Sep 15, 2015

Editorial Review: American Grustle - @tennstacks

With a million artists, managers, and press releases in WTM's submission box it's often easy to miss out on a project. My cousin Nick wouldn't let Tenn Stacks American Grustle slip through the cracks. 

Having not steered me wrong thusfar I value his ear and pressed play for myself. I left away thoroughly impressed.  I also enjoyed the aesthetic a physical copy of a project holds in today's pirated world.

I'm not going to waste much more time and get right into it. Track one is an into that begins with a spoken word about the struggle between Negroes and how things haven't changed much over the generations. Real Talk (The Sequel) follows up. This really serves as the introduction to the music. The beat sounds really urgent. I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to word it but that's what came to mind. If you have to ask its a good thing. the boom bap percussion and bars with punchlines really pays homage to his beast coast hometown of Harlem, New York.

Speaking of homage Where It Started From samples La La La by Jay-Z and Let's Get it On from DMX. "I'm so New-York" he echoes throughout the hook. Respect My Grustle shed light to a question I had the whole project. What does Grustle mean? The hook answers the question. "The Grustle is the the hustle with the grind." To be honest I probably should have figured that out on my own. Anyways, the Harlem emcee really shows his skills with the mic on this one. This is the best track on the album, hands down.

The mood changes drastically with Chocolate Rose. This is really a rapper's ballad to his queen making hip-hop references and analogies like Bonita Applebum. I'm not entirely moved by the singing of the hook but the job gets done. Spirit of Uptown is the first song thusfar with a feature. That's provided courtesy Nicholas Ryan Gant assisting on the hook. Tenn Stacks is unafraid to rep where he's from and this track is a perfect example. I could hear this song on a classic NBA Live soundtrack. Hip-Hop For Ransom III takes a more serious note. He is clearly displeased by the route hip-hop has taken recently. I guess a great analogy could be Nas's Hip-Hop is Dead. Only difference is Tenn Stacks won't let it die (not like Nasty would either, happy belated Nas). This is another must listen.

Track eight is titled Fight the Power. No it's not Public Enemy but do not be confused. The message is the same. Maybe not the most entertaining track but a very timely and necessary one. Core hip-hop fans and deep thinkers would enjoy this one. He covers topics from home life to George Zimmerman. From a production standpoint this flows so smoothly with the next song Uncle Vernon Told Me. The Harlem emcee isn't afraid to share his own world and story with us. I've always respected artists that opened up a piece of themselves for our listening and learning.

Auto-bio of the Ghetto is our first skip. The skit was cool for an aesthetic and the beat was smooth but without listening twice it's easily forgettable. Queen Molly is another spoken word poem. Stacks is truly talented spitting about drugs and their origins. Last Hope featuring A Wal is the only other skip on the project. A Wal and Stacks's verses kind of contrast the theme of the song as being hip-hop's last hope. Both are clearly talented emcees but the content didn't mesh with the title. Lyrical Exercise is another dope one. It stands out well because the production is different from what we've heard thusfar. My Whole Story closes out the project. He really bares all over the beat and makes his thanks and shoutouts to family and friends.

All in all this tape was beautifully done. I think anyone that enjoys hip-hop as is used to be would love Tenn Stacks. He uses elements of spoken word, storytelling, and funny punchlines throughout American Grustle. He also likes to namedrop and attack issues that are important and plague the community. He shows he actually cares about more than himself and his career and that says a lot about his character as an artist and as a man. Towards the end it began to lose my attention where it came out so hard and strong. I think if he switched the order of the tracklist he wouldn't necessarily need to delete anything of the final cut. The skits are also pretty cool drawing influence from many sources from Mohammed Ali Interviews to classic song samples. Lastly I would like to see a wider range of production on his next project. Not that I have a problem with boom-bap (because I love that with a nice storyteller) but I want to see him experiment or take a risk into uncharted territory. There's so many different sounds out there waiting to be murdered by a microphone.

 I was really impressed by the HU alum and the American Grustle tape. Often times I get angry our generation makes the wrong people famous. It's refreshing to get a cat with real talent in your headphones so put this one in yours. American Grustle gets a 4.1 of 5 on the Ramsey Rating Scale. You can stream American Grustle in it's entirety below after the break.
Jonathan C. Ramsey
Jonathan C. Ramsey

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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