Whoever says musical dexterity is missing from today's hip-hop landscape has clearly not been introduced to Grand Analog. The six-piece Toronto-based collective have been steadily making well-rounded, jazz-funk-inspired rap music for over ten years.
Survival runs 30 minutes, and is not jam-packed with conventional songs, structures or rules, for that matter. The eight-track EP is a blissful balance of both beats and rhymes, with neither hogging the spotlight. "Stardust" for example, is simply a minute-and-a-half of symphony grade beat creation from producing member Alister Johnson; the same goes for album opener "Survival Mode" and soulfully sampled "Everyday."
If typical trap drums and snares are cheap, sugary fast food, then every beat on this EP is an organically farmed super-food loaded with vitamins. Even though there aren't any lyrics woven through the actual beats, the instrumentations alone are enough to hold one's attention.
When the lyricists do pop up, they most certainly come correct. "Ballad of the Beast" features the lyrical stylings of Shad, Len Bowen and DJ Dopey, all of whom bring thorough 16-bar verses. Lead single "Mutations" is where the real lyrical miracles happen, courtesy of De La Soul's Posdnous effortlessly spitting lines like "tossin' and turn, kick push like Lupe / Time as commodity, time as currency / Buy time, spend time, impossible to save time / I hold weight, still contemplating my day grind."
The only real issue that faces Survival is also what makes it a refreshing listen. In the same short breath that solidifies it as a beautiful contrast to the trap overhaul of the past year, it also doesn't further Grand Analog's narrative. The lack of rhymes is invigorating to the ear, but sacrifices any tangible personnel development. Yes, the lyrics are tight, but they mostly come from outside sources rather than the group's own rhyme slingers, rendering the discourse unfulfilled.
Survival has unlimited replay value and can exist in almost every social or personal setting. If you're looking for a half-hour of easily digestible rap music, Survival is a must-play, just don't be disappointed when you don't know Grand Analog any better then you did before. (Independent)