ALBUM REVIEW: Girl Talk & Freeway “Broken Ankles”

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Last April, Pittsburgh native Girl Talk dropped his latest EP Broken Ankles in collaboration with Philly rapper Freeway. Several years had passed since his last album, 2010’s All Day, and he had taken a pretty significant hiatus from his relentless tour schedule in 2013, so needless to say, fans have been waiting for something big in the making. The EP doesn’t fail to disappoint, and sees the performer taking bold risks.

Girl Talk – a.k.a. Gregg Gillis – is known for his mash-ups and samplings, combining hip hop, rock, and pop songs into single tracks for a lively, up-beat listening experience. From his first album Secret Diary in 2002, to his breakout 2006 LP Night Ripper and its successful follow-ups, he has sampled everyone from Avril Lavigne to Outkast. But during his break last year, he decided to create more focused beats. With over seventy tracks under his belt, he approached Freeway in the hopes of doing their first collaboration together. In a press release, Gillis says he chose Freeway because of the rapper’s creative, improvisational ability; Freeway is known to have written all of his verses in his head without ever writing down his lyrics. “I wanted the album to be diverse, and I wanted someone who could maneuver around quick changes mid-song. Freeway is the rare rapper who sounds natural on all types of beats, ranging from cut-up soul to menacing synth-jams. His energy is unreal, and he’s able to keep up with any production,” said Gillis.

Gillis has a reputation for vigorous performances, so the team-up with the prolific rapper has, as expected, produced a vital, high-energy collection of tracks.  It’s hard to tell that it’s the duo’s first collaboration; Girl Talk’s production and Freeway’s flow is impressively cohesive and full of life.

The EP opens with “Tolerated”, a track heavy with anthemic trumpets and a forceful flow that will have listeners throwing their bodies to the steady, hyped beat. Featuring a verse from Waka Flocka Flame, this track is all about power and showing these haters who’s really the boss. The transitions in this EP are smooth and endless, melding one track to the other much the way that Girl Talk has stitched together tracks on his previous LPs. “Tell Me Yeah” has a more melodic, soulful beat that somehow seamlessly transitions to the harder, grimier “I Can Hear Sweat”. The EP mellows out a bit with the angelic rhythms for “Suicide” and then turns to something more pronounced and confident with “Lived It,” highlighting the deliberate placement of each track as a stand alone but also as an interconnected entity. Freeway delivers his lines with grit and strength which perfectly mixes with Gillis’ relentless beats.

Broken Ankles is fire, lit with endless vitality and intensity. With featured performances from Jadakiss and Young Chris as well as the aforementioned Waka Flocka Flame, this EP was made for sweaty, muggy summer nights spent in crowded basements on makeshift dance floors. It’s an especially important moment for Gillis to show that perhaps his mash-up mixing days have moved on to something more sustainable, placing him in a realm of  all-star hip-hop producers primed for future collaborations.

Broken Ankles is available for free download on DatPiff. Watch the video for “Tolerated” below and scroll down for tour dates:

Also check out Girl Talk’s live show dates:
Fri. June 20 – Dover, DE @ Firefly Music Festival
Wed. June 25 – Sun. June 29 – Milwaukee, WI @ Summerfest
Sat. July 12 – Seattle, WA @ CHIVEFest Seattle
Thu. July 17 – Sun. July 20 – Pemberton, BC @ Pemberton Music Festival
Sat. Aug. 16 – Portland, OR @ Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Sun. Aug. 31 – Philadelphia, PA @ Made in America Festival
Fri. Sep. 5 – Sun. Sep. 7 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling
Fri. Nov. 7 – Sun. Nov. 9 – Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Fest

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