Coming at you straight from the infamous 118th avenue, it is my privilege to dedicate #throwbackthursday this week to two of the most dedicated and brilliant people I know, the Brothers Grim (aka Komrade and Pat Grim).
Without further ado, I present my review of Komrade’s “Fallen Empire,” originally published on the now-defunct Eloquence is Bliss.
I’ve been putting off doing this album review for way too long (sorry!!!) because I wanted to have the time to really do it justice. You see, I have some really badass friends (who are also the talented rappers otherwise known as The Brothers Grim) named Pat and Stephen, and a few months back they sent me the sweetest care package ever. Along with stickers (that I’ve been putting everywhere) and a sick t-shirt (that I’ve been wearing everywhere), they also sent me their albums. Today we’re gonna dissect Kom’s album – Pat, yours will come in due time!
Brothers Grim Presents: Komrade – “Fallen Empire”
- Hard As It Gets
- Bad Magic (ft. Stripes & Swann)
- Metal To Rust
- Pod People
- Demons On My Back (ft. Merkules & Nobe [of the INF Gang])
- Hockey Pucks
- Broken In Half (ft. Pat Grim)
- Stranglin Steeze (ft. Shallow Pockets [of Psych Ward] & Sonik)
- Building Dreams Selling Music (BDSM)
- Fiending (ft. Evil Ebenezer & Pat Grim)
- Future Is Grim (ft. Pat Grim)
- Love Thy Brother (ft. Pat Grim & Trippz)
- The Story (ft. Pat Grim)
Notes: Tracks 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 12 cuts by Nato. Track 13 cuts by Nato and DJ Recoknsyle. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Nato for Up In Arms Recordings (7Nato.com). All songs written and recorded by Stephen ‘Komrade’ G, except guest features. Booklet design by Sonik at Music Box Studios (sonikhiphop.com). Cover artwork by Raymond Tan.]
a note about these reviews: I’m going to be giving two blurbs per song: 1) being my internal monologue during a listen through (sorry in advance, Stephen!), and then 2) being a more critical review. Finally, I’ll give my favorite line from each track. Sound good? No? too bad. Let’s begin.
- Hard As It Gets (03:47)
Internal Monologue: Starts off MEAN, and I like it. This track just comes at you and keeps at it – won’t lie, I basically zoned into this song too hard to write anything down. That, my friends, is the hallmark of a great track.
Critical Review: Okay, I have to start off by saying that I absolutely love the momentum this song has. It’s a pretty straightforward 4/4 time signature beat, but Kom shows some great writing skills by utilizing the briefest of pauses at the end of the 4th beat, giving the track a “rolling” forwards energy. The mood is aggressive, and it brings to mind the feeling directly following a round in the boxing ring – out for blood and ready to show off a little bit. This is punctuated by creative phrasing (and seriously, it’s hard to make the English language fit in musical constraints); especially and impressively so, when he shifts pace subtly yet critically in the final verse. This is such a minor shift that it’s taken me way too long to figure it out, but it switches the tone from slightly frantic to relaxed and kinda bravado-y. Bravodic? hmm.
Moving on, the production on this track is sick. Seriously Nato, you KILLED it. My favorite thing (drinking game idea: every time I say something is my favourite, take a shot. You’re welcome.) about Stephen’s voice is how gritty it is. There’s something reminiscent of Slim Shady LP-era Eminem crossed with Asher Roth served with a bit of Aesop Rock about it – basically, he soundsmean, like a good rapper should. Nato kept the right amount of growl (which is all of it), to which I tip my hat.
This track just sets the album off perfectly – even after a few (hundred) listens, it psychs me up for the rap music I’m about to hear. At the end of the day, that’s all why we’re fans, right? It’s all about getting excited about the music in your ears.
Favorite Line: “And I roll with evil brothers/ Like the Catholic Church”
- Bad Magic (04:03)
Internal Monologue: LOVE THE HOOK. It sounds like an old horror movie. Wicked collaboration, they play off each other well. Even match for each other – whoa that’s a lot of syllables. You three sound like the monsters in my closet. This is what I love about rap, this is raw and passionate and harsh and MEAN. I still pull new lines I missed out of this track and I listen to it all the time – in my books that’s a pretty awesome quality in a rhyme. Such a great cadence here, I really love how the three rhyme schemes are similar but incredibly differently approached. Fun and risky rhymes all around – this is such a fun song to try to pull apart. Really loved the collab between these three. Big success.
Critical Review: I stand by my internal monologue in that the hook to this track is just fanfuckingtastic. We’re keeping a more even tempo here, slower and more menacing – which allows the poetry to shine; and deservedly so, as there are some great lines in this track. There was also a ton of attention paid to the subtleties in production – there’s plenty of sound effects and some cool processing; however, they’re pretty unobtrusive while lending some depth and intrigue to the overall effect. Shout out to Stripes and Swann for a sweet guest appearance.
This song sounds like every fight I’ve ever been in crossed with Halloween. In the best way. It makes me want to dig my gloves out and beatt up the heavy bag (and in fact, I have a couple of times (less boxing gloves because hardcore) at the gym on cardio day)…or, y’know, the bros who hog the squat rack. It’s menacing and punchy and just everything that fight music should be. Somewhat reminiscent of D12’s “Fight Music,” which is, of course, a good thing.
Favorite Line: “I can hear the bitch in your voice/”
- Metal To Rust (03:08)
Internal Monologue:[lights up] upon exhale, this track is perfect. Kinda mellow, kinda jazzy, and I like the slightly softer lilt Kom’s got going here. Don’t get me wrong – he’s still throaty, but he’s approachable in this track. Contemplative. I like the chorus a LOT, that’s a perfect analogy. I also really enjoy the pacing and cadence we’ve got here, it’s fast enough to feel lighthearted; however, the lyrics are actually pretty heavy – I respect the solid 180 seconds of brutal honesty.
Critical Review: This track is a complete foil to the first two on the album. This one is perfect blazing music – I look forward to summertime smoke ups outside with this exact song playing. Kom’s not angry here; he’s reflective, which allows the few lines that are angry to be even more scathing. In contrast, the back beat is kinda jazzy, I can appreciate the counterpoint; and, of course, the pacing and cadence lend a sense of pensiveness. Listening to the lyrics, the song plays like you’re able to see the internal dialogue Stephen has in his head for 3 minutes. It’s brave – not a lot of rappers out there willing to be transparent about the less than “swag” emotions, people, or things.
I also need to point out that the message here hits home pretty hard – remember, kids, friends aren’t friends if they use you. Family only means you share genetic material. Choose your circle wisely, and remember that quality>quantity.
Favorite Line: “And if you thought your friends were solid/ Even metal turns to rust/”
- Pod People (00:42)
Internal Monologue: We’re back to the menacing and I like it. …whoa, how many time have I listened to this?
Critical Review: For 42 seconds worth of rhyme, Kom spits some venom.
Favorite Line: “You want beef bitch/ I’ll bring a whole fuckin herd of it/”
- Demons On My Back (03:39)
Internal Monologue: [author spews Diet Coke while giggling] HAHAHA DID HE JUST START A SONG WITH THAT LINE?! Seriously, though. That takes some guts and it worked. Well played, sir. What a fun back beat! I really like this collab, too – and the howl at Hockey end? Perfect.
Critical Review: I love the back track, love the kinda old school vibe here. This reminds me of Gangstarr “Full Clip” (Sticky Fingaz Verse, natch), it’s smooth, it’s classy, it isn’t in your face aggressive or mean or harsh… but it IS mean, aggressive, and harsh – scathingly so. I stand by my statement about the opening line (hint: it’s my favorite) and applaud it. The cadence is interesting, for such a downtempo backbeat, the guys are rapping pretty quick here. Interesting rhyme schemes, awesome breath control, great production.
Also – in general, this song for me is a standout on the album simply because of how well written each and every verse is. Excellent writing in all regards.
Favorite Line: “Life’s a bitch/ So I fucked her/ And she gave me herpes/”
(no video, buy the album!)
- Hockey Pucks (04:08)
Internal Monologue: First of all, how Canadian can we be, really? I bet you’re an Oilers fan, Kom…you know what that means, right? That means that part of me will always hate you, and that’s the part of me that loves the Flames. Sorry. Anyways. I like how minimalist this track is. It’s all about the lyrics, and they’re coming rapid fire. This definitely epitomizes angry Albertan high school Mia. To the T. Angry, angsty, mean without needing to be, might give you the stink eye but secretly pay for your double double to apologize…
Critical Review: Definitely more minimal here, which is a welcome turn in my eyes. Kom’s a strong writer, and this is yet another testament to that – no flash, just awesome rhymes. Pacing is misleading, I keep thinking I can count the song, but he’s actually pretty sneaky here – there are a lot of tight tempo changes.
I gotta say, Kom – this one’s a contender for overall best track.
Favorite Line: “The lesson of depression/ Never own a Smith & Wesson/ The Devil answers loudest/ When your mind is filled with questions/”
- Broken In Half (03:25)
Internal Monologue: For some reason, I don’t like the backing track here. I think it’s the synth strings, just hits a note that aggravates me – I’m weird though, so I’m pretty sure this is just a me thing. It’s nice to see a Brother Grim track on here finally! They have such fun energy together – had the whole crowd singing along when I saw them this past summer. Somewhat predictable. I keep waiting for this track to explode but it doesn’t. Sorry guys. I like the rhymes but this one isn’t on the top of the pile for me.
Critical Review: That back track. It’s the synth strings – they just don’t do it for me, and it frustrates me because I feel like my weird aversion to that particular note is leeching my enjoyment from the tune. Anyways. Some really sick rhymes from both Pat and Kom here, and the trademark energy they each bring to the table that makes me love their music.
I also hate to say it, but sonic blue balls is the only way to describe how I feel at the end of this one – I feel like it builds, and builds, and has the potential to really punch at the end…but it doesn’t. And that makes me sad.
Favorite Line: “Address me as your honorable/ ‘Cause I’m someone unstoppable/”
- Stranglin Steeze (03:08)
Internal Monologue: YES. We’re moving again – there’s that momentum. Sweet raps off the bat, and I am much preferring this back track. That’s a really cool effect they layered over the backing track – kinda electronica, in the slightest possible way. This reminds me of Royce Da 5’9″…actually, Bad Meets Evil. That’s what this reminds me of.
Critical Review: Well, that’s what I was awaiting in the last track – this song starts with some killer movement (much like the first track) and it carries through the end of the track. That’s more my style – relentless. This track is powerful, it comes at you and keeps getting bigger and faster and more intimidating.
I’ve listened to this track so many times since December that I’ve lost count, but I still find myself pulling out rhymes I hadn’t caught before. Fantastic.
Favorite Line: “Step inside the gates of Heaven/ You’re just cursed in a cage/”
- Building Dreams Selling Music [BDSM] (04:07)
Internal Monologue: Well, I like the name of this one (I’m a kinky bitch, as you know if you’ve followed for a while; if not, here is a good place to start). Hell YES, starting off with extra gravel-ly vocals. Great narrative, love how balls out (haha oops, unintentional) the rhymes are. Also, that’s a rather extensive list of sex toys. I digress. Oh, no wait, the next verse starts with panties and faces. Can’t help but wonder if this is purely fiction or if there are bits of real crazy bitches you know, Kom. Love the overdub with the old movie feel, kinda “Reefer Madness” in the best way. Really mesmerised by this one, it took me a few listens initially to really hear the whole story; now, I still find myself falling into it and getting lost.
Critical Review: Well, I don’t have much to say here that I didn’t cover in the initial listen through. I really, really love the production on this track, it sounds extra grimey and extra evil, which is exactly what I was hoping for given the title. In addition to the production, I like that this is a relatively minimalist track. Simple time signature, simple beat, complicated rhymes, but overall, just kind of mesmerising. This fucking sounds like subspace. You gave subspace a soundtrack, Kom. How the fuck..?
…Yeah, I love this one. I love that the woman is the aggressor, I love that the rhythm is so subdued, I love that the story is so well written. And yeah, fuck it, I have to admit a soft spot for a song that’s about kinkery.
Favorite Line: “Something in her snapped and I knew I was in danger/ Bitch pulled out a knife/ You can never trust a stranger/”
(BUY THE ALBUM, if for this track alone.)
- Fiending (03:56)
Internal Monologue: [author says hello to MJ] Wow, this song sounds amazing right now. It’s by far the most chill track so far, and I love love love this chorus. This kind of sounds like wake and bake sessions in uni with old friends, it’s rough and ragged but kinda non committal in the best possible way. That made no sense at all, I’m sure, but neither did those days. Anyways. I like the collaborations here, they’re seamless and they all play off each others strengths. Evil E is one of my faves, so it’s a treat to hear him here. Pat’s verse is clean and he’s showing more personality, which I heartily approve of. So far, my stand out favorite track on the album.
Critical Review: Another somewhat subdued track with ridiculous verses. Seriously, ever single one is completely ridiculous, and a good few months after hearing this the first time, I am STILL hearing things for the first time.
Can we also talk about that hook for a second? It is perfect, and reminds me of old Premiere. It’s totally grimey 90s awesomeness, and it totally deserved its own paragraph of appreciation. Sonik, you absolutely slaughtered the production on this track.
Yeah, 10/10. The only way I could dissect this really would be to go line by line, and ain’t nobody got time fo’dat. But, I do have time to say that this is by far my favorite track on the album. Bravo, gents.
Favorite Line: “Watching Glee/ Fuck your anger and your sorrow/ Remedy your teen angst/ Coat hanger use tomorrow/”
- Future Is Grim (03:44)
Internal Monologue: Pretty epic opening bit, which I love. This is totally kinda Madchild nerdy in the best way, a little nod to the General, Kom? They’ve upped the tempo here, and I’m digging it. This is kind of battlecry sounding, like I can picture BaxWar on horseback rapping along with it…hmm. Weird visual. Anyways. Super busy track, but I love how it’s got that unrelenting chorus to tie it back together. Fun for sure, and the end bit about the big bang? Fan fucking tastic.
Critical Review: The only thing I have to say about this one that was a serious draw for me was the fact that I felt that the busy back track seriously hindered my ability to hear the rhymes. To be honest, the first few times I heard this one I almost zoned the rapping out. It’s just too hard to follow with the horn and the chant and the overdubbed mad scientist sounding guy…
Other than that; however, I really, really love this – lyrically. As always, challenging rhymes delivered without hesitation, which is la crème de la crème, as far as I’m concerned.
Favorite Line: “I’m the rappin’ cryptkeeper/ Fifth Element rap shit/ I spit ether/”
- Love Thy Brother (4:06)
Internal Monologue: This is my favorite style of rap – Nas does it sometimes, so does Em, Guru used to – it’s crawling and unrelenting and comes at you evenly and cleanly and it sucks you in and terrifies you and makes you want to listen closer all at the same time. That chorus? Fucking YES. Again with the slight 90s nod with the vocal styling. Pat’s verse here is my favorite so far, it’s his strongest I feel and the delivery is pretty deeply affecting. Pretty neck and neck with Fiending for me.
Critical Review: Again, very little to say here without getting into a line by line dissection. This one is really, really just well executed. I don’t have any critiques here, just praise (and 264 plays on my iPod so far). Thank you for making real, honest backpack rap. This is why I fell in love with the genre.
Favorite Line: “Survived the hood the only way I knew/ And that’s the honor roll/”
- The Story (03:44)
Internal Monologue: Sticking with the oldschool vibe, and I am NOT complaining. This one is raw – some anger and left over hurt there, which resonates with me. I get the write it out thing (clearly). Pretty much every line I agree with here, and it both breaks my heart and consoles me. There’s a certain emotion that’s hard to capture with those kinds of memories. Pat kills his verse so hard. Man oh man. I love it. I love this song.
Critical Review: Everything I love about Love Thy Brother and Fiending are present here – another gritty, 90s influenced track – another shining example of another facet of backpack rap. I won’t lie, I bawled the first time I listened to this one. It was a bad mama drama day, and the way Kom spits his verse just got to me. This is the backpack rap that got (and still gets) me through stuff – Infinite (Eminem) is similar, as is early Swollen. It’s visceral and powerful, and I’m so thrilled that it still exists in the rap world amidst the cash cars and hoes.
Pat picks his pace up in this track pretty noticeably, and his rhymes (in my opinion) shine here more than they do on earlier tracks on the album. Strip the tracks down, guys, and you make magic – like this one. This is, truly, magical. What a kick ass way to cap off a fantastic album.
Favorite Line: “Life toughens up and I become much stronger/ Betting on my breaking point/ But I last longer/”
In closing, I’m really, really lucky to have such talented friends. If you’re a backpack rap fan? GO BUY THE ALBUM. It’s worth it, and that much, I am not just saying. I’m seriously proud, and can’t wait to see what comes next.