How can I put this politely? I’m afraid I can’t. Dynamite Jive are an amateur rap act in every sense of the word. “Bagadope” sounds as if the last 15 years in hip-hop never happened. Or maybe that IS putting it politely. See, there’s a lot to like about this duo from Granada Hills, CA. As a male-female tag-team they represent a line-up that the industry for some reason has largely ignored. Since its release in April, they have been giving their third CD away for free, personally dropping copies off at The Sound Station in Pacoima and Backside Records in Burbank, hitting up street corners and night clubs in Hollywood, Downtown L.A. and Alhambra, and attending the Dub Car Show in Phoenix to hand out goodies and freebies. And you actually believe them when they confess, “It’s a pain to hand someone a CD and then say, ‘That’ll be $10.’ I would much rather hand them a CD and be like, ‘Take it, it’s free!'”
As they say, the best things in life are for free. According to our archive, there’s a lot of good stuff being made available for free these days. Not only does it seem to be a good way to regain some creative control, but also a good promotional tool. Dynamite Jive appears to be the kind of act that likes to perform live, so if free copies of “Bagadope” secure them more gigs, that could just be the way to go. And you can bet when they hit your town, they know what’s it called, unlike certain headliners. Add the fact that Dynamite Jive come across like ordinary folks with a genuine love for hip-hop and a positive outlook on life, and you have a likeable rap group that doesn’t need a promotion machinery behind them to tell us how bad they had it all their life to excuse music drenched in negativity.
However (and that’s a freakin’ huge however), since in 30 years of hip-hop certain standards have been established, a review simply has to size the product at hand (whether free or overpriced) up critically. Rapper/producer Tony J and rapper/singer Teemaree started to make music together in early ’01. They can look back on two full-lengths, “Nice to Meet You” and “Mutated.” Why is it then that Teemaree sounds like a rap puppet on a string? Her stiff delivery does have a certain old school charm, but only if you think of some suburbanite attempting to rap when it first became popular in the ’80s. Tony J, sporting a Run-D.M.C. t-shirt in the press kit (a certain way to gain my sympathy), is clearly the more experienced rapper, but still sounds like some Ugly Duckling prototype who hasn’t yet found the comfort zone of Andy C and Dizzy Dustin.
Tony and Teemaree refer to themselves as TNT, but there is frankly nothing explosive about Dynamite Jive. They sound and look ready to play children birthdays, but still curse during some songs, which, given the inoffensive nature of their whole act, is extremely irritating. Dynamite Jive’s utterly basic approach to hip-hop is especially exposed over sparse beats. “BlowinItUp” sounds like Potluck on a really bad day, with keyboards arbitrarily wandering around an anemic rhythm section. Even as the MC’s try their best to create chemistry by rhyming back and forth, it only further documents their lack of technical finesse. After this opener, you expect more bad things to happen, so the soppy “DoYouLuvMe?” comes as no surprise. The instrumentation is more complex with string-like samples and synths, but as a duet by a mixed rap duo it is the most predictable song imaginable, each member dispelling the other’s doubts with tokens of love.
“Hyper” is a sketchy throwback to the early ’90s, evident in both the beat (double bass and horns) and Tony’s opening Phife reference, which is followed by wordplay-loaded lines like “It’s Sirius business like satellite radio,” and “My label’s on top, you’ll never see me fail / cause I’m runnin’ _The Office_ like I’m Steve Carell.” Teemaree follows suit with “Not yet on MTV, but don’t think to test / cause on this bus I’m pickin’ and I’m callin’ _Next_.” She’s actually in danger of getting nexted herself, because too often this girl comes across like one of the contestants getting off the _Next_ bus delivering some scripted tongue-in-cheek comment in a stilted manner. Matter of fact, I’m tempted to say ‘Next!’ right now.
But wait, maybe when this dope’s out the bag, it’ll cling like a monkey to your back (said the next contestant). “4daBboys” is a well crafted instrumental with dashes of percussion, drum breaks and driving bass segments, later joined by selected melodic elements. It’s something you would mix into an afterhours set but not really a track to attract b-boys to the dancefloor. “Always,” a smooth jawn that is actually quite expertedly put together, has them both singing and rapping, with Teemaree as the lead. With “Summer Joint” Dynamite Jive fulfill their calling as a family-friendly rap act. Incorporating singing and real instruments (cheerful guitar strumming, subtle percussion). Teemaree sounds as if Princess Superstar suddenly decided to be a good girl while Tony J reminds everybody of the sunny side of Cali:
“You know I hold it down in any kind of weather
but I’m sure to pick it up when it’s May through September
Summer days are long and the time is right
because the sun ain’t goin’ down till it’s nighty-night
We got the whole day to just sit and chill
Eat up the good cookin’, so we get our fill
Barbeque is on high, and so is the mood; now
jump and take a dip in the pool if you gotta cool down
Kids are runnin’ ’round, we actin’ all silly
Bumpin’ Dynamite hits or songs by cousin Billy
My pops, sister, brother, we happily be
shakin’ up every branch on the family tree
Twist a little waist, dip a little hip
Pass out from too much food, nobody gonna trip
Cause see, this here happens every year
Grab your sunny day gear cause the skies are clear”
Continuing the good vibes, “O.S.G.” gets into an old school groove, which conceptually works well in regards to the female element when you recall old school crews like the Funky Four Plus One. A highlight are the snippets of tunes from back in the day, from “Rock Creek Park” to “Planet Rock.” If their memories are first-hand, these two have held it down for quite some time in the San Fernando Valley. They continue to do so, for instance on “Great-One-Eight,” repping the 818 with competent guests Hash and VI over a beat thumping proudly with distorted guitars and strong drums.
These more traditional offerings indicate the way to a commercially viable brand of hip-hop, as in a product that is worth your hard-earned cash. With “Bagadope” given away for free, that is less of an issue here, so rather than a potential customership, this review addresses the artists themselves. If they wanted to reach me, Dynamite Jive should stay away from experimental beats Ã la “Bagatheme: Hip Hop 4 U” and “It’s Worldwide!,” they should enrich their musical backdrops with more ingredients, they should continue to sing and keep their musical range broad, they should make their serious songs more serious, their fun songs more fun, and they should step up their skills by perfecting what they’re already good at. Oh and it wouldn’t hurt to check what competition is up to every once in a while.