Grieves is creatively idling on Winter & the Wolves. He's less the somber-yet-curious-about-the-world MC who showed up on Irreversible, 88 Keys & Counting, and Together/Apart, and his longtime musical partner/producer Budo is busy with other projects and absent this go-round. Though Grieves has proven to be a capable producer/locator of beats in the past, the ones he's created with new producer B. Lewis aren't the stand-alone successes we've come to expect.

As a lyricist, he's not quite the introspective fast-lifer he was the last few times out—though he's still very witty in short bursts, his well of subject matter is less deep and less relatable. "The love-song rapper is back," he half-jokes on decent opener "Rain Damage," but it's a statement that rings true here. Almost every song on Wolves dwells on past relationships gone wrong, which isn't the worst thing in the world to rap about, but his vagueness puts distance between him and the listener.

Two points that shake this trend are "Serpents," a song with great concrete imagery that utilizes his sing-rapping talents, and "Like Child," an example of the kind of poetic storytelling that he's capable of doing so well...

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