The Startin’ LineUp (TSL) a Chicago-based collective consisting of rappers, writers, producers, singers, engineers, & a DJ, have always been difficult to really pin down, as the project is a uniquely volatile prospect exploding with creativity, nostalgia and innovation, all at once. Their sounds are certainly varied, ambitious and full of old-time groove. Club-ready bangers lie hand-in-hand with moments of chilled smoothness, whilst the group journey towards finding the light at the end of each diverse musical tunnel they enter into. Jazzy flavors meet funk, soul and R&B leanings, through a widescreen hip-hop lens. And the results are stunningly ear-catching. You don’t know if you are in the future or the past. You only know that it sounds good.
In the summer of 2004, the group met while attending Iowa State University located in Ames, IA. What started as a friendship, grew into something bigger. Inspired by their shared love of music and basketball, what started as a friendship, grew into something bigger, which they eventually and almost inevitably, called The Startin’ LineUp. They initially released their debut album “The Tip-Off”, in 2006, then followed it up with their sophomore album release, “Full Court Vision”. After a 10 year hiatus TSL bounced back with the EP “Summer League Madness” in 2020, which featured the remaining four active members: Marcus ‘MNG’ Gray, Steven ‘Cy Fice’ Bryant, Quentin ‘DNQ’ Abraham, and Donald ‘DJ Partystarta’ Parker.
In 2021 The Startin’ LineUp are back to full strength on the brand new follow up EP “Summer League Madness 2”. The EP has DNQ dropping verses on the project, and also features Norwood, as well as added vocals by Ryanne, Riyona and Megan Stacy.
The opener, “Oh Well” ft. Megan Stacy, Ryanne Abraham & Norwwod, is electrifying, and without a shadow of a doubt one of the group’s best individual song to date. A lush, slow pulsating beat is met with killer verses from the rappers’, at their eye-bulging best, whilst the magnetic vocal hooks are equal parts soulful and infectious. Five minutes of pure bliss.
“Late Night Cruisin” ft. Megan Stacy makes sure the goodness doesn’t stop there. A super smooth and mellifluous wave of harmonious vibes inundate the atmosphere, as The Startin’ LineUp pull out their bag of delicious vocal tricks – from rapping to singing they’re totally on point. While underneath, the foundation of resonating piano and thumping drums beautifully drives the mid-tempo momentum.
“Vacation (Trip for 2)” ft. Norwood, Ryanne Abraham & Riyona Abraham, has a charming spontaneity about it, as TSL pluck dynamic voices and know where and how to frame their singular soliloquies. Swelling sweet harmonies aside, The Startin’ LineUp rarely lets you forget the rap part of their musical equation. Their raw powered rhyming has the ability to snake between each vocal harmony effortlessly. The EP closes with “All Night”, which aims straight for the dancefloor with an insistent beat and an urgent rap delivery.
The prime takeaway from this listening experience is that The Startin’ LineUp is one of the most entertaining collectives in hip-hop, consistently pushing the sonic boundaries in their style, sound, production and deliveries.
The ability to carry over consistent, and convincing rapping elements, while presenting such a lush variety of melodic sounds is truly terrific, and something that the group has obviously mastered at this point. Their unrelenting authenticity should soon make The Startin’ LineUp a widely loved collective. It’s hard to not be engaged and pulling for a group that is so genuine and talented.
OFFICIAL LINKS: WEBSITE – INSTAGRAM @thestartinlineup – TWITTER @startinlineup1 – FACEBOOK: The Startin Lineup