Think of East Coast hip hop and you think Beastie Boys and Eminem. Certainly G-Love doesn’t approach the forefront of the genre in quite the same way, though the Philadelphian is established in his own subtle approach.
Lemonade, released on Jack Johnson‘s Brushfire label, complements the Beasties’ upfront, nasal delivery by kicking back, opening a beer and maybe smoking something, and strumming some tunes.
That’s what single Hot Cookin’ sounds like, a couple of friends sat out in the garden softly strumming a guitar by the fire, mixing a few bluesy moments in to add flavour.
If that sounds horribly cheesy then fear not, as there’s enough of an edge to this music to keep it from turning in on itself. At times you forget it’s hip hop, even when there is rapping. Special Sauce‘s contribution to Ain’t That Right is unexpectedly blissful, with totally natural word delivery, in a lot of ways sounding more like soft rock with a beat.
Don’t for a minute make the mistake of consigning G-Love to the middle of the road though, as the lyrics are too profound. The bluesy Rainbow starts off in twelve bar form, but the “woke up this mornin'” gives way to the assurance that “everything’s gonna be alright”.
And it is – despite the poignant Missing My Baby, and the warning shots of Banger, that says “you gotta slow down”. The subtle production sits well with the softly spoken vocals, with a touch of harmonica and hammond organ added to Can’t Go Back To Jersey, and a welcome bit of funk added to the bass of Holla!
It’s like listening to a more streetwise version of Jack Johnson, who incidentally guests here on – relaxed, assured, romantic at times – and yet with that edge that Johnson rarely shows.
Sure, the material can become musical wallpaper if you’re not fully concentrating on it, but it works equally well as music to dip in and out of, and on repeated listening sets the controls for the centre of your brain and stays there. A relaxed summer treat.