Released as a 10-year celebration of Grits' long-running partnership with Gotee Records, 7 is a greatest-hits collection featuring 13 songs from their breakout albums The Art of Translation and Dichotomy A/B. As their final (and seventh) studio release for Gotee, Grits has also included 3 brand-new songs as well as a bonus mega-mix (mashing together "Here We Go" and "Tennessee Bwoys" quite well) to give fans something to tide themselves over with until their next move.
The most surprising thing about 7 is that Grits' three most recent albums are the only ones represented on this collection. Although Grits didn't hit it big until their 2002 release The Art of Translation, I still find it unwarranted that this career retrospective ignores the duo's first three albums (Mental Releases, Factors of the Seven, Grammatical Revolution) entirely. While the songs that did make the cut on 7 are strong enough to deserve their placement, it still would have been worthwhile to include a couple of earlier tracks (or at the very least "They All Fall Down") in order to give this collection a more complete picture of Grits' career. Also, it can be argued that the average Grits fan would already own the Translation and Dichotomy albums, so 7 runs the danger of treading over too much familiar ground to make itself inessential to anybody but a casual fan.
While the hits that make up the album should be familiar to most fans, two of them do appear here in re-mixed form ("Make Room," "Ooh Aah"). I find remixes to be typically a hit-or-miss affair and things are no different this time around. While the remix of "Ooh Aah" is pleasantly restrained - stripping it down just enough to make for an even smoother-flowing track - I was disappointed to find "Make Room" tinkered with on 7. This song happens to be one of my favorites, and while the remix didn't entirely ruin it, just enough bite was taken out of this club-banger so that it simply grooves and no longer bounces.
The three brand-new songs ("Changes," "I Try," and "Time To Pray") sound like a strong continuation of Grits' sound from their Dichotomy albums. The strongest of the three, "Changes," is a melancholy look at the painful aftermath of change. Despite featuring minor-key guitars and foreboding strings throughout most of this song, a sunny sounding and horn-driven B-section breaks through the arrangement just enough times to juxtapose the underlying optimism of Grits' message. The other tracks are upbeat and encouraging sentiments on perseverance ("I Try") and the importance of displaying an utmost reliance on God ("Time To Pray"); both are anthems that encapsulate the essence of Grits' career perfectly.
In the end, 7 is proof positive that while there is plenty to celebrate about, Grits' long career looks far from over. With their new label 5e and a strong sense of direction displayed on this album, the second chapter of their career looks to be just as exciting as their first. Although those eagerly anticipating the release of a brand-new Grits album might be disappointed by the appearance of this greatest-hits collection, 7 is still a great place to start for those who have missed out on this talented duo's first 10 years of southern hip-hop ingenuity.- Review date: 3/6/06, written by Sherwin Frias
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