Wednesday, Jul 07 2004 | 14:50

Hip-Hop is forgetting itself. It is forgetting the ingenuity, the creativity, the soul that made it the genre that took down big hair bands. Most importantly, Hip-Hop is starting to forget its own. There is an entire country’s worth of people who loved original, daring, and open minded Hip-Hop. These same people have come to question its somewhat dull, predicable, and video friendly nature. These cats who grew up on Hip-Hop can’t quite relate to G-Unit and at the same time they’re too young for Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash. These Grown Folk want Hip-Hop, or music in general, to remember itself and how it used to never set limits. They want the music to remember how it used to make them dance, how it made the house party, and how it brought people together in the name of expression. The Saint remembers that Hip-Hop. He too, cannot find a place anymore to hear the soul and the goodness that music once had. His solution: “I just make what I want to hear.”

Teaming with the soul strutters over at Uncle Junior Records and Seven Heads Entertainment The Saint has produced his first full-length album entitled Grown Folk Music; an album that has masterfully, and quite convincingly, infused blood into an entirely new body. Soul House/Hip-Hop is what it could be dubbed as, or house music that has been filtered through Hip-Hop. Grown Folk Music is for the passionate listener of all ages, creating a middle ground that is ripe for the mentally and spiritually “mature” crowd. Grown Folk’s pulsating kick drum and snare makes it impossible not to move to. The smooth bass lines, perfect key progressions, infectious vocalists and emcees make it a house party must have.

Steve “The Saint” Luthy has always been a fan of Hip-Hop, he just didn’t know it until he was 11. The Long Island native fell hard at an early age for the Motown and Doo-Wop sound by way of his pops, an avid record collector. “I could tell music was a big part of his life because he knew so much about the groups,” recalls Steve. “We would go for rides and listen to tapes he made from his 45’s. I think my passion for music had a lot to do with that.”

This sound, that was so full of integrity and soul, only led Steve deeper into music and eventually was the motivating force behind his first drum set in second grade. In 1990, Steve heard a group called 3rd Bass and it hit the spot. Hip-Hop in 1990 seemed to be more about creativity and every record that came out was something brand new; a new sound, a new approach to production, or a new group. Hip-Hop was ever changing. There was no area Hip-Hop wouldn’t venture into, turn out and then release on a white label promo. This was the time that nurtured The Saint. By age 13 he and his cousin were writing rhymes while he sharpened his producing techniques on an old Tascam 4 track, “I was taking my father’s records and pause mixing them, but now adding drum beats on top from my drum machine and using the last string on the guitar for bass. That would fill up three tracks on my tascam and we would use the last for vocals with a crappy mic.” Steve and his cousin started making moves here and there just trying to get their music out, “We were the only white kids in our town working on Hip-Hop so of course we were put down by friends and even my girlfriend at the time. They said how bad we sounded and how we were wasting our time, but Hip-Hop meant the world to me.”

Two groups and a college education later, Steve found himself bouncing from one job to the other, “I finally came to my last resort: Trying to turn my hobby into a career.” Steve went to the Institute of Audio Research and in June 2003, after graduation, he contacted the good 7Heads. An internship position was offered to him working in the newly formed 7H Studios. As interns often do Steve slipped his demo to the powers that be and was offered a few remix projects. His first was “Jamboree” off of Asheru and Blue Black’s “48 Months”. The right people were impressed and he was then offered the chance to remix yet another track for “48 Months,” “Smiley.” Steve flipped it into more of a Hip-Hop infused house joint and the seeds were planted for this album.

The Saint’s most recognized remix is that of J-Live and Wordsworth’s “Bosoms” off of the 7Heads compilation “No Edge Ups in South Africa.” It almost out did the original played live by Blue Note Records’ Soulive. The remix jumps off with the drums and guitar from Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend.” The track is then complemented every few bars by blasts of 1990’s hip-hop nostalgia: the breaks for “Electric Relaxation,” “How Many MC’s,” and “How ˜Bout Some Hard Core” to name a few. This is what The Saint can do armed with his appreciation of some of Hip-Hop’s shining moments, he can make music fresh and new by tapping into what made it dope in the first place. Along with his work with 7Heads, The Saint’s crew the Break Emperors, which he rhymes and produces for, have appeared on various mix tapes, both with production and with their own tracks (including the last Spitkicker mix tape under the group name “ill-literits”).

His album “Grown Folk Music,” (7 Heads) can be read a few ways. It could be interpreted as music for mature (grown) people (folks) in age and demeanor, which works and is supported by the variety of music explored in this record, but it can also be read as evolved “folk” music,” states A&R DJ Bolex, “Folk music is about telling stories, teaching lessons and history, and showing the soul of a group of people through song.” This album does that sonically. The tracks show and tell the audience what the music that influenced the genres today sounded and felt like. The 90’s vibe is revered by many and in some cases, a brand new aesthetic to even more. It is sometimes reviled as a throwback genre, or living in the past. To the ardent ear it is a timeline tracing a genre’s lineage through soulful lessons and isn’t that the definition of “folk” music. From the feel of the tracks to the lyrics, this collection is a story of where Hip-Hop could have gone and still can. Just like Hip-Hop in the late 80’s and early 90’s, The Saint doesn’t shy away from themes, or sounds, or feels because it’s supposed to be one thing or the other, “I just want to bring soul back into the music,” asserts The Saint. And tell a story while doing it.

The Saint, in a very developed nature, is telling the tale of almost every aspect of drum heavy music with this release and all are done with a soulfulness that only a child of nineties Hip-Hop could bring. The story starts off with “Another Day” (a personal favorite). This track lulls the listener closer with a broken bongo groove which then makes its way into an amazing key board riff that, once coupled with the beat, gives the listener no choice but to move, thus setting the stage for the rest of the album.

The second lesson, “Kryptonite,” starts with laid back vibes and a bouncing Fender Rhodes’ line that takes you back to the roller rink with Mr. Man, one third of the Flatbush champs, Bush Babees. The laid back flow and silky groove is guaranteed to be a crowd favorite. Next, “All Your Lovin’,” with Reggie Watts of Maktub on vocals, has the up-tempo, R&B feel combined with the smoothness of some long lost Sade track from Love Deluxe.
After nodding your head to the bubbly “Lift,” the listener has no choice but to soak in “Force of Nature featuring the original neo soul songstress Ms. Vinia Mojica.” Vinia has yet to disappoint and this song is no different. “What can I say,” explains The Saint. “I already liked the beat, she just blessed it.” Recordings with classic hip hop artists such as De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock, DJ Hi-Tek, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, DJ Spinna and Common has made Vinia and her voice the perfect complement to The Saint’s opus. Keys, synth strings, bells and a beautiful voice floating just above it all fits into the movement of the LP perfectly.

In this type of folk music every song is up-tempo and fun and you can throw a party to almost every track. The lyrics, both sung and rhymed, carry the positive vibe 7Heads and Uncle Junior are known for. “Words of Life,” for instance, features the brother of #1 Soul Brother Pete Rock and InI member, Grap-Luva, on the mic. A previously unreleased track, this jam carries on-point vibes and vocal samples that are complemented by Grap’s inspiring yet laid back lyrics, “I don’t write rhymes/ I scribe the words of life/ using truth like a knife when combating the strife.” Only something he could do.

Just in time for summer, “All You’ll Be” proves to be the warm, melodic song you would skip to just because it was June and six o’clock in the evening. Featuring fellow Uncle Junior artist Leron Thomas and Tiombe Lockhart on vocals, this composition shows what happens when a talented producer hooks up with amazing musicians; the good music runs rampant. As put by The Saint, “I’m just working with artists I like. Anybody who is going to bring that soul.” True indeed.

The Saint then reverts back to what started this whole project in the first place, the remix. “When I first heard ˜California’ by Leon Ware on The Cleaning, (from Kon and Amir present Uncle Junior’s Friday Fish Fry “ The Cleaning) I heard those Rhodes in the beginning,” The Saint describes. “I just made it faster and more of a dance track.” And we all should thank him for that. Having sampled the Musical Massage master himself, Leon Ware, you have to wonder where else this story is going to take you. You started in Brooklyn and now you’re in California, the only place left to go is back to Long Island.

Grown Folk Music begins to come full circle with The Saint giving us a few words of his own in a jazzy interlude, “I’m not here to preach to you how you should live and exist/ more like expose you to options you can choose or dismiss.” Spoken like a true storyteller, saying that you can take what you want from this album, but at least you know the story. That leads us right into “Small Screen,” the final track. This features The Break Emperors, The Saint’s Hip-Hop outfit. With him on the boards and sharing the mic with his partner, Anti, The Saint rounds out his project with good, old, boom-bap, hip-hop backed by a familiar TV sample. This track, telling of the youthful TV routines of The Break Emperors, brings you back to what this LP was all about, telling a story through good music and bringing back the soul that made it so loved today. Weather its Hip-Hop or house, as long as it’s got that soul, it’ll do fine. And this album is 13 tracks full.

The Saint, a genuine Hip-Hop head from day one, has in short, recreated a story through Soul House/hip-hop and everyone is welcome listen. He has taken the vibe, hunger, and feels of 1990’s Hip-Hop and spun it into 13 tracks of up-tempo, good vibe music. A reminder, if you will, on how music used to make you feel with a little bit of new light and essence. This album appeals to Hip-Hop fans, avid house enthusiasts, and everyone in-between because it’s about good music. All fans of all genres recognize soul, whether it’s someone on the trumpet, behind a keyboard, or picking a guitar, those sounds need to come out and why not in full “folk,” storytelling form? “Grown Folk Music” spins a tale for us, telling of pushing for that personal expression that existed a decade ago, but today seems rare. Remember what it felt like to dance all night and not hear one bad track. Remember what it felt like to go to a house party and enjoy the company and the music. These are the Saint’s stories.

Discography:

J-Live, Wordsworth, Soulive “Bosoms” 12 inch
Asheru and Blue Black “48 Months” CD
Kon and Amir present: 100% Pure Poison “Windy C” b/w Leon Ware “California” 12 inch
The Saint “Another Day” b/w “Smiley” remix 12 inch
The Saint “Grown Folk Music” CD/LP
The Saint “A Lil Somethin’ EP” 12 inch/CD
The Saint “Force of Nature” 12 inch

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