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The Art of Translation - Click to view!The Art of Translation has been one of the most anticipated hip-hop discs of the year. After blowing away commercial audiences with 1999's Grammatical Revolution, fans were very eager for the next project from Grits. Almost three years later, Bone and Cof are back, and they've made some exciting changes.

This album is surprisingly more commercial than their previous albums. A wide array of sounds is tapped into creating a more diverse blend of songs than Grits have ever produced. The album's first single, "Here We Go", is a dirty south combination of Ludacris and the Afro-Cuban All Stars. It is evident that more attention has been paid to the hook, leaving a juicy, head-bobbing track that will have mainstream success. Grits dig into their southern roots early and often on this disc. "Tennessee Bwoys" is as dirty as Grits has ever gotten. This is a chant filled number that will make you bounce once you've gotten over the surprise of this new sound. The possible influence of touring with tobyMac is seen in "Seriously." This track isn't a full rap-rock number, but it is evidence that the crew is expanding their horizons, leaving the listener's mouth hanging open. tobyMac does make an appearance on the track "Ooh Ahh," a passionate cry out to God about life's frustrations. The grand piano and steady bass line bring to mind some soulful numbers by The Roots. Knowdaverbs joins the crew for the very entertaining "Video Girl." Producer Ric Robbins creates an Addams Family vibe while the three emcees sound off about their issues with the scantily clad women in rap videos.

The dirty south influence is also seen in both "Make Room" and "Lovechild." While "Make Room" has a hardcore edge that will get the party going, "Lovechild" conversely draws from R&B influences such as Jagged Edge. Jennifer Knapp steps in on the beautifully produced "Believe." Knapp sings a provocative hook, stating that everybody is in search of the truth. Rising star Nirva Dorsaint appears on two tracks, the swooning love tune "Be Mine" and the upbeat track "Sunny Days." These two songs are excellent examples of Grits' evolving sound: hook laden numbers with extra attention going to the vocals on each track. However, the project is still lyrically satisfying. It is very clear that Bonafide and Coffee have not lost their edge or their talent. They still write thought-provoking lyrics that only go down smoother with this radio friendly sound. Perhaps they've found the perfect combination that makes the gospel accessible to a mainstream audience.

The message of Christ is never hidden on this disc. Challenging, introspective songs like "Runnin'" and "Believe" are supplemented by those little tidbits that make Grits one of the best groups in the industry. Bonafide opens his verse on "Here We Go," "I was born in the cold / moved to the heat / got used to the flame / now I spit it on beats." "What Do You Believe?" is an overt interlude where Bonafide simply and boldly lays down his beliefs. There are several interludes on this disc ranging from entertaining to confusing. For The Art of Translation, this is the only blip on the screen.

Yes, this album is different than past projects, which may upset some. However, a second spin will quickly show that the boys from Grits have elevated their game not only lyrically but also behind the boards. Along with Ric Robbins and Otto Price (a.k.a. Incorporated Elements), Bone and Cof co-produce the album. This could be the explanation for the more commercial sound. The new effort from Grits is one for the radio and your collection. Having trouble adjusting to the new sound? Having a beef with this record is like fighting with your mom: you can't stay mad at her for long.
- Jon Corbin
August 2002
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