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Rappers are supposed to play their positions. If they're mainstream, they rap about money, girls and rims over club productions, while the so-called underground gets away with the occasional political diatribe over a lo-fi beat. But Lifesavas' members, Vursatyl and Jumbo, aim for something different. Their lyrics are sharp, witty and €”positive without being sappy, and their concepts are fully fleshed out. On "Hellohihey," the leadoff single from their 2003 debut, Vurs is approached by a series of fictional emcees whose egos are bigger than their talent. He initially shrugs them off, but soon the critique turns inward as the rapper explores his own slippery path to self-absorption. This intertwining of Vurs' honest self-reflection with Jumbo's stuttering, chunky funk production drew critical praise and helped the group secure a cult following. Their 2007 sophomore album, Gutterfly, found the group going in a far different direction. For that record, Lifesavas paid homage to Blacksploitation of the '70s with a set of characters in a fictional Portland full of murderers, pimps and pushers. Surprisingly, the album was more playfully respectful than it was morally heavy-handed.
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