isn’t measured by witty bars or dope production. The edge in his voice, which is cooked up with equal parts desperation and aggression, makes it sound like he’s dying to get his transgressions off his chest. It’s the same quality that young JAY-Z, 50 Cent, T.I. and Jeezy had. In short, Grizzley is real. His rawness elevates basic bars on the opening title track: “I’m book smart, street smart, but still with all that dumb shit/Right nigga to link with, wrong nigga to fuck with.” The reality drips from his voice and sets the tone for an album that succeeds because it tells nary a lie.
If Still My Moment were simply a continuation of Tee’s street confessionals, it would be a solid-but-tired affair. Yet, with age and experience comes wisdom. and while Grizzley is not one to snack on caviar at a cocktail party, he is mature enough to evaluate his blessings and use them to motivate others. “Wake Up,” which features a rejuvenated Chance the Rapper, finds Tee motivating the trenches over J Gramm’s drawn-out church organs. Much like T.I., Tee turns the scope on himself to keep his TED Talks from sounding preachy. “We live in the days where niggas do shit without even thinkin’ about it/But who am I to talk? Blew 50k without thinkin’ about it,” he spits while encouraging the youth to aim for higher education. The same guy who did fed time is telling the kids to stay in school, and while he’s far from the first ex-hustler to do this, his complexity enriches Still My Moment as a multidimensional project.
It’s hard to call a 15-track project overlong, but there’s definitely filler here. “Straight Up” features Helluva Beats production that sounds like an unpleasant cross between an ‘02 Nelly beat and a 2012 Meek Mill record. The album generally maintains Tee as the prince of quips, but he ventures into corny territory with “Flush a nigga down the toilet if he piss me off” on the track. “Bitches On Bitches” is as tired as its title suggests and continues the mid-album hiccup. Helluva Beats earns redemption with melodramatic production on the following “Hustlin,’” which finds Tee regretful but unrepenting about his past clandestine activities. From there, the album powers its way to a strong finish.
Grizzley further delves into the reasons behind his hustler days on the album closer, “Babies to Men.” A fluctuating piano loop courtesy of Antt Beatz and Helluva Beats provides a template for Tee’s melancholic tales about his past: “Q was 17 when they gave him his bid/Straight to the pen, he get out, he gon’ have great-grandkids/Send him money every month ‘cause he ain’t say what we did/Only thing he told ‘em is we went from babies to men.”
It’s apparent that Terry Sanchez Wallace knows how fortunate he was to be able to drive by the fork in the road and go straight. While he’s still too hard to let his flexing die, he’s now added a considerable amount of clear-eyed reflection to his music. This element, as well as his exuberant motivation to youngsters, makes Still My Moment an aptly-named album and create excitement for what’s yet to come.