Freestyle Fellowship – The Promise

January 01, 1970



Comparing Freestyle Fellowship to just about any hip-hop act
on the radio today is akin to squaring up the skills of Kenny G. with that of John


The veteran Los Angeles quintet of Aceyalone, Myka 9,
P.E.A.C.E., Self Jupiter and DJ Kiilo Grand dominated the 90s underground
movement with their lightning quick tag team approach, working like a
well-oiled machine of hyper syllable wordplay buoyed by some of the hottest
cipher-delic beats of the time, providing an intelligent and challenging
alternative to the violent pragmatism of the gangsta rap scene that had overrun
their fair city at the time. Now, twenty years after the release of their
groundbreaking debut To Whom It May
, the Fellowship return with a show of force and strength in numbers
as their beloved art is back in danger of becoming irreparably dumbed down by a
sideshow of 1 percenter minstrelsy in the form of such elementary-level
wanksters as Plies, Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy Tellem.


Though their rhythm machine is a little rustier than it was
during their Inner City Griots days,
the Freestyle dudes still dazzle with feats of phonetic freshness, delivering
Chomsky-defying sentence trees with the same kind of quick-fast cleverness they
did in the Clinton
era. Sure, if you hold the 14 songs contained within The Promise up to the likes of such past glories as “Sunshine
Men” or “Park Bench People” you are bound to experience some
level of disappointment. These guys are 20 years older than they were when they
were hungry microphone fiends fixing to create a West Coast wing of New York’s
Native Tongues coalition, so expecting a perfect facsimile of prior
achievements is counterproductive and prophetically self-fulfilling a set up
for disappointment. However, if you just put on your headphones and take in
tracks like “Gimme,” “Introspection” and “Government
Lies” without premeditation, you will see just how deftly these cats can
still bounce off one another like hot molecules in spite of creakier bone
densities and contrasting verbiage from years of separate solo endeavors.


Freestyle Fellowship’s music might fly way over the heads of
the Lil’ Wayne
generation. But for those who remember the Golden Age like it was yesterday
patiently riding out the storm of wackness permeating a mighty culture haplessly
mired by ageism, materialism and solipsism, hearing these old dogs howl once
again is certainly a most welcome respite.


Are,” “Introspection,” “Government Lies,” RON HART



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