By Zach Collier
Earlier this month, Rhyme Time (real name Scott Knopf) of the local hip-hop collective, House of Lewis, released Gnarly. This is his first release since his last album, Topanga, came out in 2013 under his former stage name, Atheist. Once again, he impresses with his unique brand of spectacularly clever – and often absurd – lyrics, mostly lighthearted delivery, and tracks that somehow sound both modern and reminiscent of earlier hip-hop.
A perfect example of Rhyme Time’s light-hearted ridiculousness is the title track, “Gnarly.” One listen through the hook will immediately disarm you and convince you not to take it too seriously. With the hook delivered in a surfer-dude voice, it’s clear that this song is meant to be fun. Featured on this track are Gavlyn and Blimes Brixton, who both do a fantastic job in their respective verses. They represent themselves well while keeping the feel of the song lighthearted and fun. Their 20 plus seconds of banter with Rhyme Time at the very end of the song is brilliantly hilarious.
Right after the title track is arguably the strongest track on the album, “Run So Far.” The song is much more serious in its tone and delivery. Yahosh Bonner sings the hook. Bonner has made a name for himself by singing hooks on several local hip-hop tracks. As usual, he absolutely kills it! This hook really soars. It’s polished, professional, impactful, and it will get stuck in your head. Rhyme Time’s flow is consistently good throughout the album and this track is no different. I loved the overall lyrical theme in this song about “[shaking] off the shackles of detrimental maturity.” But what really makes this track great is Chance Lewis’ work as a producer. Really smart use of catchy synth riffs. An entrancing, descending arpeggio in the left ear made the production on this track very memorable.
“Out of Control” features another killer collaboration, placing Fictionist’s Robert Loud on an 80’s inspired track. They nail the sound of the era. Robert Loud’s voice is a perfect fit for what they were going for. It’s cool to hear a sonic marriage of 80’s rock and rap. It’s like the narrative contained in the lyrics could only be told in that manner. The same tragic tale of a young man falling in love and throwing his life away through crime just wouldn’t be as cool if it wasn’t set to something that sounded like “Beat It.”
Despite the strength of those three tracks, “Party with Snoop” is probably my favorite song on the entire album. It’s not the most artistic, or moving, but it is so h*cking fun! The premise of this song is that Rhyme Time and fellow House of Lewis member, Donnie Bonelli, want to party with legendary rapper Snoop Dogg. In hopes of getting him to come to their party, they wrote a song to convince him to “have to come party with [them].” If you’re like me, and you listened to Snoop Dogg during a good portion of your upbringing, you’ll appreciate the clever way in which Rhyme Time and Bonelli sneak in references to some of Snoop’s biggest hits. With lyrics that not only border, but absolutely dive head first into the absurd (“Well me and my amigos found a new type of Doritos that combine the taste and flavor of hot cheetos with a bean burrito. We call them ‘hot bean bucheetos.’”), there is no doubt that you’ll be smiling throughout the entirety of this track.
Though Rhyme Time’s Gnarly will probably receive a mixed reception, it shouldn’t. This album is clever and often hilarious lyrically. It’s filled with fantastic production throughout, and is honestly some of the best hip-hop I’ve heard come from the local scene. Go listen to it.