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This Shit Not 4 Anybody, Much Less Everybody

By Zac Russi

One of my early memories of Tron 444 aka Old Grape God, back when I only knew him by his then IG handle allgrapeeverything: drinking 40’s of Old E on a typically rainy day in Portland, under the overhang of the porch, smoking Newports and talking about time travel, the ways in which songs and substances could take us backwards and forwards through time. Grape is a truly prolific artist, and when I think of the over ten years since that day, it’s easy for me to associate time periods with his art, with live shows at odd venues, a legion of painting styles, one of a kind clothing releases, features, loosies, and albums.

Survival á la Mode cover image

The last time I caught an Old Grape God show not via youtube link, it was before the pandemic, at Artists’ Television Access on Valencia Street in San Francisco. It was a show like any other for Grape, meaning he disregarded conventions of the standard rap performance, and spent much of the set improvising on a keyboard and making jokes before seamlessly shifting into a handful of songs with the homies. He had just finished a year-long run on the Time Travel 444 mixtape series– every month he released a collaborative project with a laundry list of Portland artists, culminating in a quadruple album……                                                       

…..Let’s start over. That all felt too standard-music-write-up for me. Like I’m doing music-blog-voice. When Tron sent me a rough draft of “Not 4 Anybody” a while back, I loved it. My thought was, this is what an Old Grape God song should sound like. You get the Hennesey bottle opening, like the classic Lil Wayne lighter crackle, at the beginning of the track, layered, pitch-shifted instruments, and a talk-in, adlibbed intro that really hits for me as I’m currently writing a polyphonic novel with over a hundred distinct narrative voices. He says What’s life without a bunch of you know rambling aimless one sided conversations where you gotta sift through and dig out little nuggets of truth and things that tickle you, and flip and reuse in conversations with other people down the line you know? What is life without that stuff? while a cacophony of other voices in my experience are doing oh I like that exactly what he’s no I feel you on that one, i don’t know what the fuck you talking about.

MF DOOM by Tron 444

The first bar on the new project Survival á La Mode It’s not 4 anybody / much less everybody works as a disclaimer for the multi-media, multi-moda, genre agnostic art OGG puts out via label Time Travel 444. It also sits like an homage to the classic MF Doom line Whoever aint get it aint supposed to (Cop an original painting here). 

Grape handles most of the production on the album (with PartyOnMarz on a few tracks), which means the vocal samples are chosen, chopped, and distorted by him. Hella other voices speak through him via the instrumental. At the start of “Parts:Whole” we hear a clip from what sounds like an ad for the board game Operation, with part of the clip pitched up and folded into the beat. Tron raps thinking bout scrappin my body for parts, all I need is my hands and my heart / soons you think its solid, they gon rip it apart which carries over the album to a bar on the final song “Sky Colored Floor” where he goes It aint really a bad week if I still got all my fingers / I really don’t wanna paint with my mouth, I think a metaphor more sustainable. Since Tron began self-producing albums at the start of the pandemic, there’s been a growing internal cohesiveness to each release (this is the 42nd album, the 12th since 2020); themes repeat, samples mirror, or comment on, what’s happening in a part of the song and/or the album as a whole.

4 songs in, “Where Art Thou Funk?!” is the song I’ll slap all summer! It’s a funky, spaced out beat that allows Grape to quick-switch styles while staying in his pocket, with one of the rawest one-liners on the project: Some people never like you, and it makes them super easy to read. No guesswork involved. The theme of reading people comes back around over ominous production on “Airhorn Shoehorn”, the turning point of the album where he say, he say, he say I’m running out of options baby, getting really tired of feeling strange, people don’t change just reveal their true selves… I can tell who’s a bot, and who got got followed by the sample keep the mouth slappin and do no listening, there’s nothing worse than a blabbermouth cat

 To the left are the lyrics from Tron’s notes app for “Hoarder” a song that works as a chimera of a call back to “Parts:Whole” and a meditation on letting go. The song ends with more voices stacking: adlibs, the refrain I think u can relate, right? and effects heavy singing u know u gotta live with yourself.  Battle Me” continues the polyvocals, bringing in features from Slick Devious: out the pot scalding, big bag in the drawstring / Pall Malls in the Lloyd Center / listening to Lloyd in the void on a bender Somethin Somethin Brax: love, lust, cathexis / bum rush the exit / fell asleep watching TV, now my neck’s stiff and Jointsy: trying to cope with the thought of missiles obliterating skin tissue, ok, my nana told me people are there to be used not misused, I dont know if I agree, cause I feel like hmmm fuck society annnnnnd this verse only gets hyphier, playing into the beat break down and appearing guitar. 

Closing out the album, “Sky Colored Floor” brings us into a dimension outside of space and time. Sludgy reverb and glitching autotune echoes merge with psychedelic synths, and the shrooms really talking on this one, I walk around with an old thizz face on, I think I’m big and strong, I think I’m big and strong, there’s some things you just can’t walk off. I’m a huge fan of cohesion in polyphonic/polyvocal work, when the artist takes a slew of sometimes discordant, sometimes synched up voices, noises, themes and messages, and highlights the points of connection. It’s also what makes a good time travel story work, everything ties together, and you have to stick the landing, like Old Grape God on Survival a la Mode.

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