Album Review: G-Side – Island




The guys behind Alabama rap duo G-Side, Stephen “ST 2 Lettaz” Harris and David “Yung Clova” Williams, are due for a break. In spite of a few commendable full-lengths and an unrelenting stream of blog-love, G-Side is shockingly little-known and has been since its 2007 debut, Sumthin 2 Hate. That might not change with the group’s second album of 2011, Island, but it confirms (yet again) that they deserve a whole lot more than what they have right now.

It’s fitting, then, that the most noticeable theme of Island is the desire to escape monotony. On most songs here, the guys suggest discontent with substantial areas of their lives, notably work (ST recently left his gig at a gas station to shoot low-budget music videos, while Clova pays the bills as a barber) and money (“I‘ve been having nightmares of being broke at 30″). But along with the complaining, we also get an underlying sense of hope and appreciation: “I’m in love with the game/I love the hustle,” goes the hook of “Luv 2 Hustle”.

Musically, Island doesn’t adhere to the Southern rap traditions of G-Side’s purported influences – Outkast and 8Ball & MJG included – as much as it alludes to them. Instead, it tends to rely on currently trendy “Tumblr rap“ sounds, including airy background vocals and unlikely samples (like Tame Impala’s “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?”). No matter what they actually sound like, though, the beats here (mostly provided by Block Beataz) are some of the most admirably crafted ST and Clova have ever rapped over.

Unfortunately, Island isn’t likely to hand G-Side its big break; nary a song here seems destined to become a hit even in underground-rap circles. But for what it attempts – forward-thinking rap with an eye on the rear-view mirror – it gets the job done. Hats off.

Essential Tracks: “Luv 2 Hustle”, “Look Up”

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