Eighteen years have passed since the release of the superlative Innercity Griots, the early nineties masterpiece that came out at a time where heads like myself expected nothing less than classic material from our rap heroes.  Although I heard great things about the quartet from my home city of L.A., it wasn’t until a few years after the release of FF’s sophomore effort that I was chided by friends for not being familiar with the work of the group they referred to as the greatest rappers ever.  As I began to delve into Griots and the equally intriguing To Whom It May Concern, I realized how much I had been missing out on the masterful lyricism of Myka Nyne, Aceyalone, Self-Jupiter, and P.E.A.C.E.  And although the Golden Era is long behind us, 2011’s The Promise assures us that the uncompromised lyricism that made the “Bullies of the Block” famous is not.


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Leading off the album with the Eligh produced track “We Are”, a jazzy track that reminds the listener of a time when hip hop was house party music and not club music, Fellowship wastes no time in kicking the well calculated rhymes that once inspired fans and rappers alike to re-evaluate what they thought dope was.  As the album progresses, songs like “Step to the Side” and “Ambassadors” show the group embracing a more modern sound of production that still manages to display the personality needed to satisfy old school heads.  Steering clear of the boring beat making that seemed to become en vogue in the post-’95 era, The Promise opts for a style of production that is as emotional as the lyrics it provides the backdrop for.  Songs like “Government Lies” and “Introspective” masterfully capture the pain, fear, and anxiety of our times minus the histrionics.  The JMD produced “Daddies” and the brutally honest lament over being too celebrated, “Popular”, satisfy our need for earnest self-disclosure from our favorite musicians in a time where embarrassing yet exaggerated tales are a often favored attention getting technique.

What has always earned Fellowship a place in the pantheon of great emcees is their ability to kick raps that many would consider left field while still displaying true heart and street smarts, a dichotomy that few of their musical offspring can lay claim to.  While big words and a willingness to push the envelope are often a welcome alternative to the prosaic lyricism that seems to characterize most of the hip hop on the radio, they carry little musical weight without the requisite soul.  Fellowship’s heartlfelt rhymes and elaborate choruses fill the void that was left when we were forced to choose between keeping it real (boring) and just plain awkward.  They are innovators with true grit, something that is rare in music today.  The Promise has been kept.


** Watch the NEW video for “We Are” from FF’s new album, ‘The Promise’ **

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