Tee Grizzley is a 26-year-old rapper from Detriot, Michigan. After coming out of prison in 2017, Grizzley reached a new level of popularity with his hit single “First Day Out”. In the following year, Tee Grizzley would go on to release his magnum opus Activated. The album was super enjoyable with its potent lyrical substance, and high energy. His following two projects, Still My Moment and Scriptures, did not resonate with me as they appeared to be a steep dive in quality compared to there predecessors. The Smartest is the name of his newest mixtape, and hopefully, he can bounce back after his previous two lackluster releases.
Tee Grizzley’s lyrical performance is honestly super underwhelming. One thing I have always counted the 26-year-old rapper on is spitting non stop the fire but, The Smartest proves me otherwise. While some songs such as “The Smartest Intro” and “Lions & Eagles” feel like typical songs from him due to his intense flows and lyrical fury, most of the album doesn’t have the same feel. Tracks such as “Rap A Lot” and “Picture of My City” are the worst example of this as Tee is spitting an array of corny and head-scratching lines. My least favorite thing about the entire project is the constant references to pop culture icons. While it is nice to pay homage to a legends, Grizzley has multiple songs with the sole purpose of alluding to greats that came before him. A highlight on the album is “Mr. Officer”, as it shows the mc step out of his artistic comfort zone to make a powerful track discussing police brutality. Overall, Tee Grizzley hits under his lyrical weight class on The Smartest.
Sonically, The Smartest is listenable, but it doesn’t offer much. While I wasn’t expecting much from the production, I didn’t think it would be this bland. Most beats follow the same rinse and repeat guidelines of a motivational piano, a beat drop to then be concluded by a simple pattern of trap drums. When doing something so stylistically repressive, the mixtape loses its identity, and all the records feel as they are merged into one. The last thing I will add is that the autotune implemented to enhance Tee’s voice was a terrible idea as it only makes each song feel so much more disastrous. To summarize, the instrumentals on The Smartest are painfully hard to get through in one listen.
In conclusion, The Smartest is one of the messiest releases I’ve listened to this year. Tee takes a step back lyrically as his wordplay gets noticeably worse, and his subject matter is as dense as any SoundCloud rapper. The production pushes no sonic boundaries and is honestly a snooze to sit throughout with its bloated 45-minute running time. Walking away from the album, the only thing I can confidently say is that Tee Grizzley has indeed fallen far from grace.