Grits – Mental Releases (July 18, 1995)

The Grits are a Tennessee based rap duo made up of Teron “Bonafide” Carter and Stacy “Coffee” Jones. Bonafide and Coffee met while they were both backup dancers for the Christian rock/rap group DC Talk, who were huge in the Christian music world in the nineties and had a successful string of gold selling albums. Eventually, one-third of DC Talk, Toby McKeehan (better known by his stage name TobyMac), along with producers Todd Collins and Joey Elwood, would form the production team known as the Gotee Brothers and started their own Christian label, Gotee Records. After putting out the female gospel/R&B group Out Of Eden’s debut album, the Gotee Bros would sign the Grits (which is an acronym for Grammatical Revolution In The Spirit) and they would release their debut album, Mental Releases in the summer of ’95.

I didn’t become familiar with the Grits until around 1999, after hearing their second album Factors Of The Seven, which we’ll get to someday, but in my opinion, was a masterpiece and the duo’s magna opus (if you’re like me and like to find hidden gems, go listen to it or cop it, immediately). After being blown away by Factors, naturally, I went back and bought Mental Releases hoping it would be just as or greater than their sophomore effort.

Let’s jump into, shall we?

Cataclysmic CirclesMental Releases begins with a bouncy feel good instrumental that Bonafide, Coffee and their special guest, Mr. Maxx, use to speak in abstract riddles and invite all to come into their sanctified cipher. I wouldn’t call this cipher cataclysmic, but more peaceful and pleasant. And I enjoyed it.

The World Is Round – Bonafied shares a short spoken word poem about shiesty people over a spacious and jazzy mash up, which sets up the next song…

Weigh A Buck 50 – Mo Henderson builds this drowsily melodic backdrop for the Grits to call out their fraudulent friends: “I gets meticulous administrating friendships, so none slip through my fingertips in the process, so I suggest an open eye when you sleep, peek-a-boo, I see you phony boo-boos”. A Eugene Hunter is credited for the beautiful sax chords that make this delicious backdrop even more delectable.

Set Ya Mind – Over mellow jazzy vibes, our hosts rap about the importance of having peace of mind in this walk called life. Mo Henderson’s relaxing instrumental will definitely lead you toward the path of mental tranquility.

10-A-Cee – Even though neither Bonafide or Coffee are from Tennessee, they use this one to rap praises to the Volunteer state, which is where Gotee Records is located. They spit decent rhymes on this one, but the Gotee Brothers bangin’ instrumental is the engine that makes this one go.

Universal And Worldwide – Coffee gets the first solo joint of the night (no, I’m not counting Bonafide’s thirty second spoken word poem as a solo record) and he uses it to witness to non-believers and give the listeners a brief rundown of different places you may bump into him, which includes: Champs (trying on hats), Life of Faith Church (praising God), Gotee Records (looking for ends) and the Pawn Shop (getting rid of fake jewelry). Coffee’s rhymes aren’t amazing, but the laidback instrumental, which reeks of after hour’s vibes, will surely set you straight for your midnight maraud. Speaking of midnight marauding, the Gotee Bros throw in a Q-Tip vocal snippet on the hook, which sounds dope and satisfies my Tribe Degrees of Separation for this post.

Don’t Bring Me Down – The Gotee Brothers interrupt our regularly scheduled program with this funky mash up that features a distorted and whiny male voice (probably TobyMac) singing nonsensical lyrics about grits looking like cream of wheat and Gotee posting bail for the Grits if they were to ever get locked up. The lyrics are kind of cheesy, but the hook is catchy and the groove is infectious.

Gettin’ Ready – The Gotee Brothers cook up a heepin’ helping of soul and throw in a vocal loop that conjures up memories of me sitting on those hard wood church pews as a peasy headed little nature boy. Bone and Coffee use it to discuss their life long mission to prepare for the life after this one: “I put my pants on one leg at a time to get prepared, showing no fear but still scared, of what’s to come to this world, what will be done, what a sight that will be, a sight that will be”. This is definitely one of my favs on Mental Releases.

Screen Door – The Grits are joined by the Inner Gate Dwellas (not to be confused with the Ghetto Dwellas) on this one, as they take turns discussing screen doors from a spiritual perspective. There’s definitely a lot of abstract coded rhymes on this one, and even if you don’t get all the bars, you can still enjoy the dope instrumental.

Jazz – Coffee got a solo joint, so it’s only right that Bonafide gets one too. Over a cool jazzy piano loop, Bone expresses his love for jazz music and discusses the parallels between jazz and hip-hop, punctuating his point on the hook: “Jazz is the mother and hip-hop’s the child, she died and revived now her child’s runnin’ wild, Grits is the tool and Hip-Hop’s the nation, sent to teach those of truth and creation”. If the backdrop wasn’t already slick enough, the Gotee Bros bring in a silky xylophone break on the hook, making this audio experience even more pleasurable. This is another one of my favs on the album.

Temptations -While most rappers boast and brag about their conquest of women, the Grits are the polar opposite. Over a decent instrumental the twosome take turns sharing their struggle with resisting the flesh that sometimes yearns and burns for that WAP, no matter how godly you are. The Guru vocal snippet is kind of misplaced, but all in all, this was solid.

Kickin’ Mo Rhymes – This is probably my favorite song on Mental Releases. The Gotee Bros slide Bone and Coffee a monster backdrop with soulful chords, a nasty bass line and a well-placed Biggie vocal loop. Coffee tacks on a mediocre verse at the end, but most of the song features Bone flowing like water and “spittin’ lyrical acid on plastic” to perfection. This is a banger.

Get The Picture – Bone and Coffee tackle stress, depression, anger and racism on this one. The hook is a bit ambiguous, but the content and instrumental are both rock solid.

Grammatical Revolution – Semi-bluesy mid-tempo instrumental interlude.

Forgive Me – Over a melancholic soulful backdrop, Bone and Coffee ask the Lord to forgive them for all their shortcomings. It may sound like a corny concept, but being that I’m a believer myself, I can relate. But even an atheist will enjoy the lovely instrumental.

Why Battle Me – The Grits invite their buddy, Aqua Liquid Man (who sounds like he bit studied Cee-Lo Green’s style, heavily) to join them, as they warn all their contemporaries to not take their emcee skills lightly just because their Christians. Bone delivers the strongest verse, but none of the three will (no pun intended) place the fear of God in anyone with their bars. I like Mo Henderson’s mellow instrumental, but can I get a question mark on the end of the song title, please?

Everybody Wants On -The Grits dedicate this one to all those who hang around simply as a means to get into this here rap game. On the second verse, Bone so eloquently spits: “Dozens of play play cousins tryna move in the house that Gotee built for the family, tryna use friendship as means of clout, eatin’ all the food and sleepin’ on the couch, disturbin’ the peace with outside suggestions, singing off key in our once perfect harmony, lookin’ over shoulders in supposed closed sessions, talkin’ about who you know thinkin’ you’re impressin’, look here, stay clear with that industry brown stuff, all on your nose, usin’ all the puffs”. Yes, leaches even exist in the Christian hip-hop arena. It sounds like the Gotee Bros looped the same record the Digable Planets used for “9th Wonder” (but I’m too lazy to confirm that right now) and the drowsy vibes work well with the duo’s content.

The Outro – The last track of the night features Bonafide getting one quick verse off over a funky instrumental. And that concludes Mental Releases.

On Mental Releases, the Grits do a great job of sharing their faith without coming off self-righteous or preachy. Clearly, Bonafide is the more polished emcee of the two, but Coffee’s monotone abstract style compliments Bone’s aggressive straight forward approach, nicely. On the production end, The Gotee Brothers and Mo Henderson string together an impressive batch of jazzy and soulful instrumentals that will keep you entertained from beginning to end. Mental Releases may not be a classic (mainly because the masses have never heard it), but the Grits make it an enjoyable experience that may also feed your soul in the process.

-Deedub

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