Dave Dub - The Treatment
Stones Throw: 2012
Since the early 90s’, Dave Dub, the San Jose-native has apparently spent his time sharing bills with stoner rock groups, playing in punk bands and passing his time in Jamaica before returning, ahem, “secretly”, to his country of origin. The fact that he is no longer a young buck, however, hasn’t prevented his long time coming debut on the wider scene (Stones Throw) from feeling incredibly fresh.
With The Treatment, Dub and his producer Tape Mastah Steph have crafted a record that sounds remarkably of its time given its consciously old school production values. Though it is hip-hop through and through, Dave’s moniker doesn’t feel off the mark at all–all the way through, the music on the album channels the darkness, drone and commitment to atmospherics of a good dub record. The album’s real touchstones, though, are some of the classics of the East Coast underground rap scene: the murky bass-led sound of early Boot Camp Clik records and more than anything else, the rugged minimalism of Company Flow’s classic Funcrusher Plus.
This is most clearly evidenced in the stellar production of Tape Mastah Steph. The album’s most startling moments come together as exercises in avant-garde darkness: the lengthy “The Tribulation” and “Domination” are both elongated, brilliantly jarring examples of hip-hop abstraction. The beats change-up, drop out and reappear in new forms almost at will, all while Dave Dub rather masterfully flits or stomps atop them as he sees fit. Even better, the title track (and overall standout) condenses this experimental bent into the context of a more traditional rap track, and the results sound like a lost late ’90s Rawkus classic, (in the best possible way). Elsewhere, the production manages to stand on its own without raps on the album’s instrumental tracks: the militaristic brass and falling piano of “The Day of Reckoning”, along with the warped strings and shards of noise on “The Space Nigga” sound positively cinematic and, in a melancholy, eerie sort of way, quite beautiful. Even at its most straightforward and funkiest, the album maintains a cold, grimy quality, the likes of “Daring a Ruler”, “Planet Rhyme” and exemplary opening track “Super Fly” demonstrating that even amongst all the chilling atmospherics, Dub and Steph still know how to craft a fat loop.
If it seems a little strange to get this deep into a review of a rap record without too much mention of the rapper, know that it isn’t because there is anything wrong with what’s on display: it just isn’t the most immediately striking thing about the release. Dub is a more than capable spitter though: he may at first seem a little utilitarian, but that’s before you pick up on the flourishes that garnish his flow: more than once he nimbly allows his syllables to just tumble out, all while maintaining a remarkable neatness, sounding almost like E-40. Dude can get lyrical, too: much of what’s on offer here is nicely worded battle rap fare, but you’re guaranteed to catch snatches of more abstract, philosophical thought, like the decrying of the slavery to image on “As They Worship”. Really though, these elements are difficult to pick apart: with this sort of low key, dark hearted record, you’re probably best just zoning out and settling in to what should turn out to be an extremely rewarding, immersive listen.