Twelve years. Eight Albums. Two Grammy nods, Three Dove awards, a Billboard Video Award and a host of other signposts. A catalogue of material that is timeless, classic, and that has always been one step ahead of the curve. Few hip-hop artists can boast any of this. Few hip-hop artists (or artists from any genre for that matter) can navigate the delicate balance between commercial success and artistic credibility and continue to grow with every successive release.
But then, most artists aren’t Teron “Bonafide” Carter and Stacy “Coffee” Jones, aka Grits.
On Redemption, this Nashville duo once again not only delivers an album worth of memorable material, but they have put themselves in a position to be placed among the industry elites. The many years of honest development of their craft has culminated in this moment--Grits finest hour--as their latest is a southern masterpiece of universal appeal, from club anthems to party jams to heartfelt hymns. And the album’s versatility is only eclipsed by its vulnerability. And Grits wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is what we eat, sleep, and breathe,” states Coffee. “In the end, if this music isn’t honest, if it isn’t something that we love, and if we aren’t baring our souls, then there is something wrong. We wanted an album that you could play from front to back, where every song was ‘the single.’ I think this will inspire and encourage, as well as bump and make your head nod. We stepped up our game this time around. I think this album has it all.”
As strong as their catalogue is, there can be little doubt that this is the group’s most aggressive LP to date. There is an energy that would rival anything the heaviest hitters in the industry have laid down-- Outkast and even the Kanye’s of the world. And like these pivotal artists, they have found a way to make the industry come to them, not vice versa. You cannot pigeonhole this album into one category, and it’s obvious that Grits makes the music that they want to make on their own terms. Bridging the gap of a variety of influences, from southern flavor to pop sensibility, with an east coast urbanity, these songs are a perfect blend of the underground and the accessible, always with a positive spiritual twist. This is real hip-hop for real people from real artists that will boom trunks and bang clubs. Just don’t question their motivation. Grits’ singular resolve is to stick to their creative guns.
“We aren’t in this just to sell records,” adds Bonafide. “This record isn’t about carrying a flag. You don’t need to advertise something if it’s real...and we are going to let this music speak for itself.”
Considering the way Redemption shifts gears so effortlessly, the consensus can only be that Coffee and Bonafide have earned their hip-hop stripes by mastering the roles of jacks of all trades. Songs like “Heyy,” a slow rolling number with an infectious rhythm, will remain in your conscious mind long after the track has finished. It’s beat is reminiscent of something Jay-Z would endorse, with big-time production, and the hook to match. They then shift gears into songs like “We Workin,’” which is a club hit closer to Lil’ john in attitude, while remaining Grits’ signature flow. Less aggressive tracks like “Holla at You,” a track for the ladies, are no less memorable, while establishing a dynamic for the album which keeps you interested throughout.
Perhaps the most “next-level” element of this album’s equation is the production quality, which is both massive and experimental. In addition to self-production, which has been a Grits staple on every album, they employed a potent list of producers and cameos to step up their game on Redemption. The production list includes Ghost, Snuck D, Nyse, and Crisis, all up-and-comers who have been influential in helping to shape the group’s sound over the years. In addition, guest appearances by Pigeon John, Brainwash Projects, btwice, Antonio Neal, and Iz add to the depth of several tracks, and underground icon Can-I-bis even adds a verse.
Redemption will, no doubt, add to the long list of achievements that have built steadily throughout Grits’ tenure. Most recently, their songs have been featured in the films Big Momma’s House 2 (starring Martin Lawrence) and The Fast and The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift… Grits have reached the top 10 on MTV2’s Top 10 most requested, Top 5 handpicked, and top 20 on both the CMJ and HITS charts numerous times. Their songs have made appearances on MTV’s The Real World, Road Rules, Pimp My Ride, Cribs, Boston Public, and Showtime’s Resurrection Boulevard, among others. Grits have graced the pages of many major music publications numerous times as well, from The Source to XXL to Spin to Vibe. They have even hosted BET’s Rap City. And let’s not forget that they have shared the stage with the likes of Outkast, Jay-Z, Ice Cube, De La Soul, DJ Shadow and A Tribe Called Quest.
What can be expected when November 21st, 2006 comes? A strict touring regimen, featuring over 150 shows, playing with artists of multiple genres, from hip-acts to rock outfits. The hard work ethic that has continued to define Grits will once again show their mettle. This grassroots mentality will characterize their eternal connection to the underground, no matter the commercial breakthroughs that may come...
“Grits has been a southern staple for generations...it just carries on and carries on.” says Bonafide. “Until that day--a day which will be a long way off--we will continue to do what we do best. We’ll write positive hip-hop about freedom that will uplift and benefit the community, and continue to take it up a notch every time we touch a mic.’”
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