I can still pop Grits' debut album "Mental Releases" into the CD player (or now my iTunes playlist) and think, this is one of the best acts in the Christian rap sphere. That is quite the feat when one considers the changes and paradigm shifts that have happened since the release of that first album so many years ago. That might be why I like their newest (independent) release, "Reiterate." In so many ways, the Tennessee boys are indeed reaffirming to their listeners exactly who they are and what they're about. Blending the best parts of "Mental Releases," "Factors of the Seven," "Grammatical Revolution," and "The Art of Translation," Grits' 8th studio effort is fantastic on a number of fronts, featuring sharp hooks, fresh beats, and some very surprising guest appearances.
"Reminds Me" kick starts the album and features an interesting 80's synth and chorus line that will recall such tacky yet classic films as "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club." It's fun, strange, and different than what listeners have come to expect from the duo, but it sets the tone for the forward-thinking experimental feel of the entire album. "Walking My Way" is a light, breezy number that definitely recalls the group's earlier days. From an experimental standpoint, "Fly Away" is the best track on the album. First, it's a different sound altogether for Grits. But, its not the sound that most will notice. It is the guest spot by Mac Powell, lead singer for Third Day, who croons the chorus with his signature Southern vocals. Essentially, what Flyleaf's Lacey Moseley was to Third Day's "Revelation" album, Mac Powell is to Grit's "Reiterate" release. With lyrics like "I asked my mama/How was it back then?/What you mean back then?/You know back when/You were all alone with a bun in the oven/But you grew up in a house, good dad, good lovin'…" the album comes correct by keeping the subject matter real and raw. There's room for flash and stash in this world, but that is rarely the experience of most. Grits has an uncanny knack for painting the world as it is while still injecting hope into broken situations. The trend continues as Jars of Clay's Dan Haseltine guests on "Sky May Fall." In fact, the track really borrows more from the world of the Christian pop singer than it does from the rap genre. Somehow, Grits makes both numbers work.
But, lest listeners think the entire album is experimental in scope, bear in mind that the album is called "Reiterate." They are here to "state or do over again." Which brings us to tracks like "Get It Started" which drags the beat through the Tennessee mud and gets things down and dirty. The mix of the mid-tempo beat and quick lyricism of Bonafide and Coffee on "Livin' Dreams" is proof-positive that Grits is still at the top of their game. "Dusk Till Dawn" features Christian female rocker Britt Nicole and slows things down considerably. The piece looks at real love vs. imitations. The vibe is relaxed and will definitely set the listener in a pleasant mood. "Beuatiful Morning" features Pigeon John and is more of the album's party track ala "Dichotomy A." "Say Goodbye" closes out the album and features tobyMac and Jade.
While there is certainly much to applaud about this album (I honestly think that this is a career-defining moment for the duo), there are also some flaws to consider. The main flaw is that sheer number of guest appearances. In a sense, they've proven that they can stand on their own with all their previous efforts, so I can cut them some slack. The problem is that there are so many guest spots on the album. Also, by attempting to defy stereotypes and genre it feels as if the album never quite settles into a grove where the listener can get entirely comfortable. There is also the lack of an overarching theme to the album. It feels as if thematically the listener is bounced from topic to topic without any reason to the rhyme scheme.
I believe "Reiterate" is one of Grits' better albums. They've done a lot of new stuff that works for them while not reinventing themselves to the point that the alienate their fan base. Their foray into independent waters is shaping up to be a good move and will hopefully only further their ability to create quality music with a positive outlook and Christian worldview.
Release Date: September 30, 2008
Record Label: Revolution Art
1. Reminds Me (feat. Jade)
2. Walking My Way
3. Fly Away (feat. Mac Powell)
4. Sky May Fall (feat. Dan Haseltine and Annie Peters)
5. Something About You (feat. Jade)
6. Get It Started
7. Livin' Dreams
8. Dusk Till Dawn (feat. Britt Nicole and Iz)
9. I Run (feat. Martha Munizzi)
10. Beautiful Morning (feat. Pigeon John)
11. Say Goodbye (feat Jade & tobyMac)