REVIEW: Fortilive’s “I vs I”

Photobucket Fortilive are a hip-hop trio that represent Hawai’i Nei, the Bay Area, and New Jersey and consist of some of the best players out there: Mushmouf, Illmind, and Slo-Mo. Individually, they have been involved with a number of projects for years, some I’ve heard, some I have not. But now as one, these guys easily create the kind of vibe not unlike Redman, Dilated Peoples, Black Star (especially the funky “Gimme”), and The Alkaholiks. What you also have with the Bay Area and NJ influences is simply… differences. It’s not a stagnant album, so you’ll hear regionality.

In the opening track, “Ain’t No Place”, they talk about home and make a number of references that everyone will relate to. While a Bruno Mars reference will stick out for outsiders, hearing lines like “the Kimo Kahoano of rap”, and “cause we be talkin’ pidgin, but we be talkin’ business” and “get your life right, fuck it with this gritty 50 livin’/Kamehameha playa, you finna run for mayor/young n*ggas spittin’ fire like he Kilauea” will definitely let you know that this isn’t lyrics like most have heard about. Just like hip-hop from the south, they touch on how it is to be “in town” and everywhere else. It’s the kind of localism that makes it great I know exactly what they’re talking about, and then they get deeper and cover everything from the corruption of certain American past times or, as is the case with the incredibly funky “Wannabees”, where they don’t talk about people who want to be something else, but how Fortilive simply want to live and be better.

At the same time, what makes I vs. I standout is that it’s not just a “local” album full of local references that no one outside of these locations will understand. These guys could easily be from L.A. and remind people of Project Blowed or Aceyalone, they could easily be from the ATL and make people go “wow, that has a slight Goodie Mob vibe to it”, and yet with a bit of Hawaiian flavor thrown in too, it’s also very characteristic of the best Hawai’i has to offer. The music is a sponge of sorts, taking in various influences from different eras, times, and regions, settling down and marinating to create a blend with its own unique herbs and spices. The stories are believable and they’ll make you want to hear more, and that’s a good thing. As they get more exposure, I hope Fortilive will bring that more to those who understand what quality hip-hop is all about.

(I vs. I can be downloaded for free from DJBooth.net.)

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