Ridiculing Canadians seems to be one of America's favorite past times. Though I am not aware of how or why Canadians have become the butt of so many jokes, I do know that shows like Southpark will make sure that the tradition stays alive. Even Hip-Hop tends to look down on Canadian rap acts, dismissing them for the most part. Aside from a few acts, such as Kardinal Offishall, and Hip-Hop's embracement of Canadian model chicks (Melyssa Ford comes to mind), Canada remains ignored in the rap game. This has understandably caused great frustration for many a Canadian rap act who can't understand why they have to put in twice the work to get respected in the U.S. While I do believe Canada is slept on in a major way, I tend to side with the Americans on this issue. Though it may seem snobbish to those on the outside, Hip-Hop's attitude towards foreigners is justified. As much as Hip-Hop is seen as a universal form of music, its origins were the product of a very unique social environment. The angst and frustration of a society forgotten by mainstream America led to the creation of Hip-Hop and to this day rap music remains the main voice for America's disenfranchised. With Hip-Hop holding such an important place in so many people's lives, it's only natural for them to be protective of it and try to make sure that it's done right. With that said, DL Incognito is a Canadian emcee/producer who does hip-hop and does it right. Not only does DL Incognito make hip-hop good enough to get America's nod of approval, he does it well enough to put most of his American counterparts to shame.
With "Life's a Collection of Experiences," DL Incognito is out to prove that it doesn't matter where you reside, as long as you have talent and something to say you can make good hip-hop. Whether it's on the mic or behind the boards, DL consistently creates dope, though-provoking, and universal music. It's actually odd to hear DL embrace himself as an underground rapper and a backpacker, as many of his songs contain a sincerity and realness that many people can relate to.
DL's production alone would garner praise. A self-professed crate-digger, DL shows us that the old school approach to production still works wonders even in an era where technology reigns. It's difficult to pinpoint standout tracks when every song is equally satisfying. The driving piano sample on "Proof" is the perfect way to jumpstart the album with some energy. "Fall Back" features an intricate mix of piano and string samples. "Me and My DJ" sounds straight old school with DJ Premier-influenced approach to the production and the hook. The trumpet sample on "Fully Armored" is the perfect centerpiece for DL's lyrical anthem.
DL doesn't stop with dope production as he makes sure his lyrics match his potent beats. Despite his struggles and frustrations, DL's album is as uplifting and positive as they come without sounding cheesy or preachy. On "Proof" he spits:
"Can you truly know the deal? Recognize how I feel
They say you gots to chill, but I did and I'm still
Regardless how ill, I play the backburner
Been hot for a minute now, the numbers are like murder
I waited for my turn like a street sign, watched niggas pass by like the pharcyde
Still no shit signed, I got lyrics man I know I can rhyme
I'm divine like the temples of islam
I'm saying this time I get the proper intro black
He's back, carry rap like an Eastpak
Drink cognac nigga if it burns you learn, its like music sometimes you get burned to earn
I want the green like fern, determined like sperm
Nine months and the speakers give birth, to a healthy 33 and a 1/3
Round em up like herds, ship to Djs all over the earth
We self reliant, the last of a few like zion
Gotta bond with our listeners like the Giants
I don't believe in the formula, I'm not compliant, (nope)"
Other noteworthy tracks include "ANR" and "The Ending. On "ANR" DL relates the struggles of trying to balance artistic integrity with record sales and the frustration of dealing with major labels. "The Ending" is an extension of the intro track, "The Beginning," and finds DL pouring his soul into the track and giving a fitting tribute to his mother. These three tracks are really not superior to any other track on the album but are only noted to give you an idea of what DL is about, the rest of the CD maintains an equally high quality level.
At the end of the day it doesn't matter whether DL Incognito is from Canada, Antartica, or Planet Beldar. "Life's A Collection of Experiences" is good music for one and all, regardless of geographic location. DL's perspective and attitude in approaching life is commendable and translates perfectly to wax. "Life's a Collection of Experiences" will uplift you if you're down, get you off your ass if you're feeling complacent, and make you appreciate what you have if you're happy. Regardless of where they were compiled, DL's collection of experiences has created an outstanding album with universal appeal.
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: March 29, 2005