GVNG GREEN is a California-based rap project. The Los Angeles duo, who goes by the pseudonyms Goddi and StaJe, was originally introduced to one another in 2018 by manager and business partner Andrew Jin. They released material separately – Goddi with his debut mixtape, Luke 11:23, and StaJe with five singles – prior to this collaboration, which utilizes their respective styles: the former with a west coast-inspired street style, and the ladder with a southern country vocal tonality.
Recently, GVNG GREEN applied both elements in a solid combination on their latest full-length, Gang Green. While noting the content of the instrumentation of the first song, “Prime,” which consists of dreamy, faint guitars tinged in chorus and reverberation, I felt that it complemented the mysterious, faded green color palette of the cover art. Goddi’s twang initiates the song with its hook-laden chorus, while StaJe’s delivery for the verses emits an interesting sense of confidence, somewhat scarred, yet seasoned. On the eponymous track to follow, further nuance is demonstrated in its percussion – a combination of organic snares and synthetic toms. Although the lyrics, are somewhat random and humorous for the most part, there’s a certain type of pride in the way the song paces the album. “Tipper,” the third track, continues in the same way, and features a slight throwback to late 2000s crunk within its modern scope. There’s a decent implementation of harmonic vocal layering, as well as sparse, reverberated vocals in between, both of which especially give the song single potential. It seems that the very next track, “Geronimo,” is worthy of similar mention, given its rather refreshing, metal-influenced guitar sequence and popping percussion during the chorus. Its verses work just as well, switching the string accompaniment to a piano while both rappers maintain powerful, distinct deliveries.
On the latter half of the album, the tone shifts from lighthearted to serious with the song “Kobe Bryant.” I felt a genuine tribute intention, given the somberness of the instrumentation, and more subtly, the presence of both rappers’ vocals being less front-and-center. From a lyrical standpoint, they essentially reflect on the level of Kobe’s courage and determination and equate it with the strength of their own friendship, which is admirable. I also appreciate how this theme makes its way into the next two tracks, “Reload” and “Gangsta Luv,” with StaJe alluding back to the titles and thematic angles of the previous songs. After briefly returning to an extreme, dark humor mentality on “Violent,” the final track, “Them Dayz” is especially worthy of mention, as it is the most poignant song on the album. Initially, the vintage synths in the song’s intro and reminiscing vocal tone give the impression of nostalgia and fond memories to come. What is actually presented, though, is what gives the track its authenticity. It is a series of mixed, but generally dreary anecdotes – a journey of trudging through reckless trial and error, but in the process, developing a strong sense of self-reliance and, ultimately, a wealth of street knowledge.
Overall, Gang Green took me by pleasant surprise. Not only do both Goddi and StaJe make the most of their original and distinctive presence on this album, both vocally and instrumentally, but they also find a decent balance of humorous and serious thematic angles, which ultimately provides the album a wholly engaging listening experience. Coming off the success of their previous separate efforts, it’s clear that GVNG GREEN not only have the artistic potential, but the endurance, to thrive in hip hop.
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