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Collective Efforts – Trail Mix

It is a good time to be involved in rap music.

While the industry has spawned some billion-dollar posers who are currently waning in popularity, the independent, hungry artists are increasingly making vital, creative, good music.

As evidence of this welcomed trend, look no further than the Atlanta’s ATF Records. While Psyche Origami’s Is Ellipsis was just the beginning, this indie label, whose roster boasts an impressive three artists, is steadily making a name for itself.

Enter: Collective Efforts (MCs Ben Hameen, J-Mil and Bambu de Asiatic, with DJ Creashun), with their album Trail Mix.


Steeped heavily in Southern roots, they rep their music with a blend of progressive consciousness enveloped by a melodic mix of pop, R&B and true school hip-hop.

When you consider that the Southern sound, while comprised of Goodie and Outkast as well as The Nappy Roots, is largely known for its crunk (ala Lil Jon and groups like The Youngbloodz), what strikes you is just how un-Southern this CD sounds. Occasionally you get glimpses, as on the Nappyesque “Are You Ready”, where a Soulful chorus is backed by southern drawl, while delivering an organic message. Or “A Peaceful Place,” which rides a smooth bassline and hook that chants “Some days I can’t take all the pain / Friends dying folks lying in my face / But I know I can escape in my brain / I can write away to a nice place / And when I get there / I can soak it in and hope that when I go home to my friends / I can show it to them and let ‘em know that the hard times are going to end.”

Then there’s the track “Slowdown,” which could easily have been concocted in The Dungeon with the Goodie MOB on vocals (the only thing missing is Ceelo’s high, whiny contribution). Otherwise you get great joints like the speedy “Verseability,” which sounds like something created in the Bay Area’s hip-hop melting pot, or the song “Doin’ Alright” that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Blackalicious CD.

The same holds true for the melodic “Growth, pt. 2,” a hopeful song that applauds living life to the fullest, and whose airy composition allows the words to float around your cerebellum. The album continues in this vein, with songs that “focus on rising above everyday challenges in the name of positive change and better times.”

The album, 20 plus songs deep, incorporates layered drums, cuts and scratches, orchestral samples and an emphasis on pianos, guitars and flutes. Along with the groups thoughtful lyrics, relative subject matter and inspiration hooks (whether sung or spoken), this combines to make for a pleasurable listening experience. And consider this; the song “Strugglin’” actually has the group saying “I’m happy just to be alive.” A notion that is not exactly common fair for the MTV rap set.

This is a nicely produced album that challenges the conception of not only what rap can sound like, but what southern rap is about, incorporating jazz sensibilities (“Place On Earth”), drum ‘n bass (the fast-paced “No Worries”), head-nodding boom bap, and just makes you feel good listening to it. A musical mix of nuts, berries and pretzels that tastes good, is good for you, and will help you get through any tough hike you might be on.

Learn why they have become “one of Atlanta’s most talked about acts” and why you should join their legion of growing fans.


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