As far as technical ability goes, 22-year-old Donnovan Malik Blocker aka Dyme-A-Duzin is a very good rapper. He knows how to ride a beat and when to back off to let the backdrop do its thing; he understands where to best put words, rhymes and ad-libs. He’s also got a great ear for melody and some talented friends at his disposal. A repertoire like this should add up to straight fire, and it usually does. But the problem with his latest effort, Hip Hope, is that he doesn’t always use these assets to the best of his abilities, and it results in an almost-great project settling for unspectacularly good.
Like fellow New York upstarts and collaborators phony ppl. and Pro Era, Dyme-A-Duzin has found a niche in todays rap game by revitalizing the classic NY sound, albeit with a more upbeat and jazzy twist. His style is a snug fit for this approach, but it can tend to lead to some unfortunate choices in beat selection. The first few tracks (“The Real Swank,” “Triple Darkness,” “White Girl”) make great use of soulful samples during the hooks, but choose to forgo said soul for a more gritty beat during the verses, which makes the harder energy feel like a tough match. Once the rough opening acts clear out of the way though, Hip Hope falls into a slower, more stable rhythm. The tracks ease up and open up, focusing more on melodies and song architecture, less on mic skills.
It works well: When given a little room to maneuver, Dyme’s got a decent voice and a knack for catchy lines. Starting with “My Single,” the tape goes on a strong streak of laid-back grooves and Drake-esque hooks. The sensitive subject matter within these cuts bring out the best in Duzin’s already emotive voice and the best in his production choices. The biggest name on the boards here, Thelonius Martin, brings his A-game, providing the album’s highest point with “Put It Down.” The groovy island guitar and track-topping, low-key choir make it a perfect track for late nights, and another check on the long list of why Martin is one of Potholes’ favorite young producers.
Dyme’s a clever MC with some solid, if sometimes cheesy bars. Throughout, he raps with a confident flow, not too far removed from a post Reasonable Doubt Jay Z. While it can suit the slower motifs of the latter half of the album, on the self-aggrandizing beginning it comes bagged with a certain weight. His cadence and inflection reflect the attitude of someone who’s been in the game long enough to know their position in its lexicon and at times, Dyme comes off slightly disillusioned. Obviously, unlike Hov, Dyme’s timeless place as rap royalty isn’t there, and might not ever be. Confidence is key in rap, but hearing him whine about his contemporaries failing to pay homage and biting his style so early in his young career crosses the line from pride to conceit. When he cools down and talks about something other than himself, specifically the fairer sex, he exhibits his true potential.
Blocker’s still young and has some maturing to do as an artist and with that means making a few mistakes. If those mistakes mean him learning what’s best for him, so be it. As it is, Hip Hope is a flawed record abundant in promise. There is hope (a lot of it) for him yet.
3 out of 5
You can download Hip Hope here.