MF Grimm first got my attention with his 2 collaborations with Kool G. Rap from his “4,5,6” album (“Take Em To War” & “Money On The Brain”). Through associations with MF Doom and many other collaborations, Grimm finally founded the hip-hop label Day By Day Entertainment. Now, he’s in prison for attempted murder and conspiracy (narcotics). The night before he went to prison, he locked himself in the studio for a 24-hour session. His first debut solo album “The Downfall Of Ibliys (A Ghetto Opera)” was recorded in 24 hours! This ghetto opera is not an obvious tale like Prince Paul’s “A Prince Among Thieves” or Sticky Fingaz’ “Black Trash” but it does have a consistent vibe and flow. At first listen, many of the songs sound extremely similar even though there are a myriad of different producers. MF Grimm has constructed a very dark album with themes ranging from time and space, life and death, apocalypse, ghetto lifestyles and prison. While Ibliys represents the fallen angel Satan, it is very easy to hear the similarities between the main character and the emcee, MF Grimm.
The best tracks have many different qualities. Some grow on you while others instantly get into the listener. The intro track “Alpha” features Count Bass D (who also produced it). It is a very strong opening track that is short and energetic. “Time And Space” (produced by Rob A) is the first real song on the album. Instantly, you will realize that this is not your typical hip-hop album. The piano is very eerie and ethereal as the mid-tempo drums almost slide away. “…Angel thought he was better than man / So God shook him up and changed his plan / Broke his wing / No longer could he soar / Jumped off the cloud and he fell to the floor…” MF Grimm is very deep with his lyrics at times while very simple at other times. The very simple rhyme style and lyrics are weighed down by gravity of the subject matter. During some parts of the song, the delivery sometimes sounds off beat and awkward. Due to the beat and the intelligence of the profound theme, the song does work. “Life And Death” (produced by Metal Fingers) is an even deeper concept-driven song. Here, MF Grimm uses women as a metaphor for life and death. He is in love with a woman named Life while he cheats with a woman named Death: “…Women like Death is all around the world / She said Life is wonderful a hell of a girl / She wants to share her world give you all she can / Death's a freak slept with every damned man / Life got your back she's picking you up / Death packs the gat straight sticking you up / Life can't live without you she's biggin' you up / But put Life after Death cops are diggin' you up / Life is precious she's one of a kind / Choosing Death over Life you lost your mind / Life is the one for you no doubt / Main event was over so I broke the hell out…” Without a chorus, MF Grimm tells a vivid tale that is both entertaining and very thought-provoking. The cool jazzy bass line and hip melodies make this track sound very cool. “Together” (produced by D Minor) is a very upbeat track with a nice and simple piano loop. Grimm’s flow is very cool on this track. Here, he is on beat and he changes his vocal tone for the hook (which is a refreshing surprise): “…He flipped (oh yes he did) / He went to war against his click (oh yes he did) / Even though to us it did really hurt / Still we got together and we beat 'em up (oh yes we did) …” The story that Grimm rhymes is also well done. “Break Em Off” (produced by Cas) is a very basic and rough-sounding track where Grimm uses Snoop Dogg’s melody for the hook: “…May - I - kick a little something / To show n*ggas I could flow and get the party pumping…” The simplicity of the organ melody does work due to Grimm’s flow. “Freedom” (produced by Dr. Butcher) is an very upbeat track while “Foolish” (produced by Metal Fingers) featuring Megalon and MF Doom has a very pimped-out loop. The latter is a posse cut where the 3 emcees just spit. “I.B.’s” (produced by Metal Fingers) uses a Milk sample from Audio Two’s “Top Billin”. He makes it very clear that he “stole your girl while you were in prison”. The Count Bass D produced “Words” has a very upbeat tempo but self-deprecating and almost Satanic lyrics: “…Giving into temptation / Murdering your creations / Breaking bread with Satan…” The contrast makes it a very interesting experience. Count Bass D’s production is top notch as always. Other interesting tracks include “Voices Pt. O”, “Voices Pt.1” featuring MF Doom and the very energetic flow of the Dr. Butcher produced “Howl” where Grimm verbally paints a vivid picture of prison life.
Some tracks range from sloppy to slightly boring to just plain odd. “Rain Blood” (produced by Metal Fingers) is very sloppy sounding and reminds me of a Sunz Of Man track. The hook is the title shouted over and over again. The energy is electrifying. “Yes You Are (It’s Only A Movie)” (produced by DJ Eli) is a track that sticks in the listener’s head. Grimm sings a strange hook about how Mary Magdalene is his true love that is on his mind. “To All My Comrades” (produced by Metal Fingers) is a spoken-word track that reminds me of the “Wolves” intro on “Let’s Get Free” by Dead Prez. The track is an interesting listen and is short enough not to get in the way but there is a slightly pretentious feel to it. “Teach The Babies” (produced by Protest) is the strangest track on the album. Using a sample from Sesame Street of a puppet reciting the alphabet, MF Grimm says a line for every letter. Of course, every line is dark and disturbing. This track is completely out of place. If it was not at the end of the album, the song would break the flow of the LP.
Overall, “The Downfall Of Ibliys” is an LP that must grow on the listener. I did not appreciate it (or even like it too much) until multiple listens. Many of the tracks blend together due to the similar sound and Grimm’s vocal tone that rarely changes. At times, the vocals are so low and drowned out that it is sometimes difficult to follow the emcee. Still, credit must be given where it is due. For an album that was recorded in one 24-hour session, this album is not only thought provoking but intensely spiritual and littered with social commentary. The actual story does go on some major tangents but the overall themes and vibes are fairly consistent. The record is dark and strange at times. While some of the songs do not even have hooks, MF Grimm’s songs do grow on the listener. The lo-fi mix and mastering of the LP adds to the gritty vibe of the whole project. There is no catchy radio-friendly track. This is underground hip-hop…. dirty and dark. If you can take the depressing outlook of hell, the tragedy of debasement, the torture of prison, and sadness of ghetto life, you will relate to this album. MF Grimm is a fallen emcee like Satan is a fallen angel. Although it may take a couple of listens to let it sink inside and appreciate everything going on, Grimm’s “downfall” becomes rather interesting and dark entertainment.