Keeping it real, keeping it fresh

By Austin Sorette
On March 21, 2014

  • Durham resident Elena Hadley, 18, at the Durham House of Pizza. Jordan Jessop

Ever wondered what Tribe would sound like if they were born in the Seacoast? Listen to "For the Record."

It's no secret that jazz/funk and hip-hop were twin babies separated at birth, and when executed properly, listening to one would feel absolutely incomplete without the other. But in our sad world, this combination is dreadfully labeled as "alternative rap," a title that is so hipster, it reeks like bad breath. But "For The Record" makes you wonder why this stuff isn't the popular thing, and why any half-baked artist you'll find on World Star is.

Jiggy Tone and Funk Tous are everything Seacoast in terms of sound and they are practicing under this amorphous umbrella term called "grassroots." Adopting the smooth Seacoast groove-jazz sound, songs like "The Funk" and the eponymous track sound like these two guys were rapping over a Harsh Armadillo jam. The lyrical flow of these guys' voices wafts fluidly over gorgeous piano chords, screaming sax leads and pumping bass and drums.

On this record, Tone and Tous are taking an eraser to the white-board of contemporary hip-hop. The two guys (who are UNH students) rev up the tempo of the beats and pay homage to "golden era" rap, when flow and rhymes were delivered under a deadline rather than modern day emcees whoes beats are so slow and bass-heavy, you'd have thought you aged five years after hearing a song once.

But that doesn't mean the album isn't a kick-back record. Songs like "Bring It Down" and "Classic" may have a bit of a harder beat to them, but you won't find any song with an edge like a serrated blade. The fact is that a select few have a bit of a pep, but almost every song on the album invokes this desire to chill on the softest patch of grass on your lawn and spend a day trying to figure out exactly what color the sky is.

Even the lyrics keep calm despite what's hot in the hip-hop world. It's a rookie mistake to think you can rap about robbing neighborhoods and selling crack in this stagnant Seacoast region, and these guys know better than that. 

Instead, they write heart-on-sleeve rhymes, a ballsy move considering the history of macho-masochism that bleeds in the rap game. You'll find songs about love, amateur artistic struggle, and a day in the life of a well-off white kid. Hell, they even have a song called "Cry!"

There are, of course, party jams in the mix. In the same vein that Tupac's "I Get Around" contrasts his more heart-felt songs, Tone and Tous have their fun on tracks like "Wipe Me Down" and "Let 'em Know." They've got the sense of humor that gave groups like Public Enemy good dynamic; the silliness is outweighed by the seriousness and vice versa.

But when all is said and done, this album has lyrical honesty riding on a current of beautiful jazz melodies and groovy funk beats. Any hip-hop fan that is ready to vomit if they hear another Wiz Khalifa or Rick Ross beat will fall for this album. In the midst of this culture of '90s nostalgia, these guys will send you rocketing back to the rap game of the Clinton-era. In short, expect these guys to pick up the mic when Nas puts it back on the stand.

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