Unbeknownst to me before this review Offwhyte (born Ryan Fernandez) is one of the founding members of Galapagos4, and if there’s such a thing as still having “favorite indie labels” in 2016 I’d put G4 on my short list. So no pressure at all here – I’m just reviewing an album from a man who could easily put RR on the blacklist if he feels we were unfair in our coverage of “Dialogue.” Here goes nothing.
Let’s just open with a quick recitation of Offwhyte’s bio, which starts with him being born in Pell City, Alabama and eventually going to college at the University of Illinois in Chicago. That’s where he struck up a friendship with Jeff Kuglich which eventually led to Offwhyte dropping “Squints,” the second ever release on G4. His rap nom de plume is actually a bit of an inside joke and I’m going to spoil it for you – Fernandez is Filipino-American but his birth certificate reads “white” because apparently there were only two choices on the form in 1970’s Alabama. You might think that Offwhyte is politically motivated as a result, but that’s not the sole focus of “Dialogue,” an album that is shaped by his last decade living in Los Angeles. There are a few times it leaks through on songs like “Waterfront” though.
“Recreate the painstaking memory like
jailbreaking your soul, beyond control
Forged by the love of a people as a whole
that’s crafted on the strength, what the eff you think?
My ancestors spilled blood, so I spill ink from the pen
under the premise that we gonna win”
Oddly enough given that last paragraph the entire album was produced by Connecticut based producer Open I, which means “Dialogue” is actually a bi-coastal collaboration bringing the East and West together. There’s a general lightness that comes from their partnership that’s pleasant to the ear on tracks like “Stealing Home.” It’s not a naivete at all nor is it a denial of the horrors of the world, it’s just the general feeling that “Dialogue” is an escape from today’s problems rather than an opportunity to dwell on them. Then again guest rapper Candle could be saying some serious s–t and I wouldn’t know it because we don’t speak the same language – but he’s flowing on the beat and it sounds pretty fresh to me.
Offwhyte lets his heart show on tracks like “At Sunset,” where he’s clearly talking about someone he had great affection for, noting, “I still say your name four times a day.” Even though there’s an air of heartbreak, there’s also an air of critical detail when he talks about smelling the sea salt in the air, and it’s those small but important things that make an average song better. “Even though we sun drenched baby it’s obvious/ain’t no solvin this/we apart in this.” Ah man – I feel for you Ryan. There’s not a lot of headnod boom bap for the entirety of “Dialogue” but the moments like “People Love a Show” and “Hunger” are appreciated that much more as a result. “Dialogue” is well balanced and easy to consume at only 33 minutes long, and despite my ominous foreboding at the beginning I don’t feel pressured at all at the end. I’d like to hear more from Mr. Fernandez.