Cymarshall Law and Skip Slam are a true rap duo: Everliven perform together, in collaboration, building off of each other and both speaking to the same message. This isn’t a corporate marriage–these are two artists who feel the same ways and play music that is true to their hearts. And the production–by Sweden’s Beatnikz–are perfect: A mix of drum-machine beats, scratches and samples that feels old school and new jack at the same time. I heard BDP quite a few times, which is a pretty traditional choice for a sample, but there were plenty other drops and cuts that sound familiar but I can’t name them. That’s part of the fun of hip hop.
“Get Up Stand Up (Survivalist)” is the lead track, and while it doesn’t sample from the Bob Marley song, it definitely has the same revolutionary rage. It’s a great bouncing club track, and as such, it’s the perfect way to introduce an album that is a lot more thoughtful than most rap albums these days. It eases you in. The album builds from there on a theme of a lost America–one that needs to change to meet the needs of today’s underclass. “Life is like a prepaid phone/I need minutes,” they say on “Can You Relate,” a great example of an intelligent and politically aware rap song. It’s not unusual to hear shout outs for Obama in hip hop, but, frankly (and at the risk of offending) that’s more about the symbolic victory and hope than substance. But Everliven Sound wants to see what Obama can fix–almost daring him to fix the future for America (“Can you relate? I need a new job. Can you relate? These bills keep coming.”) Conscious rappers are always being compared to Talib and Mos Def, but I have to say: I liked this album a lot more than anything either of them ever produced.
There are some guest shots here, but so many that it gets distracting. C Rayz Walz takes a few verses, along with appearances by El Da Sensei and Hakim Greene. Yet all the featured performers fit their verses in with the political awareness and overall feel and content of Freedom 2. This too is refreshing and collaborative. True hip hop is about movement not pulling in a guest spot just for the sake of it.
All in all, this is a very different, innovative album. Yeah, they’ve got a lot of gripes about America, but the album still manages to feel optimistic and hopeful, and the artists’ love of hip hop music is infectious.