This album is a perfect example of how narrow niche a rap release can be. Let’s accept that rap (or if you prefer hip-hop) music is a subset of the larger field of music as a whole. Then let’s accept that underground (or if you prefer indie) rap is a subset of that set. Then let’s accept that instrumentalist or turntablist albums are a subset of that subset. At each turn you are more narrowly constraining the potential target audience who will be interested in that release. At some point you’d almost have to own the record label or print the album yourself, because if you invest a lot of effort into something that only sells 10,000 copies and you’re signed to a major, you already lost your ass on whatever advance they gave you and marketing they recouped. You might even owe THEM money.
Thankfully Mr. Dibbs released “The 30th Song” through Rhymesayers Entertainment. They’re not wholly innocent in their quest to turn a profit (no one in the capitalistic music industry is) but their reputation is better than most labels, indie and major alike. Their name on a project is almost equivalent to a seal of approval for underground rap, which in turn means they’re more selective about what they will release, solely to keep up that reputation to the fanbase. Mr. Dibbs was certainly a good fit for them and vice versa. The Cincinnati deejay and producer was one of the founders of Scribble Jam, as well as being a founder of the 1200 Hobos collective. They’re like the X-Ecutioners of the Midwest, although dropping a reference like that in this review is arguably insular itself.
At first I thought “Redout Brick Hemmorage 3.5” might have been flipping the same Transformers sample as 7L & Esoteric’s “Be Alert,” but given the fact that the duo are referenced in a mock voice mail in the outro, I think it’s more likely Dibbs just decided to flip their actual single on the 1’s & 2’s. That’s fine by me because it’s dope twice over. You can also hear him doing a live set in Nashville on the very extended track “Orange Prophecy” if you want to know his skills aren’t just studio based.
You can’t refer to anything on “The 30th Song” as a single. I can’t picture anything that would have been released as a single from it or would’ve been marketed as one from it. In fact the only “rap” as such would be with fellow Rhymesayers artist Slug of Atmosphere fame on “Thrice” and it sounds like a freestyle recorded over the phone. That lo-fi quality makes it more interesting but that’s not a jam that you love that would ever get any airplay. Even an underground college rap radio show might think twice because someone would suspect the station’s reception is fading out while listening.
So if it wasn’t already clear at this point, Mr. Dibbs has produced an album with an incredibly small window of marketability. If you don’t like underground instrumental turntablist rap then there’s no chance songs like “Judeas Transmission” are for you. If on the other hand a Rhymesayers release tends to be in your wheelhouse to begin with, a song like this checks all the boxes. The multiple layers of samples, the way Dibbs juggles the records, the tonal shifts and switches, it’s a one man showcase of skill. It feels like a “Deltron 3030” instrumental/skit in all the right ways.
So who is “The 30th Song” for? Probably you if you’ve already read this far. It’s probably self-serving to say we dig deeper than the surface, but in our 10,000+ reviews there’s no shortage of rap albums from the most mainstream to tapes sold by hand out of car trunks. Rhymesayers is far closer to a corporate juggernaut than a car boot, but they’ve still maintained that “rugged DIY” feel through the decades, and I think it’s fair to conclude that Mr. Dibbs would have made his money back and then some putting out a showcase of his talents through them. If turntablism is your jam “The 30th Song” doesn’t disappoint.