Gentry Fox – Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2 – Album Review
I got lots to say here about our man Gentry Fox homies – y’all been warned! He’s put the effort into this comeback record and sequel to Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 1 – the least I can do is repay the favor in words.
“Resurgence” starts the new record on serious notes, broadcasting the news to ya as a serene & hazy vibe begins to sweep through the music. Personally, I’m all about stuff like this…I’m a huge fan of spoken-word…and really, that’s what Fox is opening up the record with on Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2 as it starts…and you’ll hear how those newscasters slowly dissolve into the sounds of crashing chaos around Gentry as he steps to the mic, letting the verbal show begin for real just past the three minute mark. Awesome to hear the man so intact after so many years away from our pages – we last reviewed him earlier this year with a full return to form on his record Project Alpha, and before that we experienced the prequel in 2014 with Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 1 from back in the day. Clocking-in with a first cut that’s over seven & a half-minutes long, Fox flexes his craft early on the record, shifting the sound, direction, and style at will. Smart to get the tension flowing immediately and starting this record with a genuinely interesting heaviness in the words & information contrasted so cleverly with the airy atmosphere in the music surrounding it. Like all-things-Fox, you know the Hip-Hop vibes are set to break in sooner or later – that’s a given…but he takes his time to let the length on this cut develop, evolve, twist, and contort itself into a shape-shifting sonic adventure. Also true to form, the man keeps it plenty explicit as the verbal Olympics begin and he switches it up to the song’s second gear. Declaring himself the G.O.A.T. and reminding y’all that while it might have been “5 long years since I dropped my first tape” – you can hear the man is back to pimp-slap the m-i-c & handle his business good’n’proper as we know only G-Fox can. The explosiveness in the final switch will serve to wake a few people up that have been sleepin’ on him. My only question is…”Resurgence?” He might have been away, it might have been a minute or two since the last record officially came out, but c’mon – you know this homie been surgin’ the whole time.
Make no mistake, Fox fucks wit it – and he fucks wit you too. Listen to “Peacemaker” – it’s an ironic title at its maximum – Gentry’s cursing out the entire world one bar at a time on this track, loading in a full-dose of humor as it plays. I ain’t gonna lie, this cut completely hit the mark for me…the beat hits hard, the words hit even harder. Carryin’ it over into a spoken-word outro, Fox keeps the humor flowin’ and the feel of his new record largely tongue-in-cheek…you know this is all real to him and the quality stays up, but at the same time you can tell he’s never afraid to take a serious time-out for a quality joke or two. The man is flexin’ all over the place – and all really on the inside of a single minute when it comes right down to it – “Peacemaker” rips by quickly but makes a huge impact early on in the lineup. It’s as big as boastful rhymes can possibly be – Fox is straight middle-fingerin’ the world here without any apologies of remorse, kicking all the ass on his way through the bars. Read that again – ALL of the ass, not just some of the ass, ALL of it. He’s eatin’ the lunches of other emcees on “Peacemaker” and venting out more than a few feelings into the world before getting chastised in the song’s second half.
“Affirmatory” packs in more real Hip-Hop flavor than most albums in the genre do. Lightin’ up the mic from verse to chorus, he’s got his attitude on full display throughout the song long before he switches it up to hit the bong and make a phone call. You gotta dig jazzy combos in music like this though – giant snaps on the snares and kick drum thumpin’ & all that…you can’t help but feel it. The conversation with the record store employee at the end of this track goes from good to freakin’ great once the main man asks whether or not they’re carrying any Gentry Fox on location. Quality cut all around though homies – “Affirmatory” has that giant bounce so many listeners dig on – and let’s face facts, while Fox has always been a solid warrior on the mic, the time away has treated him really well – dude’s spittin’ flawlessly. Sometimes you get the venomous end of it all on cuts like “Peacemaker,” and sometimes ya get the party vibes of a track like “Affirmatory” – doesn’t really matter what mode he’s in, he’s a mic-slayer. Just like you’re hoping to find on a great mix-tape, it’s moments like the major switch in the middle to flip the script and drop a skit on us (while also brilliantly poking fun at the idea of doing that in his conversation on the phone) that show ya he’s working with all the essential ingredients from the ideas and concepts to the skills required to make a Hip-Hop record that authentically retains your interest.
“Is this what you want?” – Gentry Fox fucking SKEWERS Mumble-Rap/Trap in the opening moments of “Assimilation” before launching into an aggressive flow that displays the skills necessary to make the whole point he’s initially making hit home big-time. It’s so damn quick you might even miss it – so pay some damn attention will ya? It’s merely a fraction of “Assimilation,” but it immediately goes a long way to prove the point that he’s got something to say and completely unafraid to say whatever that might be. Puttin’ the art of the game on display, he sticks line after line with authority on “Assimilation,” silencing doubters with lyrics that make you appreciate where he’s comin’ from, while also revealing the finesse of an emcee that puts genuine thought into the moves he makes on the mic. I’ll say this…it’s another strong cut on Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2, even if it might not be my own favorite in the set…facts are facts, “Assimilation” pumps out an enormous sound that’s highly relevant for today. Gentry slaughters this one with confidence radiating from the mic, and makes solid use of a low-down & dirty backing layer of vocals echoing his words right back at him, adding the perfect amount of extra punch and gritty sound to this cut as Fox brings out a punishing performance that’s large & in-charge.
“Absolution” works with another highly dramatic & intense sound, twisting up a sample from Pulp Fiction before the shots get fired and G-Fox starts firing verbal bullets from the mic. There’s an argument to be made that this is the most serious you’ll find him in any song on Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2 – he’s clearly at his most focused, ain’t no doubt about that. The man is right where he needs to be, adding in the full weight of his words and the punch they need to have to make an impact on ya – “Absolution” becomes pretty damn epic when it comes right down to it. I might take my Fox turned up a lil’ bit when it comes to the mix on this particular cut…that’s a possibility…seems like nit-pickin’ when everything comes out so strong, but if I had to pin down one thing that could potentially make this one iota stronger, I’d probably be inclined to bring those vocals up. The music on “Absolution” with its depth, tension, and intensity…that’s always going to stand out no matter what…Fox is a bit more on the inside of the mix on this one, which ain’t necessarily a bad thing at all really – just an observation. The final switch of “Absolution” brings in a stunningly mellow vibe where you’ll get a fully clear dose of his words in the last minute or so…so I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining. I’m not really. I can hear him clearly enough, so I should probably just shut the fuck up about it. Bottom line is, to me, “Absolution” rocked the serious vibe in even more successful ways than the sound of “Assimilation” did just prior – no points to be taken away from the performance he puts in, he’s owning his moments on the mic without question throughout this record. You’ll also find the man really thrives in mellower, more melodic sides of his material as well – one of my favorite spots on this record is where he switches up the entire direction of “Absolution” over the course of its final couple minutes or-so. You’d do well to expect the unexpected from G-Fox…you just never know where he’ll end up based on where he started out. You can take that literally or metaphorically if you wanna; it’s a statement on this particular track here, but you’ll find it applies to the man’s career as well…Gentry’s makin’ connections and making all kinds of significant moves with his music this year…”anything is possible” as he’ll tell ya himself on “Absolution.”
Wise words from the heart of The Matrix start out “Salvation,” and Gentry comes in right after Morpheus to make his mark on one of the record’s strongest cuts. There are certain moments you’ll hear in Fox’s work that give you a bit more insight into the man himself…this would be one of them. You can hear something intangible…something extra…something that sounds like what you come to understand is the importance of the message or meaning behind his words. There’s genuine weight on his shoulders perhaps, some added pressure in the mix somewhere to come back strong after so long in between records maybe – but you can hear how well he responds to the pressure in the way he delivers. Like I was alluding to at the end of “Absolution,” the mellower vibes on Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2 really hit the mark for me – “Salvation” is a solid example of why that is. I love the music he’s chosen to work with here…it might not punch you as hard in the face as a track like “Peacemaker” or “Absolution” will through sound, but it hits equally hard through substance, no doubt. Fox wanders through thoughts and dreams here, revisiting an old friend that’s long since passed, but fully real to the subconscious mind of this SUBROK artist. Through his words, the imagery he provides, the emotional depth that comes with it, and the entire vibe of the music, “Salvation” becomes one of the realest experiences on this record.
The best way I can put it I guess…is to say that, like Fox, I’ve always got time for a great joke – and he makes several throughout the course of Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2 for sure…the humor lands no problemo – but it’s the more serious and thought-provoking moments that seem to easily bring out the best in him. Listen to how damn well his track “Otherground” came out will ya? That’s what I’m talking about right there…this is the art of the emcee in full-effect. Much like the mix on “Absolution,” the lighter & brighter you find the melody in the music, sometimes the more Fox finds himself on the inside of it all – but don’t get me wrong, you can still hear him clearly enough to justify the production. My advice to the man is to simply watch how much he can slip inside the mix when the sounds get bright – but he might very well be going for that style too – the bottom line is, he’s a genuine wordsmith and I’m always going to advocate for emcees with something to say being heard. It comes from a good place; I ain’t sitting here next to my stereo yelling “HUH?” like an old-man, despite how many grey hairs have entered by beard – I’m just saying that when it comes to the case of a track like “Otherground” and how much effort is consistently put into all the words he’s spittin’ – I mean…damn straight I wanna make sure that YOU hear’em all. What it is to me, and always is in the Rap/Hip-Hop genres…is that the words are always going to be the main star of the show…and I refuse to apologize for feeling that way. How could I feel any different when it’s the lyricism and flow from an emcee that defines the best of the best out there? Like I said earlier, I can hear him clearly enough…I’m just making sure the music doesn’t hog the spotlight on the guy – he puts a lot into his words and songs like “Otherground” prove that, 100%.
Taking you for a trip back in time, literally dialing-up his internet at the beginning of “Analog” before giving you a verbal history of tech-culture and its evolution over the years, while also making time to point out the differences between what’s up today and what was up back in the day. Complete with record scratches and a main synth line to lead the way through the music, “Analog” is largely a minimalistic design when it comes to the ingredients involved, but one of the tightest themes you’ll find on Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2 that keeps his words cohesive and on-point the entire distance through. “Analog” also gives him the opportunity to use a whole bunch of words that you honestly wouldn’t normally find in any song from any genre for the most part; whether or not that excites you as much as it does me is kinda beside the point to begin with – it takes a wordsmith to go after a track like this one.
Lyrically, he’s got plenty to work with, as I’ve pointed out. Listen to the man string together the syllables on “Solstice” and how he never drops a beat when delivering word-after-word-after-word all joined together like an alphabetical version of the human centipede. He’s got a couple moments where he’ll take on singing the hooks here & there throughout Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2 – and there’s no question, this is the least successful attempt he’ll make when it comes to “Solstice.” I mean, look…clearly my words have already proven he’s got my support and I’m a fan – and I know that singing ain’t his main meal yo – but when you’re flat, you’re flat…gotta call it like I hear it. When I listen to moments like…say like the ones at the end of the record on “Denouement,” you can hear that he’s got the ability without question – and the way he approaches that final cut also has a style that really suits the song. “Solstice” has him shining perfectly from the mic in his verses, and dropping that standard of quality he’s usually so conscious of just a bit more than he should when it comes to singing the hooks…which admittedly, ends up making the track become probably a lot more uneven & less balanced than it’s likely intended to be. There’s wisdom within these words though…don’t get me wrong, still lots of moments of redemption along the way where Fox’s lyrics aim to inspire and remind us that our time here on earth is short – it’s all about gettin’ after it homies. No sense in waiting or second-guessing when tomorrow might not come at all – today is what matters – and maybe we’ll see a renewed sense of urgency from G-Fox now that he’s got this record out into the world and realizes how good it feels to be back where he belongs.
You ain’t heard name-dropping go down like this before – check out “Synesthesia” – it’s Fox’s tribute to those that have paved the way for him to be doing what he’s doing now. Listing a massive amount of artists & emcees from back in the day that no doubt inspired him along the way like they have so many of us out there – if you’re familiar with the history of the game, you’ll seriously dig this cut. And heck, if you’re not – pay attention cause ya just might learn something, ya feel me? Gentry dives in deep here, shedding light on his “reverence for the golden era/boom-bap era of Hip-Hop” and what’s influenced his own story. “Real recognize real” as he says – and that’s what this track is essentially all about. Love the subtle beat that comes along with this track, it’s freakin’ gorgeous really – but so is the sentiment itself, and the skills from Fox are front & center as he shouts out his heroes. Impressively stringing together all kinds of recognizable names that have built the strength of the genre up over time, Gentry pays tribute here by listing’em off for ya – but also in the way he so skillfully threads these names together into the bars without a hiccup or hesitation in his flow. That ain’t easy yo! Words are one thing, names are a whole different animal…it’s tracks like “Synesthesia” that show he assembles his lyrics like puzzle pieces. This is as much of a love-song as you’re ever likely to hear from Gentry Fox – his heart’s fully in this one; as a result, I think you’ll also find that “Synesthesia” comes out one of the stronger cuts on this record.
That being said, “Wanderlust” is a love-song of a different design. Gentry’s longing for the past and undoubtedly sounds a bit more down on his luck in reflecting on a failed relationship throughout the words of this cut. Ultimately, “Wanderlust” is the closing of a chapter in his life, part apology, part forgiveness, part objective observation at what caused the collapse between him and the one he loved. I dig that he’s dug deep into the pain here; these are honest feelings and highly relatable ones for those out there that have experienced the loss of a relationship that genuinely meant something special. Sometimes there’s nothing left to do but “wish you nothing but the best, good luck” and accept things for what they are…but there’s no question that acceptance definitely doesn’t come too early in the stages of grief post-breakup. It takes a while to examine the whole scenario with the maturity and insight that Gentry applies to his lyrics and sentiment on “Wanderlust” – but it’s clear he’s there now. I also really dig that the mix on this cut really continues to build up to epic proportions by the end…it’s almost like shouting out his feelings out loud is his own method of convincing himself that the words he’s spittin’ are true & that he can move on without feeling the guilt, or being tied to the past anymore. The hooks run strong, the emotions burn stronger…this is Gentry Fox at his most personal in many ways.
The best advice I can give this homie is to watch the similarities of his flow; as in, you can have a signature style, which is certainly does – but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to switch up the vibe too. Hooks-wise, that’s usually where you’ll find the most defined differences between his tracks from cut to cut, but when it comes to his bars and his lead-vocals, you’ll find Fox flexes in a main gear he’s mastered & comfortable with – it’s one of the aspects of his material I can guarantee will continue to sharpen over the years to follow as this emcee continues to evolve as an artist. However, when he gets it right, he gets it right – and “Valhalla” is a solid example of the man stringing syllables together in impressive ways that use the strength of his pace, flow, and cadence to his complete advantage. No lie, “Valhalla” ain’t exactly the victory-ride you typically associate the name with – but arguably, it is by the end of the story too. The journey to “Valhalla” isn’t an easy one for some – you gotta go through some real shit to get to where you wanna be in this lifetime, and this song is a true reflection of that, for better and for worse. Making stops at to confront & highlight difficult memories from his past, proving that he’s strong enough to move forward, and revealing how he’s learned to be as present as possible in the here & now – G-Fox puts one of the heaviest moments on the record into true perspective you can fully appreciate.
“Destiny” shows Gentry’s gift as a storyteller…it’s actually one of the pivotal tracks that ties together a lot of the tale that runs underneath the surface of this album from its first moments to its final ending. The trumpet & acoustic guitar in the mix of the music on this track is freakin’ perfection – and honestly, this is right up there with the most impressive cuts on the record, even if in many ways, it’s one of the most removed from Fox’s own personal tales. You’ll find the majority of his material reflects internally – it’s cuts like “Destiny” that prove he’s capable of crafting songs that expand much further beyond his own experiences with highly successful results. Dude’s rock solid at taking any theme or idea he creates and really running with it, but “Destiny” takes his storytelling ability to new heights…hell, I’d go as far as saying he should be considering this cut as a potential single as well when it comes right down to it. Not only are his rhymes seriously focused and flawless here, but the story itself is every bit as engaging as the music supporting him is…and as a result, “Destiny” becomes one of the most unique experiences that you’ll hear on Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2, and equally rewarding to listen to – he’s fully nailing it here.
“Where does he get such wonderful toys?” – I’m borrowing a line from Tim Burton’s Batman to make my point here…Gentry always finds incredible spoken-word samples to set the theme and solidly lock it into place. The effect it has on songs like “Timeless” plays a massive role…think of the beginnings of cuts like these and how it frames what’s to come from the main man on the mic – it’s moves like these that have you appreciating just how much thought goes into his material all-around. I’m always gonna love it when he kicks it old-school and brings in a scratch or two – that’s a given – but literally everything is working in his favor here once again…the delicate piano melody alongside the beat is magnificent. Time itself weighs heavy on Gentry’s mind…he’s commented on it in several songs throughout this album – it’s the sound of a man with his eye on the clock, knowing he’s gotta hustle if he’s going to make the mark with his legacy that he’s seeking out. It’s that same clock that hovers right above us all – some aren’t even aware it exists until it’s far too late, others like Fox can hear its every ticking second as life goes on and the window of opportunity threatens to close. He confirms on “Timeless” that he’s in this for the long-haul, while also aiming to inspire YOU out there to reach for a lil’ bit more with the time you’ve got left in your own life. “Timeless” is a thought-provoking cut that’ll make you examine what’s important to accomplish in this life…and if just a few more of us actually did, imagine what we could achieve. Time is our most precious commodity, yet so few of us realize that. Gentry does.
I’m loving the samples & sound of “Sayonara” and how it opens up with the classic lines from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…it sets the tone for the lyricism & bars from G-Fox to follow. As I’ve said many times on these pages of ours – pay attention to those spoken-word samples in Hip-Hop/Rap dear readers, dear friends – they’re often speaking on behalf of what the artist or emcee is looking to communicate. Fox has spent his time in the trenches – the man knows to enjoy the journey to the top of the charts every bit as much as the results when they come, and that’s the real truth about the man behind the microphone. It’s how you get fearless enough to put out records like Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 1 & 2 – the man recognizes there’s value to all of what he’s creating; and whether it comes out flawlessly, or not, it all tells part of his story. Right from the drop of Broderick’s dialog and the playful bounce of the music filling the atmosphere of “Sayonara” – you can feel the inviting vibes of this song surround ya quickly. Gentry’s full of hopes and dreams on this cut – and rightly so – he’s put out an entire set of highly engaging cuts that prove the man’s still got a ton left in the tank. He muses on what he’d say if this was to be his last record – it won’t be – but still, his examining of that aspect is more metaphorical overall and cohesive to many of the thoughts expressed throughout this album that encourage us to live in the present and attack each and every day like it could be our last. Respect!
Dude should give himself some real credit for the effort at the end in switching it up completely one last time and singing it all out on “Denouement” – he might profess within the lyrics that he’s no singer, but honestly, he’s suiting the vibe here big time. Basically it comes down to this…maybe it could be smoothed out and glossed up, but in the process of doing that, I can fully guarantee that you’d lose out on everything that makes this song genuinely special. Plus melody/tone-wise, he’s pretty much right on-point…not to beat a dead horse here, but in comparison to what he gives ya earlier on “Solstice,” it’s like night & day. And this isn’t even me saying that he’s necessarily perfect in tone – he’s got moments here & there that back up his theories that singing ain’t his strongest suit when it comes to what he can do from the microphone – but in terms of expression and emotion, this is the kind of performance that perfectly suits the sentiment and serves the song as good as it gets. “Denouement” will continue on long past the song part, with Gentry waking up in the hospital after a severe car crash, having an absolutely brilliant conversation with the doctor in-charge, who will remind him that, “There’s only one reality Mr. Fox and this is very much it.” The dialog in the skit between two main parts of “Denouement” is pure genius…Fox turns on the humor perfectly, before jumping right into a Coldplay loop that’ll form the backbone of the second half. At first, it was kinda surprising…even after being referenced in the conversation that took place only moments ago – using “Yellow” from Coldplay worked out so much better than I would have thought…but that’s kinda the whole story of Gentry Fox to begin with ain’t it? Beating the odds. “All I ever wanted was to be heard” – that’s sentiment that I know for a fact many of you out there can relate to. He might arguably get a bit looser with his tone in the last section of “Denouement” but Fox is no less focused…he’s still goin’ after it all with passion, and whether you dig the final switch or not, the fire & desire is clearly audible. To be completely truthful however – the first part of the main three elements of “Denouement” is honestly one of the best moments I’ve heard from the Gentry Fox catalog – I think it’s that completely effective and really brings out the honest heart, objective thoughts, and authentic emotion of this emcee in ways we truly haven’t heard before.
I know I’ve said a lot about this record…and if you’ve made it this far into reading this review, honestly, congratulations – I know it’s been a long ride to get to the ending here. The facts are the facts though – some music, some artists, some bands…are completely worth the time & effort, because you know without question that they’re putting genuine passion into their art and making it worth listening to. Gentry Fox is one of those dude’s that’s always going to have something relevant to say and continually be an effective commander of the m-i-c over the years to follow. While a title like Rare Demo Shit, Vol. 2 certainly suggests there’s still room to grow and improve – there’s no doubt that where he’s at already, is decidedly entertaining, and the strengths he’s shown fully prove that as an artist, he’s already thriving.
Find out more about Gentry Fox from his official spot at Twitter here: https://twitter.com/gentryfox
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!