Artist: Clean Guns
Album: Sometimes There Is T.R.O.U.B.L.E
Comments: Sometimes There is T.R.O.U.B.L.E by underground hip hop duo Clean Guns ranks as one of the most difficult albums I’ve tried to review in a long time, and until tonight, I couldn’t for the life of me explain why.
From the production, which is mostly done in-house by the group and has an interesting electronica element to it, to the wordplay and lyrical content, which is intricate, descriptive, and referential (like much indie hip hop), there was a lot to like about Sometimes. It had all kinds of things going for it, but that wasn’t the reason I liked it. Or rather, that wasn’t the reason it was hard to review.
Even its style is to my liking. The album is straight up hip hop. There is no snap music or big rhythm dance tracks on this record. There are no R&B singers laying down 3rd rate croons over nickel and dime jazz samples. There are no callout tracks to big name performers in an attempt to further a career. That isn’t what Clean Guns are about. Sometimes is what hip hop aspired to be when it was created. It’s not showy or preachy, and there isn’t necessarily a life changing lesson to it, but it’s expressive and descriptive and maybe, just maybe, it can communicate better the intricate details of city living better than actual conversation ever could.
Still, there are hundreds of records that accomplish this and sound better than Sometimes. While thematically on the same page as classics like Illmatic and Labor Days, Clean Guns lacks the same all-or-nothing punch of these records. Their delivery isn’t as developed as Nas, and their flow isn’t as rewarding as Aesop Rock. But still, there was something about Clean Guns that made me pause and thing that they could develop into something like those two.
It wasn’t their hard edge, which shows through excellently on the album opener “Blast Off”, and it wasn’t their willingness to reflect on tracks like “Beautiful You” and “These Words I Write”. What set Clean Guns apart is a much more visceral and intangible thing; Clean Guns sounds legitimate.
Listening to Sometimes There is T.R.O.U.B.L.E is like listen to the heartbeat of the city. And even though they hail from Philadelphia, it is a much more universal appeal. Clean Guns could be from anywhere and anywhere and still sound like the authentic mark of urban life. It’s in their lyrics, their delivery, and their production. Everything from dirty streets at 2am in West Philly to a cloudless sunny day downtown lives and breaths in this music. Clean Guns doesn’t describe the street; they are the street, and they embody all of the successes and failures that dwell there.
You may never hear Clean Guns. Right now, they get by on local buzz and college radio. But in a hip hop landscape that is dominated by flash-in-the-pan imitators who attempt to manufacture a demographic sound for profits; Sometimes There is T.R.O.U.B.L.E is a dirty, dusty, exhausted filled breath of fresh air.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Key Tracks: “Blast Off” “These Words I Write” “Knives on Trains” “Good Clean Fun, Good Clean Guns”
Worth The Money: Yes