Artist: Good Company
Album: S.O.U.L.E.D. Out
Rating: 8.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
When I read the blurb in the Good Company presskit, labelling them as a “neo-soul Hiphop” crew who perform “with a live drum and bass band”, you’d have to forgive me for instantly drawing comparisons in my mind with the Roots. When the opening short intro mic-check track sounds like something that would be right at home as a skit on “Illadelph HalfLife” it sounds like my quick comparison was justified. When the album begins properly with the Roots-like ‘Hardcore’ I have to admit to feeling a little smug, as I quickly scanned out in my mind how this review would pan out – compare and contrast what’s here against several other Roots tracks, draw parallels between female crew member Lady Songbyyrd and Jill Scott, and wind things up by throwing in a pun on the Roots track ‘Clones’ at the end.
Boy was I wrong. Why? Well Atlanta-based company, have a little more substance to their shit than that – something that quickly became evident as I progressed further into the “S.O.U.L.E.D. Out”. You see this quartet, Georgia resident Masta Icon, Californian import Young Legend, New Yorker Lady Songbyyrd, and Dirty J, have managed to create something that, although definitely influenced by artists like the Roots and Common, is still uniquely theirs.
Take for instance that ‘Hardcore’ track I’ve already mentioned. Yes it does have that live-instrumentation feel that the Roots have become famed for, but it also has an extremely catchy chorus wrapped around a bassline that sounds like a jazzy cousin of Marley’s ‘Get Up Stand Up’, and what’s more every emcee represents lovely here too – no sign of any Black Thought rambling-itis here at all.
Next up is the equally impressive, and in fact probably the best cut on the album, ‘We Can Ride’ which somehow pulls off the trick of mixing a bouncy break infused with gorgeous flute loops with a straight up West Coast anthem-esque chorus. Its incredibly addictive, and something that I’ll be dropping over the next few weeks when I’m spinning.
The hot streak continues with ‘1,2,3,4’ and ‘Mardis Gras’ – the former is really the first chance to get a proper introduction to the artists without being distracted by the superb music backdrop. Here there’s little more than a raw break and a golden acoustic guitar lick, as the 3 male members of the crew go for theirs. ‘Mardi Gras’ meanwhile is an obvious attempt to capture the mood of the famous New Orleans pageant, which succeeds perfectly amid party-time horns and a heavy-on-the-funk bassline.
‘The City’ again brings up those damned Roots comparisons again, as a mellow kick-kick snare combo combines with a spoonful of jazzy vibes, and a shake of D’angelo (think ‘The ‘Notic’) to produce a touching tribute to the old saying that “you can take the man out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the man.” ‘Off The Wall’ meanwhile is really our first chance to hear Songbyyrd on the vocal tip. Here she holds down a gloriously funky chorus, as the trio of emcees again come word perfect over some more of those flute loops. This is another contender for track of the album, succeeding in providing that summery feel-good vibe without sounding too cheesey.
Things stall a little with ‘Head Rap Sista’ and ‘Ghetto Philosypher’… a shame really, because both tracks lyrically have their hearts in the right place. Musically however, the tempo is slowed just a little too much (or maybe it just sounds that way after the previous tracks). ‘Head Rap Sista’ consists of little more than a stripped down staccato drum break, and as you’ve probably guessed, is an ode to those ladies that Erykah Badu has come to represent. ‘Ghetto Philosyper’ is an admirable social commentary that comes closest to filling the “neo-soul” tag that the group were pegged with in their press kit.
As the tempo picks up again, things begin to improve. ‘Ya Not Ready’ is a shining example of the positives of incorporating live instrumentation into Hiphop music. It owes a debt to the Roots (again), to Guru’s Jazzmatazz projects, to Main Source, and to the Spooks, but luckily what Good Company have laid down will go a long way towards funding repayment. Blazing verses, beautiful music, and a haunting chorus from Songbyyrd… its like butter baby.
The last quarter of the album succeeds in winding things up strongly. First single ‘There She Goes Again’ has been getting some major play in Cincinatti, Philly and Atlanta due to its rare groove feel, and hypnotic chorus, while the bouncy party vibe of ‘The Ooh’, conjures up images of crowded block parties. The harder-edged ‘Futuristic’, and the absolutely stunning ‘Shine Through’ round things off. This last track manages to capture the essence of everything that GC are about… funky beats, dope emcees, and beautiful choruses. Superb.
I’m not even gonna try to bullshit in my conclusion. No puns. No jokes. This is another album that is gonna figure in my best-of-year charts – its superb, and bar for the little stutter in the middle would be getting full marks. If there’s any justice in the world of Hiphop you WILL hear more from this crew.