o tell you of the experiences that have shaped Percy Carey would take much more space than a mere record review allows, so I won’t waste time attempting to do so. In short, the artist better known as MF Grimm has gone from child guest-star on “Sesame Street” to drug-dealing criminal to up-and-coming hardcore rapper to wheelchair-bound gunshot victim. Six years after those gunshots, Grimm recorded his first solo album, 2000’s The Downfall of Ibliys, in the 24 hours preceding his 3-year prison term for narcotics conspiracy. His latest effort American Hunger, carries with it similarly heavy ambitions; it’s the first triple album in hip-hop history.
One might automatically assume that Grimm recorded plenty of filler to fulfill this staggering ambition; that’s not exactly the case. It may be hard to fathom, but although certain tracks contain similar subject matter—i.e. government, music politics, gentrification, revolution, relationships, inner-city life, Grimm’s criminal past, etc.—no two songs on the album sound the same; he switches perspectives and themes, as well as his flow and delivery effortlessly throughout. Also diverse? The production. With soundscapes provided by myriad producers, American Hunger is easily MF Grimm’s most musically distinct piece of work yet. Krohine’s sublime flute sample combined with an orchestral bridge help make “When Faith is Lost” a new classic among hip-hop love songs, while Nate Denver sings the Johnny Cash-esque opening as well as produces the acoustic guitar sampling “Dark Skies (No Jugamos).” As there are sixty tracks, it’s hard to single out highlights. Then again, it’s impossible not to mention the classic 90s-style beat-making of “My Mentality” or the Doo-Wop of “Things I’ve Said.”
Grimm has plenty of guests here, but hardly any match him. While some may criticize him for his relatively simple rhyme schemes and lyrics—he rarely raps in complete sentences, often forgoing the use of articles and adverbs unless absolutely necessary to get his point across—few rappers have the sort of charisma and pain (literally: Grimm suffered larynx damage in the aforementioned shooting) that he offers on a regular basis. Check the ballads: Grimm is busy praising those who can love him despite all of his shortcomings and physical restrictions: “You’re a gift from above, while I dwell down below.” He’s more than just an underground 50 Cent (a notion he acknowledges on “Boing”).
The word “filler” is subjective, but it’s astoundingly difficult to apply it to any of the tracks on American Hunger. If pressed, Grimm probably could’ve made this a double album—but it’d be impossible to say what he’d shelve. Or why. Yeah: some tracks stand out and some are more sonically pleasing than others, but nothing feels out of place thematically and, despite the musical diversity, every part adds up to form a remarkable, cohesive work of art.
Reviewed by: A.J. Henriques
Reviewed on: 2006-12-04