Putting the street level at ground level
G-Side’s Huntsville-rooted, codeine-hazed strain of Southern rap has been steadily acclaimed over the course of their last couple albums, and the surface-level theory for this is that they’ve hit on a crucial crossover appeal that makes blog buzz work on their terms. iSLAND doesn’t seem much different in that sense: The album starts out with a declaration of independence that aims to turn their haven away from outside pressure into a nation of their own, and that mission statement leads into an album that aims to play smarter rather than harder. Block Beattaz’s cloudy production makes a point of incorporating out-of-left-field indie favorites into their synth-heavy slow-motion approach — they don’t see a need to glom on to Skrillex’s bombast for dubstep cred when Joy Orbison’s hypnotic “Hyph Mngo” is right there (“No U in Us”), and “Getting It” siphons Tame Impala’s psych-rock riffage through a slick-rolling bounce purpose-made for box Chevys. But ST 2 Lettaz and Young Clova are down to earth even at their most psychedelic, putting the street level at ground level and humanizing the hustle in the tradition of Bun B and Big Boi. They’re enviable when they brag about doing shows in Europe (“Atmosphere”), believable when they pledge to overthrow their doubters (“16 Shots”) and relatable when they confess that their grind’s just as driven by a fear of failure as a need for status (“24 Eight”).