In crafting his sophomore release, the 11-track Grovenistic, rapper Cam Groves clearly focused on establishing his own singular sound, distancing himself from labelmate Spose by emphasizing the absurd and silly, where Peter Sparker has often chosen lately to go gritty.
In that, Groves has succeeded. He has his own sound, defined as much by his signature verbal arc at the finish of lines as he is by his willingness to go off the deep end: "I'd consider tasting the water that you bathe in" he stridently tells the object of his affection in "So Damn Good." "You smell like the opposite of some rotten shit."
You will surely crack a smile or two as Groves strives to live up to his boastful introduction of himself as "the rapper with a knack for laughter."
Will you bob your head and sing along until you learn all the words, though? Maybe to a favorite track you pick up on, but this doesn't strike me as an album you're constantly jamming front to back. The variety of producers — Cam does two himself, eight sources account for the other nine tracks — paired with a mostly unvarying delivery makes for a bit of an uneven experience, and when Groves takes to goofy singing in choruses (say, "Hit the Road") it can be cringe-inducing (this is part and parcel for the genre, it's true).
It's better than a novelty album, though, with a number of highlights. Kristina Kentigian is used especially well, her confident vocals jumping out of the speakers in the chorus of the narrative "Ex Games." And Thommy Kane (formerly Poverty) shows his diversity by banging out a hard verse in the jumping "What Now" before showing off smooth singing chops in "Good Time," the best track on the album and a great summer jam. Seriously. Kane can sing.
As for Cam, he shines most in "Tim Tebow," returning to the monstrous vocal treatment from the now-iconic "John Madden" (in our local hip hop circles, anyway) before ripping into his verses with a crisp and structured delivery that shows off his wit and his ability to align syllables with beats expertly.
Do I wish there wasn't a repeating "on your knees, ho"? Yes. But I can allow it's likely at least somewhat ironically done. Groves plays within the stereotypical bling-and-hoes hip-hop structure, and is self-mocking enough to give the whole thing enough wink-wink to keep it safely post-modern.
His "Crack Hat Music" is the case in point, with a melodic backing supplied by something resembling a xylophone and plenty of references to Groves's pale complexion.
"I want lots of fans/That's the goal right?" Great question.
Grovenistic | Released by Cam Groves | on Preposterously Dank Entertainment | with DJ Jon + DJ Rew + Spose | hosted by Shupe + Ill by Instinct | at the Big Easy, in Portland | Sept 5 | pdank.com