Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
Disclaimer - I know the Independent Spotlight has a very heavy international readership. This evening, we witnessed an unspeakable tragedy in Paris. I want to make it abundantly clear that in covering the following piece of music, I am not endorsing or making light of violence, and in particular, gun violence. (In fact, check out the 'Personal Musings' page here on the website to learn about my experiences with gun violence and my advocacy in regard to it.) I’m such if you asked Ronin Gray, he’d say the same. This sort of content, however, isn't new to hip hop and in many ways, is intrinsic to certain deviations of the genre. Thus, I feel comfortable covering it. So, enjoy the review, and our hearts go out to Paris.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re actually going to be delving into a piece that’s centralized around a music video. Ronin Gray, a rising hip hop artist, has recently dropped his latest single, ‘COMBAT.’ Featuring Sarita Trapp, the new tune is paired with an elegantly shot music video, perhaps one of the strongest excursions through the medium that I’ve seen in the independent community in quite some time. Let’s delve into both the music video and the song.
First off, the piece is off of ‘The Red Dragon,’ Gray’s new EP that is available for free via DatPiff below. If ‘COMBAT’ is indicative of the quality of the rest of that EP, it’s a download worth your time. Anyway, let’s talk about the recording. It’s simplistic, and Gray is backed by instrumentation that embraces a wonderful level of brevity. Trapps’ presence in the track is surprisingly haunting; she’s really quite an accentuating factor for the piece. That simplistic production actually suits Gray remarkably well, providing a backdrop for him to showcase his talent without the intrusion of ostentatious beats or production.
The lyrical content of ‘COMBAT’ seems to occupy many of the hip hop tropes we’re overly familiar with. He’s got a bullet for me; he’s got a bullet for you. He’s got hoes on speed dial and several phones ringing off the hook for his drug deals. All of the woman want him, and he’s got a vendetta against quite a few people. Typically, I yawn and poke fun at this type of material in the indie scene. I think Gray actually sells it, though, and he’s convincing enough of a performer to make me forget about the stereotypes.
The music video is intriguing for this piece. As I mentioned, it’s very well done. Gray wanders around a cemetery with his crew, seemingly visiting the grave of a fallen comrade. I enjoyed the piece because it was very well shot and very well edited. There isn’t a whole lot going on, but I can appreciate an indie rapper with a half decent video. Seriously, I’ve seen some terrible videos in that community.
‘COMBAT’ is an intriguing piece, and it’s subject matter isn’t anything new, and hasn’t been since N.W.A dropped onto the scene in the late 80s with similar vulgarity. The piece is so suavely produced and executed, though, that it makes a compelling argument for checking out the rest of the EP.