Friday, July 9, 2010

Album Review: "Freedom II" by Everliven Sound

Everliven Sound is comprised of Cymarshall Law and Skit Slam, blood brothers who originated from the United Kingdom, but moved to New Jersey in 1990. With soul and reggae influences and an international hip-hop slant, the duo has been recognized as a powerful underground force in the United States and overseas. Their second full length album, Freedom 2, is a sequel to 2008’s Freedom, and is once again produced by the Norwegian production team known as The Beatnikz.
From the get-go, Everliven Sound’s style is immediately apparent. Freedom 2 time-warps us back to the 1990s with pungent boom-bap production and a penchant for poetic lyricism. Both Skit Slam and Cymarshall Law display an authentic hip-hop flavor, but Cy adds a little more with noticeable reggae influence in his delivery that give his verses extra oomph. The first track, “Get Up Stand Up”, is a predictable introduction but is upbeat instrumentally and has a great chorus. Cy comes in bursting with charisma and solid multi-syllable rhymes. Skit has a more mellow approach in his delivery and a more traditional flow. While their style gives the listener a sense of nostalgia, shows some of their lyrical limitations on their last verse. Lines like “You couldn’t break the law if you were a convicted criminal”, “Emcees I burn ‘em up like fire should”, and “I hit trees like Michael Phelps” are too simple for my taste. Not to say that this type of lyricism has no place, but I personally prefer more complex lyricism.
“Christening” is another track with a hype and energetic chorus that reminds me of The Lost Boyz. Skit Slam’s laidback delivery is a good counterpoint to Cymarshall’s colorful style. “I stand behind every bar like I was serving drinks”, played metaphor. Skit Slam does a good job of referencing the concept of the track. “Baptized, I standout like a black eye”. “Elements” is up next and starts off with El da Sensei’s deep-voiced bravado. Although his lyrics are could have been more focused, he still paints a good picture of graffiti’s importance in hip-hop culture. DJ Don Martin’s cuts fit well with the theme of the track and provide a tight chorus. Skit’s up next giving props to the B-Boys and B-Girls who supported hip-hop with its own unique dance form. His use of detail and references to breakdancing flesh out the verse properly. Law comes in strong: “Man up brother, I speak with enough power to chain lightning bolts and handcuff thunder”.
Next up is “Waiting Too Long”, a song about their struggle and work in hip-hop. There’s a strong message in this song relating the amount of work necessary to be successful in hip-hop to slavery. Skit has a few powerful lines at the end of his verse and Cy’s delivery and rhyme scheme shine on his verse. The chorus on this one is fairly catchy. “Hook Them” fittingly has a dope hook, although it sounds a tad distorted. This one’s about staying away from beef, how sick they are, and… well, that’s pretty much it. I don’t feel like there’s anything new here people haven’t heard before. Skit is on-point on “Walk Away”, with potent lines and ubiquitous mic presence. “My bars’ a killer that won’t hide the pistol”. Cy has some on and off lines in his punchline-heavy approach. “For my daughter I’ll cut your throat with a quarter”, so outrageous it was funny.
“Crack and The Electric Chair” probably has the sickest beat so far in the album. The concept is important and significant politically. Hip-hop needs more tracks like this and less “I’m better than you” songs. I appreciate Cy’s acknowledgement of the lack of good roles in Hollywood for non-whites. The same can be said for the videogame industry. “All Right All Real” is a really personal life account of the duo. Well, Skit does a better job of staying on-subject while Law slips back into ish-talkin’ mid-verse. The next song, “Days of Faster”, is a unique track that details how fast time flies but goes deeper than that. “Went so fast, I wondered, days am I losin’? / It’s confusin’, time must be an illusion”. Skit brings a positive message in his verse along with words of encouragement to keep grinding against the pace of time. “Come Correct” has bass-heavy drums and an almost Legend of Zelda type melody. The lyrics and content aren’t impressive though. “I’m on top of my game like Dance Revolution”. Cy’s pronunciation could have been a little better. Clearer articulation on the setup to the Forrest Whittaker line could have made the punch sharper.
“Credit Crunch” is self-explanatory but does stray into other socio-political messages. Skit Slam on the second verse has a more logically correct verse to me while Cy has more of a na├»ve political outlook in his two verses, but it’s arguable this point strays from the actual focus of a hip-hop review. CyMarshall uses some clever liquor metaphors when describing a female on “Ms Liquor Spliff” while Skit Slam compares his girl to the finest in piffery. “Sun Moon and Star” ft. Stahhr has a fresh concept with some good details here and there within the verses. “Follow My Lead” has a dope beat and Skit comes in strong. “If I’m broke, I will jack n****s like a beanstalk”. It’s a solid song about originality in music, definitely an honorable cause. “Can You Relate” ft. John Robinson is another positive jawn that gives you something to think about. “Don’t Believe” sheds some light on the fakeness of the media and politics. “One day Doctor King will be white”. “Dumbflows” doesn’t sound as polished as most of the other tracks on this LP. Cy’s delivery sounds too similar to other songs earlier on in the project. “Know No” is another braggadocio track to end it off. “I pressure peers, I rise to the occasion when pressure appears”, dope. “The boy gets it crackin’ like stale dutches”, haha!
Everliven Sound provides a succinctly 90s-influenced style of hip-hop that will give traditionalists something to vibe with for some time, but they do not keep up very well with the lyrical standards of hip-hop today. But while much of their lyrics are too basic or bland, they do cover great topics. The Beatnikz provide stellar production throughout the LP although their beats do sound too much alike at times. Variety is the spice of life after all. Freedom 2 is a boom-bap-alicious LP that will get you thinking if you listen closely, but the degree in which you’re drawn in depends upon your specific tastes in hip-hop. For me, there was definitely a lack of lyrical complexity and the lack of variety in production made the experience drag on a bit. Freedom 2 still has a lot to offer and any fan of the 90s era of hip-hop should be able to enjoy this record.

Face Value: 7.5/10