Independent (April 27, 2010)
Review by Jon C.
Gallery Drive is a crew out of California consisting of Afaar, Nomis, Benjamin Doc, sINAi, TruthBTold of Insufficient Funds and Ruslan of theBREAX. Their debut record, Scratching the Surface, features production from a worthy variety of beatmakers including Diaz, Nikademus and S1. This reviewer has often pondered what makes an effective crew record. While it’s not a comprehensive answer, four answers stand out: Easily distinguishable emcees, consistent lyricism, solid concepts & banging beats. These elements will be the criteria for examining Scratching the Surface.
Easily distinguishable emcees
“We Are Here,” the album’s opening track does an effective job of introducing the six members of the crew. Afaar kicks things off with a blistering barrage, followed by the intelligent punch lines and engaging honesty now expected from Nomis. Verse two sees TruthBTold fire out a grip of pop culture references that catch the ear, while sINAi paints creative lyrical pictures. Finally, Benjamin Doc brings a healthy amount of wordplay, and Ruslan finishes the jam with the energy and charisma that has made theBREAX such an exciting crew to listen to.
While this is a more than effective introduction, as the record moves on, the gentlemen from Insufficient Funds become the easiest to ‘lose’ in the listen. This could very well be based on this reviewer’s lack of familiarity with earlier Funds work, however the other three emcees in the crew are much easier to recognize.
Despite this criticism, it should be noted that each emcee represents as highly versatile, which is deeply refreshing for the listener. There really isn’t a weak verse on this record. It is true that iron sharpens iron, and as a whole, the bar has been raised by these six emcees – not only for lyricism, but also for crafting it in community where each can be pushed to realize their potential. Lyrically, this record is very satisfying and calls for repeated spins.
Scratching also contains several outstanding concepts. The first that demands a repeat is “Marvelous”. If you are a regular attendee at Comic Con, you will drool and the number of comic book references crammed into this rapid fire cut. The group then shifts effortlessly into an introspective, heartfelt prayer to God on “Change My”. From there, Gallery Drive ascends to what seems to be their pinnacle and then climbs even higher. “The Lesson Plan” uses clips from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to communicate their faith to a jaw dropping extent.
Fortunately, these are standouts above the commonly used ‘stop sleeping on us’ topics that, while present, don’t overwhelm the project. It is tough to walk the line between straight lyricism and pushing creative boundaries. Here, these tracks are the tipping points towards the latter.
The production on Scratching has a healthy number of contributors. Once again, there are several standout headnodders including “Psycho”, the first single produced by Jkeys, “We Don’t Care” (Young Cee), and “Darkest Hour” (King Karnov); the latter integrates soulful samples into the chorus for a more cohesive sound. While the majority of the beats are above average, there are few that leap to the ear of the listener. Instead, Scratching The Surface serves as a showcase for emcees – and they rep nicely.
Indeed, Gallery Drive is scratching the surface. This record is a very consistent effort with flashes of brilliance, excitingly pointing towards their great potential to elevate the genre beyond a vast stagnant pool of material. The future looks bright.
For fans of: Scribbling Idiots, Visionaries
Purchase CD – download – iTunes