Glass Bottom Boat- Definitive: A Year in the Nebula- Spring

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Those who say “Hip-Hop is dead” surely have not yet heard the latest project from West Coast Hip-Hop duo, Glass Bottom Boat. Definitive: A Year in the Nebula—Spring is an album that should be on every Hip-Hop head’s radar, especially the old-school enthusiast who appreciates first-class lyricism, and dreamy flows accompanied by boom bap instrumentals. Their music has a definite 90’s throwback vibe— the type of sound that makes you reminisce about when Hip-Hop was made with old samplers, drum machines, floppy disks, and jazz, soul, and funk records. The overall production style demonstrates an ardent appreciation for golden era Hip-Hop customs, however the duo isn’t afraid to incorporate their own unique, and progressive style into the mix.

Glass Bottom Boat consists of Tone Dogg Raw and Cal-S-thetics, long time friends who share not only an affinity for Hip-Hop music, but the innate talent to create it. They’ve been partners in Hip-Hop for nearly twenty years, ever since the early days of middle school, when they would exchange notebooks full of rhymes in homeroom class. After a long hiatus, this release is a re-introduction to their partnership. It also marks the beginning of an ambitious journey to release more projects in the seasons ahead. For production, they worked with several talented producers, including: EQ, Kev Brown, Duke Westlake, Jeepz, Rokem, Sumthin Gunny, and Cal-S-thetics himself.

The opening track, “Premium Blend,” really encapsulates the overall, top-notch quality of the album. The production was handled by Duke Westlake, and he delivered a bass-driven, attention grabber that’s heavy on the drum kick. It’s one of those beats that force you into an involuntary head nod, no matter how hard you try to keep still. It’s truly a work of perfect lyrical symmetry, as the MC’s alternate verses, and metaphorically bust down your door to really show you what they’ve got. The chemistry they share, and the energy between them is clearly communicated on the track, and it definitely makes the listener excited to hear more.

The following track, “City Beat,” is one of my personal favorites from the album. It features outstanding production from Cal-S-thetics, with the use of an SP-808EX. Smooth and ethereal, it’s the perfect song to cruise to. It features buoyant, melodic elements, a laid-back drum beat, and a mellow vibe. The production and the lyricism combined really paint a picture, as Tone and Cal take the listener on a trip through a typical day in their city. Whether you’re on the grind, or just cruising the streets, “City Beat,” is about having pride in where you live. No matter where you’re from, you are part of your city, and your city is part of you.

The song “Packing,” takes a more serious turn, as the artists speak their minds on an issue that greatly affects our society—gun violence. It brings to light the unsettling reality of the world we live in, where mass shootings are on the rise. EQ handled the production on the track, and it’s one of my favorite beats on the album. It’s dark and grimy, with ominous horns and full, reverberating bass.

The song, “For the Fam,” is an ode to their families. It begins with a sound clip from Cal-S-thetics’ family, which sounds like it came straight out of his living room. You can hear his kids playing, wrestling with each other, and hollering joyfully, meanwhile his wife laughingly exclaims, “madness in this house.” Then, the beat kicks in, which was produced by Sumthin Gunny. It has such an impressive atmospheric quality. It’s comprised of boom bap drums around soft, blissful Spanish guitar, and jazz horns. The imagery is so true to life, and the listener truly gets a sense of what it feels like to be at one of their family functions. Tone Dogg Raw and Cal-S-thetics are both fathers, and family is everything to them. The love they have for their families, and how strongly they value quality time spent with them is clearly communicated on the track.

Similarly, the song “Merci” is an ode to their loved ones who have passed, and its purpose is to show gratitude to their families for being a vital source of support and inspiration for them throughout their lives. At the end of the song, the artists show the full extent of their appreciation by providing the listener with a sound clip of a multitude of “thank yous," said in thirty one different languages.

From beats, to rhymes, to subject matter, this album is high quality Hip-Hop. In a world where the lines that define Hip-Hop are blurred by so many new sub-genres, it is refreshing to hear a project that stays true to the elements the genre was founded upon. It is only a small sample of what’s to come from the duo in the seasons ahead. Tone Dogg Raw and Cal-S-thetics are fully committed to Hip-Hop, and eager to release a wealth of material they have up their sleeves. Definitive: Spring is a breath of fresh air for the Hip-Hop community. It’s a smooth, harmonious ride of beats and rhymes. It’s Hip-Hop at its very core, and I can’t help but wonder—where will the Glass Bottom Boat takes us next? 

Jenny Johnson