March 11, 2012
Lifesavas, Gutterfly: The Original Soundtrack (April 24, 2007)
Northwest group Lifesavas traffic in proletarian styles: sampled beats and backpacker rhymes, old-school funk and soul, and spiritual and social awareness. When hearing their music, you don’t get the sense of creative exploration as much as affirmation of long-held beliefs. The premise for Gutterfly is a soundtrack for a nonexistent Blaxploitation film narrated by Ike Willis that warns people of the dangers of the player lifestyle. The group’s devotion to Christian ideals remains visible, if not problematic like Spirit in Stone (when they memorably spoke out against abortion). Religious imagery crops up in the titles “A Serpent’s Love” and “Superburn.” “Before this bubble’s burst and the mystery’s revealed/Let’s commence the jam session while accepting God’s will,” raps Vursatyl on “Take Me Away.” On “Dead Ones,” Lifesavas team with Fishbone for a sermon disguised as a New Orleans funeral dirge, and they rhyme and sing over a slow swing rhythm. Other outstanding tracks include “Double Up,” which is built around Oh No’s sample of Quasimoto’s “Players of the Game,” “Gutterfly” (featuring an animated appearance from Camp Lo) and the rousing finale “Celebrate.” Guests include Ishmael Butler, Smif-N-Wessun, Choklate, Vernon Reid, George Clinton, and dead prez. Lifesavas’ Jumbo the Garbageman produce most of the tracks, but Chief Xcel, Vitamin D, and Jake One also contribute beats. Quannum Projects.
February 25, 2012
Lifesavas, Spirit in Stone (July 1, 2003)
There is an austerity to the Lifesavas that some will find off-putting or atypical of underground hip-hop acts. One skit on their debut album, Spirit in Stone, “Thuggity Skit,” clumsily parodies monosyllabic Southern rappers. On “Livin’ Time/Life Movement I,” Vursatyl proclaims, “We pro-life and we’re pro-longevity/Procreation/Produce/Provocative/And pro-prosperity,” while “State of the World/Apocalypse/War” and “Resist” are unabashedly righteous pro-activist anthems. This Portland trio has little use for the capitalist-minded mentality of most radio-driven rap, instead choosing to model itself after “conscious” artists like the Roots, Mos Def, and their mentors, Blackalicious (whose Chief Xcel produced one of Spirit in Stone’s better cuts, the scratch guitar romp “Soldierfied”). It may take a moment for potential fans whose appreciation of current hip-hop stops at 50 Cent and Jay-Z to adjust to the Lifesavas aesthetic: bouncy, head nod-inducing beats patched together from samples of Sixties and Seventies soul records; rapid-fire lyrics filled with baroque metaphors like “Snakes slip and slither through the eye of the dice/So is the game the gamble or is the gamble your life”; and wordy choruses that merely serve as a bridge between verses than stand-alone hooks. Jumbo the Garbageman produced most of the tracks. Vursatyl produced the album’s single, “Hellohihey” as well as “State of the World/Apocalypse/War,” and DJ Rev. Shines handled the subtly pro-life screed “Livin’ Time.” Quannum.