We are the epitome of ‘working class rap,’ so doing this has to take patience, saving, perseverance and hard work.”
That’s the message of Tef Wesley, who with fellow DMV-based producer Grussle shares one of this year’s most cohesive, refreshing, and well-crafted projects so far. Pens & Needles is just as blue-collar as it is gripping, and fans of rap will surely be singing its praises once they listen.
The duo first met in 2009 and developed a close working relationship that eventually spawned the ten tracks heard on this album. Tef admits that handing over production duties to someone as talented as Grussle allowed him to concentrate on his rapping, which is evident across Pens & Needles. He sounds inspired, hungry, and focused, while Grussle does his thing behind the boards. “I just aim to recreate and share that same energy that made me a fan of this music way back when,” he says, noting influences such as J Dilla, Madlib, The Alchemist, and other greats.
You can hear that on brassy bangers like “We Taking Everything” and “Gametime,” both of which shake with horns, strings, and heavy drums. The latter is a real source of pride for the duo, too, as it was remixed for use by the Maryland Terrapins’ football and basketball teams. Elsewhere, Grussle gets grimy to match Tef’s raw raps on the single, “F.T.S.,” while the two blend nostalgia and soul on the insightful “Timeless.” There are also nods to the legendary Boogie Down Productions on the chilling “It’s a Suicide” before they up the ante on “RX.”
Everything comes full circle on melodic closer, “The Last Note,” a track that dives into his past while also looking forward. That’s because Tef gets extra-real, dishing out bars about depression, loss, and coming to terms with reality over Grussle’s emotional backdrop. It’s one of the most compelling cuts on Pens & Needles, and the perfect way to close a damn-good album.
Pens & Needles is available for stream and download through all other major digital retailers and streaming portals.
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