Purchase Grey Matter’s self-titled debut HERE
Forming in the infamous “O-Zone” (Florida) around 2001, the duo of producer TEMPERMENTAL and emcee Illustrate (not be be confused with producer Illastrate of Black Noise) whom comprise Grey Matter, has spent the last near decade carving out a name for themselves while sharing the stages amongst the likes of lyrical heavyweights such as Nas, Wu-Tang, KRS-One and Pharoahe Monch. Outside of teaching at Full Sail University in Orlando, the duo has found time to release their first full length LP, the lengthy, yet insightful and very refreshing “Grey Matter” on local label Domination. An album loaded with “easily identifiable” and “relative” content, Illustrate shares tales of lost friends, relationships and personal indecision atop TEMPERMENTAL’s bare-bones, bass heavy production.
Boasting an abundance of dope material, “Grey Matter” brilliantly fuses Illustrate’s honest, story-telling rhyme schemes with solid, if not spectacular production, that is more reliant on “Rock” or “Folk” samples as opposed to the traditional “Soul” samples that are often implemented in today’s production. From the jump, the album’s opener, “Say Our Goodbyes” is laced with TEMP’s boisterous production and Illustrate’s in-depth, honest viewpoints that make you wonder if this track would have been better served as the album’s closer. The follow-up (after the brief instrumental interlude, “Lessons In Freedom”) “Choices” offers two different outlooks on various scenarios that often present themselves. Yet another great track is “Understanding”, a very intriguing story that refers to just about any family where the father busts his ass to provide, even if it entails lies as to just how the income came about, causing friction within the household. The closing statements in the song’s final moments help hammer home a very dramatic twist.
My favorite cut from the album “Reasons” (which you’ll also find on Bloggerhouse’s “monthly” mixtape this month) finds Illustrate recounting a tale where he was offered to catch a ride in the back of a packed Isuzu Rode0 (you remember those “deathtraps”, right?) to a local KRS-One show. Opting out at the last minute, Illustrate arrived to school the next morning only to find out that the cats whom he was supposed to catch a “ride” with, where killed in an accident that night. Even though the instrumental to “Reasons” will have you humming the Howie Tee-provided backing to the Special Ed classic, “C’mon, Let’s Move It”, the lyrical content will have you thinking “Thank God, He Didn’t Do It”. “Reflect” is a very sobering track where Illustrate eschews the typical narcissism by talking about other people who have the flashy material possessions and compares that to homeless people who do without. Basically, just be happy with what you have or “have left”.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, Grey Matter’s impressive debut LP can be extremely lengthy (24 cuts with a few dope “instrumental interludes” thrown into the mix), but it still manages to be completely fulfilling and cohesive. Admittedly, some tracks are pretty damn depressing, but the subject matter is very relative to what takes place in the average working man’s day. Even though it can be considered “mood” music, the vivid and descriptive writing reels you in. Illustrate is a skilled penman, and equally potent is TEMP with his crafty productions. “Grey Matter” will stake it’s claim in underground Hip Hop, an album that will take you on an emotional roller-coaster, yet it definitely shouldn’t overlooked or forgotten. One of the more surprising and fulfilling records of the year.