At just 21-years-old, GRiZ has already cemented himself as a leading force in the modern day electro-soul/future funk movement. His first album, Mad Liberation, was a powerful testament to the capabilities of this budding producer. Although somewhat raw as a whole, each track was explosive and spanned the gambit of his creative abilities, from a soulful remix of legendary blues singer Bobby “Blue” Bland in “Where Is The Love” to a thundering, electric original like “Smash The Funk”.
If Mad Liberation was a sweeping scope of sounds, then Rebel Era is a display of masterful refinement, perhaps because GRiZ found a story he wanted to tell through the album. As he explains it, his latest work is meant to be a contribution to the movement to reconnect people in an era where corruption, consumerism and exploitation have become the norm, and it’s clear that GRiZ truly believes in the power of the music. It’s not ego (he’s given both of his albums away as free downloads); it’s conviction. You can see the tribute to his hometown of Detroit, which in particular is no stranger to these types of social and economical despairs, in tracks like “Hard Times”, which he’s said is part of a “long romance story of Detroit” and “DTW to DIA (the travels of Mr. B)” (where the abbreviations represent Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and Denver International Airport).
Reviewing something of this complexity is difficult, but this latest album immediately signals a genuine evolution of a producer. Where in the past there might have been an occasional impulse to over-produce, to infuse as much sound as possible into each track – the producer himself humbly referred to his first release as a “collection of noise” that became an album – Rebel Era is thoughtfully polished. This has in turn allowed GRiZ to expand his range to other formats, such as the faster-paced “Crime In The City” or the rework off Mad Liberation that is “Too Young For Tragedy Pt.II”. Consistently throughout the album, he let’s the funk instruments do the work where electrified synths may have previously come into play, allowing the final product to be equal parts electro and soul.
We could try to describe the intricacies of each track, how it builds and drops, and so on, but that wouldn’t do the experience justice. Instead, put aside an hour to listen to the album in full, whether you’re a long-time fan or just recently introduced, and you’ll assuredly understand GRiZ’s vision. And even if you don’t, you’ll have spent the last hour listening to some of the best future funk out there.