By Kevin JonesIf struggle and adversity make accomplishments feel more rewarding, the release of a debut full-length by persevering Winnipeg rappers the Lytics should have the five-piece feeling like world champs. Challenged to overcome both hell and high water ― in a sense, literally ― in the two-year slog toward new disc They Told Me, the familial rap unit of three brothers, a cousin, and an "adopted" DJ endured a creative process that saw everything that could go wrong do just that.
"The record took us two-and-a-half years because there've been so many things: we've lost managers, we've had one studio flood, and then another studio flood, and then we got kicked out of a third studio," explains member A-Nice, itemizing just a few of many cursed moments. "There's just so much stuff that's happened that slowed down the process; there were times when it was like, man, I felt like we weren't gonna finish this record."
Those two extra years of forced maturation are undeniably present in every facet of the group's new recordings, from the infallible wordplay and wide-ranging subject matter expertly presented by the crew's three MCs, to producer B-Flat's equally expansive and heavily-textured soundscapes. Body-rocking fare like the propulsive "Toot Your Own Horn," along with similarly high-paced "Charles Bronson" and "On Top," each with their invitingly repeatable hooks, feel tailor-made for the live shows that have helped build the Lytics' name. Conversely, smooth, conversational, and reflective cuts like "Dear World," "They Said," and "Can We Run Away" reveal a troupe that's been through it and lived to impart more than a few important lessons.
The plan was to have this album ready shortly after the release of their attention-grabbing self-titled EP in 2009. A-Nice admits that the group weren't prepared back then and that, if nothing else, the piles of adversity were necessary to square them with reality. "I think that, in the back of our heads, we're more realistic now than we've ever been," he explains. "We've gone through all the crazy, shady stuff, we've talked to labels and had things fall through, we've lost managers and had money stolen from us, we've been sued ― we've been through the gauntlet. So, you get to the point where my outlook is more like, if we were to succeed today, we'd be ready, whereas if we were to succeed back then, we wouldn't have been."