Two more notes:
1) I realize that my previous post is teetering dangerously on the edge of they’re so much better than these other rappers who don’t play their instruments 1999 Roots fan territory. And I think some of the critics propping up G-Side might be working from there. But that’s not my point at all. I don’t think G-Side’s ambition makes them any better than their solely rappin ass peers. It just makes them G-Side. And unlike The Roots (then or now) there’s almost zero pretense to their ambitions. They’re not saying they’re better either, they’re just doing what they do because it’s what they do and they’re interested in musicality and shit. It’s the same reason Pimp C was bringing world class funk musician in as sessioners on albums for an audience that demanded little more than an 808 and an Isley loop.
Another rapper on a similar trip is Kendrick Lamar, who just made a far more musically and conceptually ambitious album than any artist at his level would need to make. Equally unpretentious, too. Funnily enough, both him and G-Side deal heavily in an earnestness that cuts a fine line between coming off as completely endearing and just painfully cheesy. (Fortunately I think they hit the former far more often than the latter, which is why I’m writing about them positively.) Maybe that’s a coincidence or maybe it’s a natural byproduct of this particular brand of ambition. As is throwing insufferably cornball white boy singers on otherwise dope songs, apparently.
2) The best acapella rap performance I’ve ever seen was two or three songs in a middle of a set by Aceyalone, slightly pre-fall off at SOBs circa-2001(?). No bells or whistles or snaps like the G-Side thing, just a rapper whose DJ temporarily got his wires crossed and needed to make do. He was able to compensate for the lack of a beat with sheer energy but - and this is crucial - he didn’t sacrifice rhythm or cadence in doing so. I can’t find any acapella footage of him on Youtube right now, sadly. So that basically proves nothing. I was just trying to remember the last time I got excited about a “pure” acapella and realized it was probably ten years ago.