Rhymes and Beats

by: Gnotes

Sean Dwyer, or gNotes, a former college football player as well as multi-instrumentalist, flexes his hip-hop muscles on his second full-length, Rhymes and Beats. Just as able behind the decks as he is with the mic, gNotes produces more than half of the album, both his beats and the others' warm and lively, more rock- than soul-driven. Live guitars and trumpets pepper the scratched samples and MPCs that lie behind the MC's Slug-esque delivery, his voice sounding slightly pained and yet lethargic, hanging on the end of the beat. It's an impassioned but conversational tone, serious and thoughtful, and fits well with the general themes and ideas of his songs, which tend towards the introspective, speaking of love and society and even politics. And while he occasionally slides into the cliché ("Everybody's got a gift to share/I give you props if you've got the heart to care," he spits benignly in "Love to Give"), most of the time gNotes is refreshingly honest and interesting, slipping in lines like "kicked the beat so hard my feet poked out the shoes" ("Burn Down the Stable"), "exhale like smoke signals" ("Samba Tryst," which, although a good track, is more tango-meets-salsa than samba), and the very Aesop Rock-esque -- in particular, "9-5ers Anthem" -- "You're living in a world where you define your work by what you're making/Spinning in circles, cycles of life, living and earning wages/how it pays for dishonorable occupation" ("Nemesis"). There is certainly a lot of low-budget underground hip-hop out there that features lazy production and stilted rhymes, but gNotes comes out above this. His flow is controlled but with a certain, appealing looseness, his lyrics are informed, bordering on the didactic, and his beats are well constructed and melodic, easy to follow without being boring, proving that he's able to keep up with any of the bigger indie names out there. ~ Marisa Brown, Rovi

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