Review Summary: Gym Class Heroes have a talented lyricist, but at this point, that is all they have left.
I had originally liked Gym Class Heroes for the same reason many others do; they were creative in their way of doing things, mixing the pop sensations of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco, with clever rhyming and lyricisim of Hip Hop. They weren't completely originally, rock and rap had been mixed before, but Gym Class Heroes had made the mixture very enjoyable do to their ability to make catchy poppy tunes. However, as the band got older, they got more focused around their rapper Travis McCoy. Travis is a fairly talented MC, he’s got some witty rhymes up his sleeve, but he simply can’t keep an album together on his own. With As Cruel As School Children
, the band had started to make their music more Travis-centric, and with their new album The Quilt
, The Gym Class Heroes lose what had made them enjoyable, the rest of the band.
Because of the increased focus on Travis, the music on the album is dumbed down considerately. The instrumentation simply sounds like regular hip hop beats that a somewhat talented beat maker could make, but sound a bit laughable coming from a full band. Lead Guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo hardly does anything on the album, and pretty much plays some simple guitar lines if he’s lucky, while the bass rhythms are merely root notes. The only member of the band that actually makes some noticeable playing is Matt Mcginely, and even he mostly just play average drum beats, but at least they don’t sound computer generated like just about everything else on the album. With The Quilt
, most of Gym Class Heroes seems to just be going through the motions, instead of creating aspiring, loud, fun music that they used to make. If this album had been pushed out by Travis and a group of beatmakers, this album would be respectable, but the fact it comes from an entire band makes it utterly laughable.
Another problem that drives itself from the more mainstream hip hop direction is guest appearances: there are way too many of them. If you've got Busta Rhymes and Dayrl Hall (of Hall & Oates) on the same album, you've got to many cooks in the kitchen. Most of the guest appearances seem awkward (both of The-Dream's appearances), and seem to be their just for that "hit" single that the band is searching for. However, of the failed guest appearances, one shines brightly like a candle at the end of a dark cave; Busta Rhymes' appearance on "Peace Sign/Index Down". His rhymes are excellent, and his delivery is broken down yet quick, and manages to push out every word that Busta has to say without the rhymes sounding awkward over the beat. The performance not only outshines Travis McCoy, but also shows new hope for a revival in the quality of Busta Rhymes’ lyrical quality. Unfortunately for the album, most of the guests seem to be phoned in appearances, and sound like their just “for the money”.
Despite the bland beats, and possibly because of them, Travis shines in front of the musical boredom. One downside to Travis’ rhymes is that he seems to try to sound alike a younger Talib Kweli, especially on first single “Peace Sign/Index Down”, where he seems to be putting up his best impression of said rapper. Like Talib, his flow is awkward from time to time, but most of the time it fits the beats well. His delivery is very quick, and fast paced, and he whip through the song like it's no time. His rhymes are well-written, and while they revolve around mostly of the normal hip hop topics, the writings are witty and clever from time to time.
“3rd of 3 sons/Big Bird and Squirt Guns/Aunt Tammy dressed up like a clown/When I turned one/Scared the *** out of me/But, thanks for trying/Sitting in my high chair/Throwing fits and crying”
From “Like Father, Like Son”
While the lyrics don’t shed to much of the true lyricist that Travis McCoy can be, the lyrics on The Quilt
are well-done, and at times touching.
The fact of the matter is, Travis McCoy doesn’t really need the rest of the band. While not the best lyricist in the world, he does show he is very talented, and the rest of the band seems to be letting him do all the dirty work at this point. The Quilt
is a disappointing effort if you were expecting some improvement out of the rest of Gym Class Heroes. But if you are looking for some nicely done mainstream hip hop, then go for it.