Wednesday, August 2, 2017

His Turn: review of Hvlloween's Grey Day

Hvlloween and Sufok8 of Grey Entertainment give voice to the bad ass shitty attitude having kids of the I.E. so many of us observed growing up. I've always noticed the Grey Entertainment Squad, since they were posted up at benches rolling doobies at Maya's at Sunny Days and Vibes shows in Corona. Soon after a few such shows where I saw them kill it with horrorcore styles over boom-bap rhythms, I checked out their music- specifically that of Hvlloween and Klown.

Their music was dark but always energetic; a creative mix of violent I.E. fantasies and working class aspiration. The beats simple but not basic, hard-hitting but not too busy so the rap styles always took center stage. Hvlloween, himself the founder of Grey entertainment, is a scrappy and seemingly perpetually young looking tanned Asian-American Riverside native who is perfectly aware that he doesn’t look like what the average hip-hop fan would describe as a tough cat or a killer MC so he spends all his waking energy proving them wrong. His work is always imbued with the animal ferocity of someone with something serious to prove.
In those days, I was peeping them on their SoundCloud accounts but earlier this year I noticed Hvlloween pushing a fully studio-polished solo LP called Grey Day which I just got the chance to fully digest in recent weeks. Now with another Grey up n’ comer “Sufok8” riding shotgun instead of the noticeably absent Klown, Hvlloween’s impeccable grind is paying artistic dividends. The sparse evil sounding beats have more texture and mixing love put into them, Hvlloween’s horrific predilections now serve as a stylistic lens for his painfully honest depiction of Riverside life among paradoxically easily discouraged strivers.

Hvlloween’s never lost touch with his aggressive fantasist roots, his bars full of drive-by fantasies, offers to scrap and bodies being dumped in shallow creeks but imagine if you would, blending that kind of language with the perseverant life view of self-help gurus like Tony Robbins and Rhonda Byrne. This understanding that only feeding yourself positivity while refusing to give up will breed success is the new element to Hvlloween’s music and that infuses Grey Day with a much more nuanced worldview than the 2014 era Grey Entertainment works.

For every song like "Not on my Level" and "My Turn" where Hvlloween self-explanatorily explains how other MCs are not on his level and that this year is "his turn", there are songs like "Dab About It", "Keep It Pushin'" and "Hope it Works Out" where he sincerely mourns friendships and the potential of lost proteges. It's justifying his negativity, revealing more of his inner-life.


Yes, he’s spitting vicious venom at traitor friends throughout the record but he’s honest about that coming from a place of hurt, honest about his concern and doubts about his loved one’s life choices. His acid only comes after what must have been earnest attempts at salvaging relationships- or not, who knows but the songs tell a familiar and engrossing social story with distinct and unafraid sonic dressing.

Songs like "Anyway" and "Faded" showcase the extent to which Sufok8 and he have become a solid tag team of MC viciousness; particularly on "Out the West" where they use recurring phrases that seem to be updates of N.W.A and Dogg Pound cadences like "another bottle will numb it" for '100 Miles n Runnin' and "out the west, little homey what it is" for "Daz Dillinger's "What It Iz". I remember Sufok8 looking young as hell at SDAV shows and Hvlloween telling me he was next. His many appearances on the record show his flow and growl have grown. "King Me", "Dopest In The I.E." and more explain what keeps Hvlloween hunting for something more in life than the grime you hear in so much of his records: the desire for greatness, the willingness to hustle and make the best of an artistic life. With production from Hvlloween himself, Ac3 Beats (on the particularly lush banger "Keep it Pushin" and another), Cutta Chase, MBIII and more, the record is a more than worthy culmination of the pain, bile and growth Hvlloween's and the Grey Entertainment catalog leads to. 

There's more at work than just the blending of horror and emotional journal proclivities- even the commitment to quality rap styles in single and double-time, over boom-bap and newer production styles shows a dimension of I.E. pedigree to their genre leanings.

I admire their proletariat honesty, from funny lines like "smoke the fire and I love it/smoke a little higher than my budget" to the admission of feeling like music dreams are going nowhere at times, to feeling like relationships were failures- the more honest it gets the more relatable it is because the truth is all independent artists experience the trials and tribulations detailed here in gory exaggeration and relayed loudly by a seasoned creative who masterfully presents here his particular portrait of a frustrated but unbowed artist with his sweat on his brow and a shovel in hand.

Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program (chordseyp.org) and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at westcoastavengers.com, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at tristanacker@gmail.com.