Unless you have an abnormal need for drink coasters, the demo CD is usually the music journalist's worst nightmare. But every once in a while something uniquely interesting slips through and becomes something other than an inanimate companion to my late-night glass of Cristal. I was handed a CD by the group GFB The Movement recently at, of all places, an Amnesty International benefit in Tempe.
The Valley duo's album (the GFB stands for Goin' For Broke), Undestroyable, was in an unremarkable white paper wrapper, and the sticker with the track listings was slightly off-center. The plain packaging clearly did not prepare me for track one's first few riffs. Was that . . . Lynyrd Skynyrd? Sho nuff! Chino D and Rise (a.k.a. John Tha Baptist), the young men behind GFB, have sampled "Sweet Home Alabama" and transformed it into "Sweet Home Arizona" with a little bit of hip-hop thrown into the mix. The lyrics are a little on the elementary side, but are nonetheless entertaining: "We ain't never going to stop/Till the fat lady sings/And she ain't even warmin' up/So go ask the bartender for more rum in your cup."
The marriage between hip-hop and classic rock on Undestroyable doesn't stop there. The next track, "Get Up Stand Up," is a tribute to Bob Marley (of course), and "Dead Song" samples the Grateful Dead's "Sugar Magnolia." Finally, we have hip-hop artists paying direct tribute to old-school hippies: "I wanna hear some grateful dead/nuff said/eyes read/trippin out/flippin out like the grateful dead heads."
The tracks that steer clear of the 1970s also stand out above other hip-hop productions I've been handed around here in past months, and there seems to be a theme of social justice inspired by the Hair era. "Sundown" is backed by subtle Latin beats and details the struggle of the working class, and, as its name implies, "Beautiful Pollution" is all about the state of the environment.
Chino D and Rise have put together an album that, while it does sound like your standard bedroom-made demo, has an element of creativity that's evident in forebears to this kind of thing like The Roots. See, it's official -- sometimes demos really can be your friend.
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For more information on where to purchase Undestroyable, visit www.arizonahiphop.com