Freestyle Fellowship signs with Decon, releases 'We Are'
Freestyle Fellowship occupies a Velvet Underground-ish space in rap history: Its records weren't purchased by very many people, but everyone who heard them inevitably wanted to become a rapper or a producer.
With the release of 1991's "To Whom It May Concern," the Good Life linchpin essentially wrote the blueprint for weird West Coast rap that its odd legatees might not readily reference, but Fellowship's DNA remains as indelible in the culture as medical marijuana or taco trucks.
To avoiding repetition, there is an interview/feature I did with Self Jupiter last June, when the crew was in the midst of recording its first album in a decade, since completed. The group has signed a pact with respected underground imprint Decon to release "The Promise" on Oct. 4.
With its UFO synths and fuzzy distortion, the first single, "We Are," sounds like something that might have hovered around the Low End Theory. It's unsurprising considering that Nocando, Busdriver, Nobody, Daddy Kev and Open Mike Eagle are direct descendants from the Fellowship, and Aceyalone and Myka 9 have been regular performers at the Wednesday night weekly.
The song's hook is little more than the repeated boast, "We are Freestyle Fellowship." Understandable considering the subsequent generations steeped in swag certainly have shown scant evidence that they have any interest in finding the level of difficulty in anything. What's clear is that unlike many of its '90s peers, the Fellowship has not lost its ability to rap better than just about anyone on this planet.
Its collaborators have frequently described the group as being "made of music." And while that's slightly trite, the group still buries gems in its double-time flow. "Madness is beautiful." "Literature literally grows in intervals." And a lot of references to manuscripts and being better at rapping than other people. The style might be anachronistic, but some things are immutable. Hearing four hyper-literate, musically gifted artists run relay-race raps is rarely less than ebullient.
And it's still conceivable that a 13-year-old could hear this today and pick up a mike.
-- Jeff Weiss