As a listener in 2013–whether a casual music fan, a diehard, a blogger, an A&R, or some hybrid–catching everything in the vast, noisy slipstream of the internet presents a problem only sleepless obsessives can solve. Even insomniacs with round-the-clock RSS-feed awareness tend to miss quality on occasion. Sometimes, even when you get a direct recommendation, you lag a bit. Such was the case with Chicago rapper T.Gaines, passed to me by a friend, his music only explored after repeated reminders.
With a gift for sharp, sing-song rapping that invites at-home participation (but is still stronger and more soulful than the average listener could muster), a smart ear for structure and production, and a knack for updating classic sentiments, T.Gaines quietly assembled an impressive, cohesive project in The Groove God.
Showing a thorough awareness of the modern rap landscape (in title, sound, and thematic concerns), T.Gaines avoids being bogged down in his surroundings. He selects a cohesive production palette that sounds of the moment without being derivative. He channels a generation’s obsession with self and legacy, giving his all to closing track “Die Before Midnight,” borrowing a beat from Telefon Tel Aviv and stocking it with paranoid girls checking texts and the memorable refrain: “If I die/They gon’ remember me.” He raps with a style reminiscent of a number of emcees current (Drake, A$AP Rocky) and older (songs like “Fake Sing” recall a less-husky Big Moe) alike, never staying too long on anyone’s property, coming off as a smooth frankenstein playing with the necessary pieces to forge his own identity.
Certainly, there’s room for growth–particularly in his selection of topics. Regardless of shortcomings, The Groove God serves up an enjoyable, unified listen, a strong first building block.