In a post-millennial music industry where the instant gratification of digital distribution has all but rendered the making of carefully crafted full-lengths a lost art, Grizzly Gato’s While You Were Sleeping stands apart as a masterfully executed body of work. Sincere and entertaining, the album effortlessly sidesteps a plethora of hip hop stereotypes that have only intensified their grip on the genre over the decades.
With lyrical teamwork that brings to mind hip hop legends Smif-n-Wessun, the diverse pairing of Grizzly Grimace and Oddy Gato is a surprising success. Grimace brings his own brand of clever and honest lyricism to the table, and though Gato’s big personality has been rightfully placed center stage, it is Grimace who is ultimately responsible for turning the spotlight to Gato’s unique blend of consciousness and comedy. Gato thrives under the guidance of Grimace, and as album producer Grimace also demonstrates his talents in curating samples. Needless to say, the record would not be the triumph it is without its supporting cast either. Mixing engineer PJ Katz brings the duo’s vocal performances to life track after track, and veteran DJ Nate Da Great‘s modest yet highly effective turntable work is precisely what each song needs.
Though While You Were Sleeping has its share of heavyweight anthems and hilarious sound bites, the album also has its introspective moments. On “Sacrifice”, Gato reflects on a personal conflict of family and artistry, unapologetically pledging his allegiance to the flag of the free spirited. “Subway Trip” is proof that not only can spoken word be credibly implemented on a hip hop album, it can also make for one of the album’s most profound moments. Gato’s psychedelic commentary humorously details the weird atmosphere of a New York City subway ride, while Grimace hooks up a bluesy organ vamp to compliment the mood. But the album’s crowning moment has to be “Weiners”. Grimace plays his role by contributing a pair of thunderous hooks and a solid verse, but the song’s nutty funk-rock loop sounds more like a soundtrack for Gato to coolly bop down a busy Bronx street, and the MC faithfully delivers with his signature mash of street life and street knowledge.
While You Were Sleeping is one of the most captivating and addicting albums yet to be offered up by the Albany hip hop coalition. Consistent and to the point, the statement the record makes is a complete sentence that listeners are sure to revisit over and over again. Indeed, Grizzly Gato wins.
The previous post was a guest post written by Rich Capeless.