Being a music journalist is a funny profession- I have to concede that the job presents an opportunity to discover artists I would never have heard of otherwise. While the quality of said releases tend to fluctuate between absolutely dreadful and sublime, I can’t even front on the concept of having obscure releases delivered to my doorstep. Not only does this make me too cool for school (in my own mind, at least) amidst less-informed mortals, it also presents me with a chance to catapult independent artists from commercial oblivion into the minds of rap mavens (I hope so, at least). Of course, with this great responsibility comes a considerable stigma- as an independent artist myself I am obligated to do justice to indie talent with reasonable, objective write-ups, if only for the sake of karma. What happens, then, when an album sits wedged firmly between dope and wack? An album that is a thoroughly pleasant experience, but arouses absolutely no visceral reaction, a thorn in my agenda to push every well-intentioned indie artist that comes my way. D.One’s solo debut is such an album, a record that is far from repulsive, but conversely has no enduring value.
Everything on this album is well-performed and decently-written- D.One’s talent as an emcee is apparent as his structures and meticulous delivery exhibit considerable competence. Additionally, he peddles a nice range of battle-ready cipher burners and substantial, relevant content (on “Lost Thoughts”, the strongest track offered here). The production is straight- from the Primo-mimicking vocal scratches on the ravenous, key-driven “Recognize The Realness” to the Scott Storch-lite strings on “This Song” to the percolating, throbbing bass on “Headshots” (featuring Lace Payne, who contributes a blazing Kool G Rap-ish verse, the strongest on this record).
Also commendable is a great spoken word interlude, “Reflection”, an intensely personal and impeccably executed acapella that showcases a host of D.One’s burgeoning anxieties. To his credit, this record is very listenable- the hooks are perfectly kosher, none of the beats are fast forward material, and D.One is adventurous enough to experiment with a broad range of bpms (the haunting string-driven crunk excursion “Watch Ya Bitch” reminds one of Punch & Words’ “I-95”) and flows is certainly laudable. However, this record lacks the immediacy or charisma to beg a second listen- D.One’s intelligence shimmers throughout the recording, but he simply doesn’t have the charm to properly frame his insight and depth, employing a delivery that is technically accomplished, but hopelessly pedestrian.
To be fair, there is nothing inherently wrong with this release- it has a lot of good ideas, well-placed intentions and confident, professional execution, all traits that elude many of D.One’s subterranean peers. However, nothing on this album seizes you by the jugular, the tracks bang, but never quite reach car-accident-in-waiting status. The vocal execution oozes with technical polish, but is far too bland for one to be notable, clearly a shame as D.One’s M.O. to inject some relevant prose into the lifeless, exhumed corpse of battle rap is worthy of much applause. Ultimately, this is a decent release that features all the ingredients of a dope rap record, but they eventually prove to be indistinct and drab, unadorned by the piquancy and pizzazz that would distinguish them, and D.One, from the hordes of independent artists plying their trade. The record feels too safe, blunting and betraying D.One’s evocative content. I’ll look out for dude from now on, though.