Sunday, June 26, 2011

Think Of This as a Master Ace and Asher Roth Album Produced Entirely By DJ Premier

So, if you've read some of my recent write-ups on albums by One Block Radius and Pissed Off Wild, you're probably thinking you can anticipate my thoughts on 13 & God's brand new album, Own Your Ghost.  Werner just hates rappers joining forces with bands!  And honestly, that's not a bad rule of thumb.

After all, let's face it: you're a rap producer, digging for samples or playing around in pro-tools, and it occurs to you, "hey, my little brother plays drums!  That fan I met at my show said he plays guitar!  Why am I sitting here making beats this way when I can have my own, live musical ensemble?"  But here's the thing - is your fan really going to come up with a loop tighter "Nautilus?"  Is your little brother gonna bash out out something tighter than "Funky Drummer?"  Probably not.  Instead, you're probably going to wind up rhyming with a half-assed garage band that wouldn't even be getting gigs at your local bar without your hip-hop co-sign.  There's a bajillion mediocre to terrible rappers out there, so when we find one with some real talent and stand-out quality, it's exciting... and disappointing when they keep passing the microphone back to some inferior collaborator for half their songs.  I'd probably love a dope MC rhyming with The J.B.'s, but most rappers seem to be going for the bands in shortest reach, not auditioning for the best in the world.

And I said all that just to say, I actually don't feel that way about 13 & God.  This is one of those instances where the band and the MC are both talented and interesting enough to deserve our attention, and the music of The Notwist (the part of 13 & God that isn't Themselves) are a really good fit for Dose.  This doesn't feel like Dose compromised or "find the good Dose contributions amid a sea of substandard music."  This is original and compelling work from the whole crew (the fact that Jel is still involves has to be a large part of how it all manages to work, I'm sure).

But, unfortunately, there is one large caveat.  Marcus Archer, the lead singer of Fog and the other vocalist of 13 & God.  I admit, when they've all got the lyrics, the music and the groove working 100% just right, like on the chorus to "Men Of Station," he can sound fine.  But otherwise, I'm not trying to make the guy feel bad or anything, but I just don't think he should be singing.  He works in that one instance where literally anybody - your grandmother, even - would sound good singing that segment, and that's it.  He's not even a good hook man, let alone somebody who should be singing whole verses and taking songs on solo.

As such, and as will always be the case I suppose with 13 & God releases, you're going to find yourself skipping the Marcus parts.  And, unfortunately, the Marcus-to-Dose ratio is pretty heavy on the Marcus this time around.  So if you're not in a situation where you can easily skip around songs and parts of songs while listening to your music, you'll just wind up having to listen to something else.  Which is a shame, because when they're cooking, like on "Sure As Debt" or "Death Major," they kick ass.

The vinyl presentation is pretty kick ass, too.  It's a single LP, but that's alright since it's kind of a short album anyway, and comes in a cool picture cover.  It comes with a fold-out insert with all the lyrics and some additional artwork (printed lyrics are always welcome, but especially on any project that Dose One raps on!), and also a download card for a free mp3 version of this album.  Anticon continues to get that right.  =)

So, think of this as a Master Ace and Asher Roth album produced entirely by DJ Premier.  The one MC is great, and the musical backing is safely on point.  Does the other vocalist keep you away?  Your answer to that question will determine whether or not this album is for you.  If it helps you decide, there are one or two songs which are essentially Dose solo songs.  For my part, I'm quite happy with the purchase.

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