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Greg Bussie and Enrique1x Team Up for Mixtape Nostalgia Meets New Huntsville Era with Old Friends

Evan Dale // Oct 11, 2023

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There’s something special happening in Huntsville. The not-so-little town that finds itself almost exactly in the middle of a triangle linking Atlanta, Memphis, and Nashville is unsurprisingly a hotbed of Southern creativity in its own right. But it’s more than just a refraction off of what the other three cultural capitals are doing. In Huntsville, there’s an explosion of authentic southern music and thrift-oriented fashion circles that are quickly beginning to boil over with a sound — and a look — all their own. And amongst all of the dynamic artists that are making waves in Rocket City — a name donned on Huntsville for its NASA hub and extraordinarily high number of aerospace engineers — Greg Bussie is a rapper of particular stratosphere.

When just last Summer, he released his comeback project, The Art Gallery, an undeniable knack for merging hard-hitting bass and harder-hitting lyrical ferocity began to come into focus. Dynamically maneuvering the range of his sound from lightning-fast bars to trunk-rattling Southern anthems, he put on an exhibition of the far-reaching wordplay, flow, and deep register he’s capable of refining even further into his emerging signature. And this Fall, with the release of Old Friends, he’s putting on a clinic of what new sounds he’s got in store, now that he’s pushing himself, his raps, and his beats further into orbit than ever before.

Old Friends feels like the kind of project that tethers Greg Bussie’s past to his present through the lens of his music. It feels rooted in memories, influence, and a past version of himself — and reaching back through the plane of Southern hip-hop — while simultaneously inhabiting the most modern and focused take on his sound to date. Where The Art Gallery meandered across the horizontal plane, his new EP is a straight shot into space. Honed particularly on his lyricism and a flow that has come to represent his innermost rap id, Old Friends is a six track, 18 minute project that feels at once like it could be one long, cohesive run-on sentence, or one quickly moving short film tethered akin from beginning to end. In either sense, it defies time, looping its way into the unendingly listenable tradition of the Southern mixtapes era, but brought under an organically modern spotlight.

In comparison to The Art Gallery, it defies Bussie’s pre-established tendency for wide-ranging sonic exploration, instead opting to pull into frame one producer from beginning to end. Enrique1x is the collaborative name behind the boards all EP long, and his knack for tapping into Greg Bussie’s adherence to a Southern tradition — hard-hitting bass and a wide opening for lyrically-pervasive braggadocio to amass — and his push to establish a more definitive North Alabama sound — bleeding of its own hard-earned identity with a particularly lyrical edge. End to end, Old Friends feels like Huntsville, an ode to the rapper’s roots - to the producer's roots - and they and their city’s emerging status. It inhabits the warm tint of the low sky on a painfully hot Summer day, framed by the humid smells of homegrown Southern cooking and the rattle of a trunk as a hooptie with three too many subwoofers drives by.

Repetitive, celebratory chords build a foundation for most tracks across the EP, but it’s on FrFr that Enrique1x and Bussie tap most into a not-so-long-forgotten Southern nostalgia where high-flying hip-hop anthems inspired hope in the cities the artists came from, while connecting further with a wider-reaching global audience. A bombardment of lyrical prowess and an addicting hook make the whole thing the 2000’s radio hit, with a progressive twist that shines alight on their collaborative dynamism. You’ve gotta be deeper than just a hard-hitting banger these days, after all.

’67 Cougar feels as though it came out of a Southern Buffalo, Benny the Butchering its away across Birmingham with all of Bussie’s hard-hitting Griselda angst. The Enrique1X beat, summoning a certain RZA-esque timelessness of sample-ridden, echoey chords reinforces that testament.

Even when flipping the switch and bringing into a more light-hearted thematic moment on that aptly titled Emotion, Greg Bussie still adheres to the stylistically rigid pursuit of Old Friends overall. It’s lyrically-dedicated throughout, spinning anecdotes of overcoming, twisting in an addicting hook that itself feels both reminiscent of the pseudo-ballads spanning hip-hop’s early 2000’s mixtape era, and a new era for some emotional delicates to fold their way into the modern scene.

Beginning to end, Old Friends still bleeds with a a Greg Bussie broadness that made last year’s The Art Gallery such an exciting, adaptable collection, but finds itself more musically focused on his continually strengthening strengths. Southern roots, lyrically tenacity, timeless production, addicting hooks, and a well-rounded albeit gravitationally centered stylistic pursuit leave any listener of Old Friends longing for the mixtape moment they grew up on, and tantalizing for Bussie - and his dynamically musical Huntsville - to establish the next one.

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