Genre: Rap, R&B
Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, hip-hop collective The Groovehouse’s latest project Weed and Cheesecake has dropped just in time for the Australasian summer. Clearly inspired by 90s West Coast party rap and the more recent stoner anthems in the vein of Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y, the group admirably strives to modernize contemporary weed rap. Over the course of its brief 40 minutes, the group bounces between pure lyrical rapping, slow R&B jams and everything in between to varying degrees of success.
Kick-starting things off with “Too Blunt”, it’s an incredibly accessible introduction to the record. The breezy auto-tuned singing instantly hooks you in and sets the tone for what’s to come, with the short but sweet verses breaking up the track enough to make it an intriguing initial listen. From the very get-go, the production is by far the best aspect of the project already. Equal parts mellow and vibrant, it creates the perfect soundtrack for a late-year summer road trip.
From then on, the album cruises on with a slew sequence of summer-tinged tracks that really highlight the versatility of the production. The minor twists and changes to the formula present do keep the album fresh. A pop-rap album at its core, it’s clear that the hooks are the main focus of the album, with much of them taking up the bulk of the runtime on most songs. “Rolling Stoned Magazine” features one of the best hooks on the album. Almost interlude like in its structure, it’s one of the few instances of auto-tuneless singing from the group that creates a perfect ‘weed bro’ vibe, forming an engaging listen.
“Going Crazy” is another standout, more specifically, its final verse that feels almost J Cole-esque in its delivery. The weight of his voice is a refreshing break from the breezy production and light singing; though short, it serves as one of the few points of tonal variety on the project. However, the same can’t be said for most of the verses on the project. Due to the muddy mixing on many of the tracks, the vocals of each rapper often get buried under the layered production.
Aesthetically, this results in a blending of sounds that make each song a cohesive listening experience, setting the mood for the listener and creates mood music. Still, it becomes very difficult to make out what any of them might be saying. I could barely make out their bars before being thrust back into another hook. The singing on the album does carry the album quite a bit but it also suffers from a lack of memorability. The droney melodies are stoner song essentials, but the extreme uniformity of the singing on many of the songs do hurt the album’s potential distinctive qualities.
“Link Up” is a standout track that veers away from the chill summer sound in favor of a more contemporary, laidback beat. It’s 6-minute posse cut that easily has one of the best mixings of the album; in turn, making it one of the best songs of the album too. Each verse hits harder than the last, their voices now noticeably distinct from each other as they work their magic on one of the best beats here. It really highlights the immense potential group if they sacrificed some of the weed rap concepts for a dose of energy instead.
Then, we get to an extreme tonal whiplash with the song “Stallion” and it confirms the suspicions brought up from the previous track. Easily my favorite and best track of the entire record. The group ditches everything prior they had done on the record. Its glitchy beat, distorted vocals, and eccentric hook are reminiscent of the work from JPEGmafia and Brockhampton. The infectious energy radiating throughout provides the tail-end of the album with life and gusto. It just makes me wish that they explored this sound a lot more rather than just leaving it on a single song.
The final track “Believe” provides another tonal whiplash as it reverts back to the record’s summer vibe, albeit a much more stripped down one. Again the conflicting sounds draw parallels to Brockhampton, more specifically the work on their Saturation trilogy. Embracing the sound of a 90s Bad Boy era pop-rap jam. It’s a good song that works well as a summer jam but considering the shift away from the sound from the previous 2 tracks, it a slightly disappointing finish to the album. The song ends up feeling more like a bonus track that’s just tacked on at the end.
Weed and Cheesecake admirably fulfills its role as an entertaining stoner rap album, with its flashes of experimentation making me excited for what the group might do with their future sound. With the production being a clear standout in nearly every track, a quick refinement of their already proficient hook-crafting can only mean bigger and better things for the group.
Standout tracks: “Stallion”, “Link Up”, “Rolling Stoned Magazine”