Good music for the heart and soul, Culture Blue’s debut album Red Letters, brings an honest and unique vibe with they’re own brand of jazz infused hip-hop. Lead by the infectious vibe and effortless flow of Hannibal Robinson on the vocals, the musical renaissance man, Joe Marotta (of the Brooklyn based indie-rock band The Jean Jackets) drops the groove on the keys, and rounded out by mr. smoothe- Zach Ezickson on the trumpet. The trio’s debut album Red Laters, takes you on a sonic journey through they’re eclectic sound offering influences from Bill Evans to Chance The Rapper and John Legand.
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The albums opening track and first single, “4’11” is a sunny cruise through the neighborhood, as Hannibal so poetically ties together real-life experiences through his rhymes over Joe’s bouncy groove on the keys. Staying true to they’re Jazz roots, this extended version of the previously released single, transitions at a leisurely pace into Hannibals last verse featuring Darrius Moore, the ‘soul brotha’s emphatic fills on the drums.
Initiated by a slow blow of the trumpet, “Fantasy” takes you through an intimate portrait through Hannibal’s Red Letters into a lost love, and showcases Joe Marotta’s true talent on the keyboard as he winds a jazzed up solo through harmonious samples.
“Sativa“: This tracks got it all, and truely encapsulates what Culture Blues about, “hip-hop with a jazz knock”. Zack Ezickson’s uplifting trumpet solo brightens up the entire track, set off with a smooth John Legend-esque hook, until Hannibal takes us into the catchy main melody singin’ “, before he lyrically dances rhymes over Joe’s light n tasty line on the keys.
The Red Letters slows down into “Pink“, as Hannibal poetically chronicles the woes of his ailing mother over a classic kick-drum beat.
“Connect” features some what of a new age snyth sound for Hannibal to rap over, before he breaks into a playfull high-pitched dance with Zach’s trumpet on the track’s chorus, and transitions into a fluid guest verse by “Rocky G” to close out the song.
In “Things Change“, The album shifts into a lighthearded love song, about people growing apart, highlighted by the dazzling L’Oreal Lampley singing the chorus. Zach and Joe’s intrumental jive throughout the track adds the jazz we’ve come to expect thus far through Red Letters.
“Strangest Secret” opens with a message of elegant prose about life’s priceless possessions, and Hannibal follows suit through his painless flow, shouting out “this is more my people that 9:00 to 5:00 and strive through they’re hard nighttimes”. The depth of the team’s production also really shines through on this track, shifting between space-synthed keys and sped up drum beats to more classic and delicate piano accents.
“Glaspy”(feat. Maxxx Flair and LakeViewDrive) features an assemblage of distinct hip-hop flows over Joe’s melodic work on the keys, as Hannibal’s assertive opening verse hits raspy high notes, and seamlessly transitions into Maxxx Flair’s vicious flow, until LakeViewDrive confidently closes out the track.
The album closes out with celebration of sounds as Hannibal offers a retrospective verse looking back on his journey, while his musical maestro’s Zach and Joe provide triumphant melodies. The song closes out with the tone of a praise-worthy anthem singing “Thank You!“
The entire album is both lyrically and instrumentally rich, blending sentimental rhymes with jazz fused melodies, that make for an honest, and fun to listen to album. The trio out of Lancaster’s Franklin and Marshall College put they’re intellectually sound music minds together and created something special. Enjoy folks!