Recordings: Lifesavas – Gutterfly

    Hopping on the grindhouse-revival bandwagon just before its pop-culture climax and inevitable overkill, Portland-grown backpack trio Lifesavas have fabricated a whole new kind of hood for the reppin’. First, DJ Shines lays a glossy basecoat of psychedelic-’70s blaxploitation beat with horn squawks and randy flute loops to spare. Cue low-lying MCs Jumbo and Vursatyl, under cool-as-ice alter egos, who jump in to introduce “”Gutterfly, in living color – ultrablack, that is,”” inspired by the semi-fictional gutters of the Razorblade City ghetto.

    Their campy theme manages to umbrella pretty much everything the thoughtful Quannum outfit has to voice – though that’s not saying much, as their commentary doesn’t often transcend hard-out-here-on-the-streets or general-crappiness-of-mainstream-rap/government. But unlike bouncy-house 2003 debut Spirit in Stone – a sugar high of instant hooks that quickly crashed and burned – Gutterfly spends more time building a steady track-to-track base, each verse and extended funk break (lent a hand by George Clinton and Fishbone) melting into the next. Though this does wind up punching less distinct flavor into individual songs, the maze of alleyways and side tangents are a greater, more gradual reward.

    With all the choreographed finger-snap of “”Westside Story”” and you-go-I-go trade-off of the smartest big-screen dialogue, the Razorblade gang throw every last scrap of ability into their quick (if sometimes tense and flat) verses and recruit co-stars like Smif ‘n’ Wessun, Digable Planets and Dead Prez to thicken the plot. Even Nas took notice, appearing in a side-released “”Dead Ones”” remix – from down here in the glamorous gutters, there’s no hip-hop gravestone in sight.

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