Lifesavas, Spirit in Stone (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 60s and 70s 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.