Artist: MF GrimmTitle: American HungerRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Paine
MF Grimm has never had much time. His 2002 LP Downfall of Ibliys was recorded in a 24-hour stint before the Manhattan MC was carted off to jail. Shortly upon his release, the veteran writer recorded Digital Tears to mixed reviews in 2004. After two quiet years, MF Grimm applied his rapid work ethic to his greatest, most patient undertaking in ten years. American Hunger (Day By Day) is a three-disc album that’s a return to Grimm’s top shelf abilities in personal storytelling and street philosophy. This is a headphone rap essential.
Any three-disc album is hard to get through, let alone in the unprecedented Hip-Hop genre. Grimm takes it a step deeper when most of his rhymes center around regret and reformation, with glaring examples in “I Remember” and “When Faith is Lost.” The rapper is so sincere that each of these experiences evokes genuine empathy, for he truly takes on a teacher’s role in speaking to the youth. Disc Two holds some love records that compare well against his metaphoric classic “Life and Death.” Grimm repeatedly objectifies things like man and woman, life and death, and even crime in a way that allows his writings to surpass simple stories and revelations, and truly become lessons. For this undertaking, PMD, Monsta Island Czars, and Large Professor check in. Extra P waxes his deep respect for Grimm on “United,” 15 years after Grimm was supposed to be on “Live at the BBQ”-a cool moment.
The production is not nearly as high-profile as the guest MCs. However, Grimm takes big risks in his sound. “Agony,” produced by Nate Denver, uses a quirky chorus that sounds more like Pigeon John or Blendcrafters than your grimy, New York alley-way rap. DJ Crucial, out of St. Louis, shines frequently amidst the 60 tracks. Lots of scratches, carefully selected samples, and early 90s percussion show Grimm in his best light. “Ten Stories,” “Unified,” and “Children of Abel” all fit into this quality. Whether mashing with Rock or traditional kicks and snares, Grimm refuses to allow his triple-disc to get lyrically or musically redundant.
American Hunger lives up to its name. This sonic smorgasbord looks at American policy, the American streets, and the stained fibers of the American past. Though the music is peppier than many MF Grimm fans are used to, this still furthers the MC’s knack for speaking intimately to his audience. With sung choruses, Rock influences, and more extended-metaphors, this also serves as Grimm’s most liberated artistic album to date. While it lacks the suffocation of Downfall of Ibliys, it more than triples its sophistication. MF Grimm is making noise ’cause the dude is sayin’ something.