In the past two years, Tee Grizzley’s shown us flashes of his potential. On "Scriptures," he showcases it at its fullest.
Tee Grizzley’s prison stint served as both a blessing and a curse. His legal troubles have been a source of inspiration for the four bodies of work he released between April 2017 and November 2018. At the same time, he kick-started his career while on parole. And as we’ve seen with Meek Mill, even the slightest infraction could land him back in the bin. Following the release of November 2018’s Still My Moment, he finally got off parole which he described as coming “out of prison all over again.” And that could be the biggest contrast between his latest project, Scriptures and his previous albums. The same issues with the law that indirectly helped launch his career are no longer weighing on his shoulders, but those issues are still the foundation for Tee Grizzley to give his point-of-view of the Detroit he grew up in.
Although Scriptures serves as his sophomore album, Grizzley’s latest project feels like a debut -- and not in a bad way. With production hailing predominantly from Timbaland (thanks to Kanye), Grizzley sounds as hungry as he did when he first came out -- but his thoughts are much more focused. Over the course of fourteen songs, Grizzley doesn’t flood the tracklist with guest appearances from high-profile friends -- with the exception of YNW Melly & A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, who both appear on the album closer “Young Grizzley World.” Instead, Scriptures serves as a formal introduction of sorts with Grizzley being able to control his own narrative without any other voices derailing his story. That’s why Scriptures is as concise as it is. There isn’t any room for anyone to outshine him.
The man who once said that he “could do this shit with no effort” has also proven that when he does put in the effort, it’s a goldmine. As an emcee, Scriptures embodies everything from top tier flow to story-telling and punchlines. “Had To,” for example, is some of the best storytelling of Grizzley’s career. He plays both the devil and the angel weighing on his own conscience while justifying things he felt he had to do. “Have you ever had to kill one of your friends?/ ‘Cause that shit he was on was coming between your plans,” he raps over Timbaland’s sinister production. “Remembering how hard he hit the wall when you blast/ To remembering how sad he sounded knowing he through/ Seeing shock and just disbelief in his eyes 'cause it was you/ I had to,” he continues with a soulless tone.
On the project’s title track, the rapper juxtaposes the dangerous lifestyle that once had him locked up, and the glamour of the rap game that saved his life, ultimately. “I run with murderers, killers/ Bitch get wet, rivers/ Then cut off, scissors/ I speak the truth, scriptures,” he raps on the hook of the title track. “Got richer and bought me a Richard/ I still give my hitman your picture.” It’s his truth. It’s his life. It’s the things he’s done that he may or may not regret. He’s unapologetically telling the frightening truth of Detroit, its socio-ecomic issues, and how crime comes out of necessity.
Grizzley’s undoubtedly giving some of the best bars of his career on Scriptures, but it wouldn’t have happened without Timbaland challenging him, and vice versa. Timbo’s the man behind some of the biggest hits of the past 20+ years but with a new wave of sounds and artists coming out, nothing he did in the past few years necessarily stood out in the hip-hop landscape.Timbo’s production manages to stay in the realm of mainstream appeal, so to speak, while still coming from left-field. Grizzley might be one of the few artists to properly tackle these beats in recent times. He successfully used each instrumental as a canvas to elaborate on definitive moments in his life that brought him to the point he’s at today. In the past two years, Grizzley’s shown us flashes of his potential. On Scriptures, he showcases it at its fullest.