I took my time with this one. After receiving a copy of Lawson Graham back in the middle of June, I found myself listening to it on pretty heavy rotation. It was love at first play. I knew I liked the album a lot but I found myself wanting to check my enthusiasm until I was sure of just how much I liked it. (It’s a mile away from the last Factor record I heard a few months earlier, that being his collaboration with Ron Countour, Saffron, which didn’t do anything for me.) Over a month later and my enthusiasm for Lawson Graham has not dipped in the slightest, and instead this album has proved to be a grower – and when an album makes a great initial impression and then becomes an even stronger favourite over time, well that’s when you know you have something special. Lawson Graham is an album of genuine rare quality – it is exceptionally good.
Lawson Graham was the grandfather of Canadian hip hop producer Factor, with the album paying tribute to him both in it’s title and with his photograph on the cover art. The nostalgic and affecting choice of title and artwork are complimentary to the album’s overall theme, it’s a fine dedication, with this record achieving the imitable feat of embodying life and soul in it’s music.
There is a diverse range of styles, tempos and beats through-out the record, with Factor collaborating with a diverse range of artists for 13 of the album’s 18 tracks. The production is deft, top-notch, with Factor using a subtle array of effects, loops and clips while holding everything together with aplomb. Pit Lawson Graham up against B.o.B’s major-label heavyweight The Adventures of Bobby Ray for a lesson on how to make a hip hop album with multi-collaborations – Lawson Graham gives Bobby Ray a schooling! This is an audio adventure that takes you in so many places throughout its duration, and the bonds that hold it together are seamless.
Lawson Graham is a hip hop album for 2010. Commentary is made about consumer-driven 21st century life, and while the message is sometimes covert, Lawson Graham revels in the hypocrisy of life being both easier and tougher than ever: At one moment Barfly & Heresy Mae tell us that “Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Change”, with the line “The more things change, the more they stay the same”, but later a defiant Kirby Dominant steps up to the mic to tell us to nut up or shut up with the message, “The moral to the fable, is, you need to bring something to the table”.
This is a brilliant, brilliant record. (And no, there ain’t no echo in this room.) The lyrics and production are excellent, and there is such depth and diversity that you will likely return to it time and time again. A really enjoyable album, and another fine example of a Canadian hip hop artist doing something fresh and new. This is my favourite Canadian record of the year – and I decline to append that sentence a cautionary ‘so far’, because, well, it’s that good!
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
In the aftermath of the G20 summit in Toronto in late June, I found myself instinctively seeking out music from my collection to listen to while I tried to make sense of the sights and sounds that I had witnessed on these streets. Ever reliables like the The Clash, Fugazi and even Muse, did something, but this album and particularly the track “Every Morning (ft. Cars & Trains)” provided a fitting soundtrack while musing the events of that weekend.
The following video features music track #4 of Lawson Graham, “Every Morning (ft. Cars & Trucks)”, with pictures and audio I captured during the G20 in Toronto: