Piece of Mind, the Toronto-based group consisting of emcee G-Roc Gayle, deejay/producer Gedsi, and graphic designer Yuro Jay, release their debut this fall. Admittedly fans of early ‘90s NYC hip hop like Gang Starr, Brand Nubian, and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, they aren’t looking to re-invent the wheel with their first album. Instead, it’s just classic soul-based hip hop production and lyricism, and they do it well.

Both G-Roc and Gedsi are very solid with their respective skill sets, and they have a really good chemistry together, which makes the grooves on the album feel really natural and effortless. A lot of the subject matter that G-Roc covers is deeply concerned with hip hop culture, i.e. rap skills, graffiti, and crate digging, making this record a prime candidate to be a favorite amongst older hip hop heads. There are a couple of moments when Gedsi lets some samples play too long at the beginning and ends of songs, the biggest slipup being the Gobots samples at the end of “The Gobot,” which then leads into an excessively long and cheesy educational song that’s played leading up to the song “Read.” These few moments stick out because his production is so tight otherwise, and it really just takes away from the moments where we could be enjoying some smart and fun hip hop. My personal favorite track on the album is “Strive,” an easy going, introspective song about the struggle for self improvement. “Those Were The Days,” features Gedsi’s most inventive production work, features a chopped up sample of “Tom’s Diner” completely repurposed into a new riff to flavor G-Roc’s nostalgic rhymes. “Graffiti” features Gedsi’s best use of vocal samples as he places some really good recordings of various people discussing the art of graffiti throughout the song. “You Dig?” features a great chorus in which a group of men all declare, “Vinyl - we love you!” For all the self-reflective songs about hip hop, there aren’t nearly enough about the joy of digging for records.

Sometimes you don’t need an album to blow you away - this one is just very good and enjoyable, without a lot of pretension. Piece of Mind are simply a group that loves hip hop, particularly the era of NYC hip hop in the early ‘90s (can you blame them?), and have made a record that successfully channels those elements, yet allows them to form their own identity. They have great chemistry and a great feel for the groove, and the record grew on me with each listen.