Fuck Kurt Russell. That real grindhouse shit is Portland's own, specifically the brand-spank sophomore album from the Lifesavas, Gutterfly. Packing an 8-track swagger straight out of a Sig Shore Production, Bumpy Johnson (Vursatyl), Sleepy Floyd (Jumbo the Garbageman), and Jimmy Slimwater (DJ Rev. Shines) are three young hustlers roaming the streets of fictional Razorblade City, hungry for the come up, by any means necessary.
Inspired by film critic/author/BadAzz Mofo founder David Walker's collection of unreleased '70s film trailers, Gutterfly is a never-lensed blaxploitation epic penned by the fictional Baraka Feldman, a black Jew from NYC; the remaining scraps and notes from his original 300-word script were passed on to Portland's hiphop heroes, who infused the manuscript with their potent brand of slick talk. Soulful and strident, this is the Lifesavas' strongest work yet—Vurs and Jumbo's iller-than-ever spit game glides on the El Dorado-tuff production mainly handled by the Garbageman himself.
Following the Lifesavas' celebrated debut Spirit in Stone, many critics mistook the risktaking trio as your garden-variety pious backpack crew. Gleefully bucking all preconceptions with a pearl-handled thang, Gutterfly is the reboot, their very own De La Soul Is Dead, if you will.
"The whole concept definitely gave us a lot of freedom," explains Vursatyl. "The idea for us was to break out of expectations, and getting into these characters really freed us up to do what we wanted. You know after your first record, you get put in a box. After ours, people had somehow cast us as being anti- a lot of music that we actually really dug!" Hiphop's fractious two-party system hardly leaves room for complexity anymore—a pity considering it was not long ago that there was a smorgasbord of lyricists, gods, gangsters, macks, clowns, and revolutionaries.
The Lifesavas not only deliver star-making performances, they prove themselves peerless casting directors; featuring contributions from Fishbone, Smif-N-Wessun, Dead Prez, jazz/funk keyboardist Don Blackman, longtime Zappa sideman Ike Willis, Vernon Reid, Camp Lo, Digable Planets' Ish, and George Clinton, G-Fly definitely packs one the illest ensemble casts ever seen on a longplayer, player. Finding the common thread between BK gunclappers, LA funk-punkers, and the Prime Minister of Funk himself, the Lifesavas have accomplished a rare feat: a feature-heavy rap album that sounds and feels perfectly natural.
"See, we didn't just want to do that usual collabo with A or B, we wanted to do a dope Camp Lo cut, or a dope Dead Prez cut, when Dead Prez were saying, you know, 'We need this on our album!' That let us know we're doing it right," says Vursatyl. "I mean, just to be in love with 'Bucktown,' 'Sound Bwoy Buriell,' a 'Luchini,' or a 'Rebirth of Slick,' and to feel like you connect to that, not to mention these legends of funk—of black rock music—a huge part of the whole continuum of black music."
Uncommon vision for a hiphop crew, and even more surprisingly, an exceedingly well-executed one, exactly what keeps the Lifesavas always one step ahead of sluggish minds, and forever G-Fly. No squares allowed.