Good evening, boys and girls. I hope everyone had an enjoyable Labor Day holiday for those of you lucky enough to have the three days off. Yes, I kind of took my own break from the blog. I’ve been kind of uninspired, unmotivated, and undisciplined lately and just figured I wasn’t going to fuck around with this a whole lot. I did have these reviews done on Saturday, but I figured I’d wait until after the holiday to give them their just due. One thing I’ve learned in almost two years of blogging, holiday weekends play havoc on your guest numbers.
As I set here munching down on my shrimp scampi (those Bird’s Eye meals in a bags are the bomb), I can’t say I’m “rejuvenated”, but I think we have a full slate of things coming up this week (thanks to Chris for tossing up a post today). There are some reviews coming up, Eric (WTR) & I have something up our sleeves as he’s already mentioned. It’s something that should make for humorous and beneficial reading as the up & comer blogger (shit I think he is at the pinnacle for this shit now) and the over the hill blogger team up to bring you….well you just have to wait and see. I also have some HUGE projects in the future, one is a guest post that will be the guest posts of all guest posts (at least for that week….What do you mean you don’t recognize me? I’m only the most famous guest blogger on your blog this week?). I also have a series that I’ve been working on for-freaking-ever that I’ve realized that I’m not going to be able to pull off by myself, so I’m in the process of getting the right people to help out…some behind the scenes contributors if you will. We’ll see how it works. It could rival my “Where Are They Now” series or it could be a huge flop.
To Send Material for Review Considerations: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Time for more WYDU Reviews. When I started off doing this, I was hoping to get some material sent to me from A&R’s, labels, artists, whomever . For one reason, well, of course it’s cool to get free stuff, I ain’t lying. But the main reason, I wanted to review stuff that I might not normally give a listen to. My past review efforts, as said before, was stuff that I liked and was comfortable with. With stuff getting sent to me, it forces me sit down and objectively judge something that I might not have originally gave the time of day to. I have received some material, which I’m currently working my way through. I knew when I opened myself up to this, I might be in line to get some of those crappy, thrown together myspace albums, and then when I said they sucked, I was going to get the “mad critic” label. So be it, I’m not doing this to make money (at least not yet….haha).
So when I got the email from the camp of Dahlak Brathwaite, or simply Dahlak, someone with whom I was unfamiliar with, many preconceived notions came into play. I think the first thing I noticed is that the artist is from the Bay Area. “Oh great, some hyphy bullshit”, was probably the first thing that came into my mind. Then after reading Dahlak’s (not to be confused with the NJ artist, Dalek) press release, I noticed he was a fairly well known, meaning a national champion, slam poet, who has been on two seasons of Def Poetry Jam. I can appreciate spoken word and slam poetry, but from my experience, poets who try to cross over to a hip-hop MC usually don’t do it with great results. Another strike. But this is what I wanted, so I agreed to give the album a listen. I’m glad I did.
Here is the press release from ThisIsDahlak.com:
There are those rare and unique experiences in our lives when we are fortunate enough to witness a talent so undeniable the inspiration will never let us forget it. Dahlak Brathwaite embodies one of those unforgettable moments. With an intense and remarkable presence in the arenas of poetry, hip-hop, and theater, Dahlak moves his audience to remember his name. When Dahlak’s performance at the filming for the fifth season of HBO’S Def Poetry Jam in 2005 was followed by three standing ovations, it was apparent that the world of spoken word had just discovered a new force to be reckoned with. Seasoned with two Bay Area poetry slam championships and national slam championship, Dahlak proves that his name carries the impact to leave an imprint in history. His witty punchlines and heartfelt social commentary have awed crowds of all platforms, his presence unmistakably passionate and breathtaking whether on the mic or on the stage.
Dahlak is a member of internationally acclaimed spoken word collective, iLL-Literacy, and has shared the stage with such artists as Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Last Poets, KRS-One, Afrika Bambataa, and Saul Williams. In 2006, he received a second invitation to perform for the 6th Season of Def Poetry Jam, reminding us once again of the extraordinary power and charisma that makes him one of the most memorable artists of his generation.
A multi-disciplinary artist armed with a triple threat, Dahlak not only captivates listeners in the poetry scene, but also extends his talents as an actor and emcee in the realms of theater and hip-hop. While performing with iLL-Literacy, he also tours internationally with renowned Broadway veteran Marc Bamuthi Joseph as a cast member of the Scourge theater company. This year, Dahlak will have hit cities in Belgium, Netherlands, and South Africa, presenting his unquestionable stage magnetism to audiences worldwide. Dahlak’s debut solo album, Dual Consciousness, is rapidly catching fire, instantly gaining momentum as one of the most anticipated albums in the independent music scene. Only a week after its launch on global music forum MP3.com, Dahlak’s album skyrocketed to number two on the charts, proving once again his undeniably recognizable talent.
It is truly an exceptional experience when we are able to watch a phenomenon grow and rise into a legacy. Dahlak Brathwaite is a legacy in the making, a name we will all recognize and remember, his influence and inspiration both striking and long lasting. Watch him world, this is only the beginning.
Dahlak – Dual Consciousness (Ill-literacy, 2007)
Rating: 3.5 out 5
The album leads off with the more laid back vibe that I feel that Dahlak is better suited for, “Move” is a great way to lead off an album with soft, subtle piano stabs and a synth bass line underlying the chorus gives it that edgy, yet smooth vibe that represents Dahlak at his strongest. “Move” jumps into the second track which is in the same vibe as the opening track. “My Baby”, an ode to that special female in his life could be labeled in the Neo-Soul spectrum on the Hip-Hop world, but fits in well with what the listener just heard. By this time, we start learning that Dahlak uses his poetry skills to a good use as he drops some very good rhymes and his flow is one of the better flows I’ve heard from a new artist in a while. Very flawless and effortless. There is a R&B crooner on the chorus, which probably would have bugged the fuck out of me in the past, but when done well, like this is, I can appreciate a good sung chorus.
After a humorous spoken word bit on clubs, we go back into what Dahlak does best. “Where You At (Oakland To Sactown), its a beautiful joint giving love to his hometown, Sacramento. The chorus contains well placed Tupac and Dr. Dre samples (I’m sure you can guess from where) and the strings and a groovy organ like sample leads off a lovely track that almost reminds one of a Souls Of Mischief type track. It seems that Dahlak changes his vocal tone up that doesn’t work as well, but nothing to misstepping the song also features and MC named 5th Avenue that doesn’t quite seem to be in the same ballpark as Dahlak. The song though, is a great example of Dahlak at doing what works best for him, something in between the neo-soul like joints and the clubs joints.
“Self Destruction”, the albums next track, suffers from a somewhat cliched beat, with sped up chimpmunk sample and hand claps, but that doesn’t matter because it’s Dahlaks topic that caught my attention, drinking, money, women, the evils that tempt all men. The song spoke to me more than the others on a personal level. Dahlak gets the listener sucked into his lyrics that is almost reminiscent of an early Mos Def. “Coincidence” is another track that is more is more of a spot light for Dahlaks voice. The track is the “harder” track that I was saying earlier that Dahlak could pull off with the right track. The track has a hard guitar backing laying behind Dahlaks the harder edge of Dahlaks lyrics which he drops knowledge on the state of the country
and the path we heading down, which almost reminds you of a Black Panther on the mic. Great song.
By now, I’ve noticed that a producer by the name of Ben Rosen is responsible for a lot of the tracks, most of them which are pretty fly. The best beats on the album come in the form of the next two songs. “All N—-s” is a track in which the beat kind of steals the show, at least for me. Some interesting strings and horn/keyboard samples caught my attention and had me concentrating more on the beat than Dahlak’s message, which is just as important as he continues his feelings on the social ills facing the country. The next to last song “Everything Okay” is possibly one of my favorite songs I’ve heard this year. From the first ten seconds when an incredible guitar sample kicks in, I was hooked. It’s amazing how one element in a song can make someone fall in love with a song, but this did it for me. Very mellow and soothing, the track is rather simple, focusing on that one sample with some hand claps and a muted guitar sound behind the main beat. It’s just a beautiful song that is in the “Gone ’til November” type shit, minus the drug dealing tales. Dahlak apologizes to his love for his extreme hustle that he is on. The chorus also adds to t
he song. Another sing-a-long type chorus, this one works that had me singing along with it. I seriously played this song over and over the first night I sat down to listen to the album. Great song. This follows into the last song of the album, which is well placed. At first I wasn’t feeling this track, but it grew on me. It’s not incredible, as the R&B type chorus and the chorus itself teeter on the verge of corniness, but Dahlak saves the track with some heart felt lyrics that once again showcases his skills and shows why he is better suited for the smooth, mellow vibes.
It seems that more and more, new artists want to cover all the spectrum of the hip hop genre on their first album. I can see where they might see this as beneficial, but for a medicore skilled MC, it might just make for a jumbled album with no clear direction or theme. Dahlak thankfully is a strong enough and interesting enough MC, that he doesn’t have to worry about this pitfall of young artists on the up & coming. The album overall is very good listen and thoroughly enjoyable, and I think with some better executive production that steer Dahlak toward his strong points, he could be making some noise in the foreseeable future with his music…or his acting….or his spoken word. The talent is there.
As we all know, my love lies within the past of hip hop (one of those “Golden Age Cats). Call me old fashioned or just plain old, but give me a lost classic or unknown jewel from the golden age anytime over any new album. But let’s face it, most of you know all the old classics. Why would you want to come here and read my take on an album that has been reviewed at nausea a million times over? Nah, thats no fun. In conjunction with Bust The Facts, I’ll do a review on something that has been posted on possibly the greatest blog that has ever existed. The only knock I’ve heard against BTF is that they don’t do write ups of their albums. Obviously, even I don’t have a clue what some of the stuff that the good man Dread uploads, but I’ve downloaded quite a bit since the conception of the blog, some stuff which I could see some people skipping over if they hadn’t heard of it before. I’m here to steer you in the right direction in case you went down the wrong fork in the road. That’s what I’m here for. You can thank me later. (thanks to Dread for the Graphics)
Jus Def/X-Town Posse – Vocal Full Contact (SEC Records, 1990)
Release Date: Nov 27, 1990
Some albums forge a new sound, they are the ground breakers and supply a new sound to the music. Albums such as “It Takes A Nation Of Millions..”, “The Chronic”, and “Paid In Full” changed the game, they changed how albums were made. Other albums follow those blueprints and rarely stray off the beaten path. Some albums are straight up carbon copies of the originals, never adding their own twists on things, not adding their own “flavor” to the pot. Other albums, such as “Vocal Full Contact” from Jus Def/X-Town Posse follow the blueprint well and add enough to the mix to make the album enjoyable and listenable, without thinking you hearing another version of “Criminal Minded”.
The album leads off with possibly my favorite cut, “I’m In Control”. I’ve always been a sucka for the “Apache” loop, which the cut employs as its driving factor along with some “air raid” sirens. Its your basic braggadocio rhymes from the time period. The MC, Double X (who also did the production) doesn’t bring anything different to the table lyrically, but he does what he does well on the track. There is even one of those DJ guys that makes the squiggy squiggy sounds.
One thing this album has going for it is it switches up topics through out the album. Another stand out track is “Drug Dealers Point & View” which again, covers nothing ground breaking, but the dark track that backs Jus Def’s story about a drug dealer on the dark streets is mood setting and quite nice. “Love To Luv U” switches gears again, this time speaking on the L-O-V-E tip, but this time in kind of a different way than some of the syrupy R&B joints that were coming out. There is no sappy R&B singer doing the chorus, that is handled by a pretty dope Donna Summer sample. “Mind Games” is another “scorn love song”, but is handled rather well. I would consider the beat in the cream of the crop during the time period.
With many strong points on the album, there isn’t a lot to criticize. As mentioned, there is nothing “new” with the album when comparing it to the time period it came out. Sometimes it gets just too “cliche”. “Situation Critical” suffers from too common samples from the time period (one I can’t think of right now, but heard a million times) as well as an appereance from “The 800 Number” on the hook. “Wake Me When It’s Over” is the overly popular attempt at the rasta influenced track at the time. It was done waaaay too much at the time and pretty much always sounded out of place on an album. “Warpath” brings in the “Apache” sample in YET again, and as much as I like the sample, I don’t need to hear it twice on one album.
I think it’s unfortunate that this was the only album from Jus Def/X-Town Posse. They showed a lot of potential, especially Double X on the boards. They had some backing in the New York scene as Kid Capri makes an apperance as well on “Funky On The Freestyle” which is kind of a bad attempt at New Jack Swing, although it does show Double X’s greatest diversity as an MC. The album wasn’t ground breaking, but some good albums in Hip-Hop’s history haven’t been “ground breaking” they’ve just been solid albums that make for a fun/good listen. Hit up Bust The Facts and give this a spin for a little east coast nostalgia.