I get presented with such a tidal wave of unfulfilling rap music these days – mumbling rappers spouting cliched lyrics to the same, off-the-shelf, trap beats – that when an album such as Creep Slow Vol 1 from Georgia artist/producer Face D’Ville lands on my desk, it feels like a breath of fresh air. So much of what I get to listen to is made up of merely a lyrical deliver (seemingly the faster the better) and the same old glitchy trap percussion, with nothing in the middle, no riff or melody, no interesting creative breaks, no unexpected incidental music or neat motifs. And if that can only be the equivalent of an unsatisfying, limp and unfulfilling sonic sandwich, Face D’Ville, by contrast, is a sumptuous feast for the ears.
Although lyrically at least, he comes from a rap place, the songs are more defined by the sweet and sensual soul sounds that are woven through his more gritty, urban messages. Take the opener and title track, kicking off like just another (admittedly better than the usual) rap offering, but once it beds itself in you are being serenaded by everything from ambient electronica, liquid basslines, soulful harmony vocals and even a hint of classical delicacy wafting through.
It doesn’t even take anything close to the three minutes thirteen seconds of this opening gambit for you to realize that what you have before you is something well ahead of the rap pack. Bumper & Grille wanders more expected territory, a deft and dexterous celebration of rap’s signature lyricism but even that has some beguiling electronica smoothing out the middle ground between the ticking, timebomb beat and the top line lyrics.
Maintain Your Kool (featuring Old Man Norm, which is the coolest rap name going, self-deprecation and understatement always get my vote) merges 70’s conscious soul with an almost pop sensibility…imagine Curtis Mayfield partying with De La Soul.. and Sessions is an R&B-rap showdown of epic proportions.
Some music is about moving things forward. Other music is about celebrating or at least learning from the past. Creep Slow Vol 1 does the former whilst reveling in the latter, a trick more people could learn from. As an album it neatly hops genres and knocks down musical barricades but never loses sight of its own identity. It tips its hat to past glories, it embraces present tastes and helps create a blueprint for urban music, indeed all music, for the future.
When was the last time an album did all that? Have a think about it…take all the time that you need. (Originally reviewed by Dave Franklin)