Grieves - Together/Apart
Record Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Seattle hip-hop artist Benjamin Laub, better known by his stage name Grieves, has built a career from crafting engaging music that carries an inspiring message. Through his lyrics he's made it evident that hardships need not be struggled against alone. His music carries an infectious charisma that, coupled with brilliant production from Budo, grabs you and refuses to let go. Together/Apart, his latest release as well as his debut on Rhymesayers, pieces together many of the elements he's worked with before.
Album openers “Light Speed” and “Bloody Poetry” are both carried by somber piano chords and simplistic percussion, offering an endearing image of the artist from the beginning. These two tracks offer a basic formula that Grieves follows throughout most the album, compounding his subdued lyric delivery with breathless chorus vocals that counter each other inimitably. “Bloody Poetry” is particularly interesting, extending itself with the interspersed horns typical of Budo's production.
Unfortunately, Together/Apart has one huge flaw that becomes apparent very early on. The tracks are cohesive, meshing perfectly thanks to their robust production, but the album has little variation from song to song. Although the lyrics are fantastic in their own right, Grieves almost refuses to diverge from his habitual vocal delivery. At the onset he seems soulful and genuine, but the lack of aberration from the proverbial yellow brick road begins to come off as boring through repeated listens.
It's because of this that Together/Apart's two features are so enjoyable. Brother Ali makes an appearance on “Tragic” over various keyboards and drum beats, infusing the track with his commanding presence and soulful approach to the typical hip-hop flow. The second feature comes in the form of Ugandan hip-hop artist Krukid on the track “No Matter What.” While his delivery offers little in the way of progression, his verse is solid and carries an impassioned message of acceptance. It's on these two tracks that Grieves showcases a variation on his characteristic approach, perhaps spurred to action by the solid verses both of the featured artists laid down. Some of his best lyricism can be found in the verses of these two tracks, and they're the definite highlights of the album's midsection.
While Grieves' vocals through Together/Apart may be less than varied, Budo's production is as absorbing as always. It may not be the most technical or complex, but his use of original percussion, keyboards, and horns is bewitching in the way it pairs somber backdrops with hopeful lyricism and melodies to create foundations for Grieves' message. “Growing Pains” opens with a music box aria that forms the basis for the rest of the track, combining with a piano riff and Grieves' subdued vocals in a whirlwind of soothing components. “Against the Bottom” closes the album out with some of the most upbeat lyrics and production Together/Apart has to offer, and really showcases Grieves' unique ability to take depressing events and flip them into inspiring messages of confidence and ambition.
Together/Apart begins strong, demonstrating the best of what both Grieves and Budo have to offer on both ends of the hip-hop spectrum. Unfortunately, it quickly devolves into a repetitive formula, as Grieves fails to show the captivating charm and emotion he's become known for throughout his career. The production is strong throughout, but tends to get stuck in the same rut as the vocals as the album continues. On Together/Apart, Grieves played much too safe for an artist releasing his third full-length album, preferring to stick with what he knows instead of branching out and experimenting. It's a decent addition to the artist's already impressive resume, but fails to arrest the same attention his earlier releases are famous for.
I love Grieves. As a lyricist, a writer; he's superb. He has a way of delivering particularly emotional rhymes that just gut you. Like most of RSE's roster, Grieves blurs the line between rap and beat/slam poetry. Together/Apart is easily his most evolved work... and it will probably have a spot on my top 10 list this year.
I felt the exact same way about this album. I loved both "Lightspeed" and "Bloody Poetry" when they were released as singles but the album as a whole blurs together way too much. I love Grieves' rapping and singing and his delivery is so smooth but it almost puts me to sleep. I mean that somewhat in a good way but he needs to switch it up every once in a while to keep me interested.