Album Review: B.Dolan – Fallen House, Sunken City (2010)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Potholes
Buy: B.Dolan – Fallen House, Sunken City
Over the past 15 years rap music has been dominated by three styles: the gangsta/street rapper; the extravagant pop-hop club anthems; and the braggadocios battle rap emcee. The political or socially conscious rap, which was once at the forefront of the culture, has over the years, taken a serious back seat for a myriad of reasons. The invigorating depth and popularity with which PE and Cube once spoke, has become sort of a ostracized and niche form of rap, left to the musings of acts like Mos Def, Talib, Dead Prez and Immortal Technique. On Fallen House, Sunken City B.Dolan (a former Nuyorican Cafe/Def Poetry poet) adds his piece(s) to political rap music for better and worse.
Fallen House is B.Dolan’s second official full length and is entirely produced by Alias. Here B.Dolan navigates the ecology of our turbulent times by voicing his concern about the many economic, environmental and social struggles that directly affect the lives of ALL Americans. Whether addressing neoliberal market policies, vapid consumerism, reptilian conspiracy theories, or his own contradictions, B.Dolan not only possesses the lyrical dexterity, but knowledge to address such topics. The album’s opening song, “Leaving New York”, is the strongest. With militant marching drums, a guitar chop, and ominous industrial sound collaging, B.Dolan abstractly sketches various symbols and signs that have caused him to jet out of the city. The glitchy techno-hop of “Economy of Words (Bail Me Out)” is also a standout. Positing his personal experience within the grander system of Capitalism, B.Dolan speaks on contradictions and absurdities of such a system, while playing with the meaning of words within the song.
Yet, Fallen House, Sunken City suffers mainly from two things: the inability for B.Dolan to apply political theory to every day experiences effectively, and his own propensity to cram too many words into various bars and too many ideas into single songs. B.Dolan’s style, which sounds like new-era Project Blowdians meets Anticon, also seems to have an uneasy relationship to Alias’ synth-heavy boom-bap production. He too often seems to be trying to keep up, or out do the beats, even at times sounding as though he is falling off rhythm. “The Hunter”, “Marvin” and “Border Crossing” all just fade into the background with their similar sound and rambunctious rapping. This technical and aesthetic murkiness doesn’t make Fallen House a terrible listen, just a disengaging one… and the LAST thing political / socially conscious rap needs to be is disengaging.
With that said, the album ends on a very promising and strong note. “Body of Work” is a thrilling and captivating story of a sex worker unable to not only find love, but to have society recognize the value of her life. The song simultaneously shows the power of rap to frame marginalized issues properly, and that when B.Dolan grounds his ideas and controls his rap technique, he can be very effective. While Fallen House, Sunken City will more than likely get lost amongst the phantasmagoria of music shared, leaked and downloaded in 2010 due to its own limitations, it does contain a few songs worth our attention.