Adam Drucker is the least likely of all possible pop stars. Under the moniker Doseone, he’s best known in the world of “underground hip-hop” (if that even means anything anymore). In fact, as co-founder of the hip-hop label Anticon, he has helped to found some of these leftfield groups in the first place. He’s a weird prospect. Sometimes his hip-hop is all obtusely poetic and wildly unsellable, and sometimes his hip-hop sounds just about normal enough for you to feel comfortable banging your head to it. Either way, his signature style – delivering anxiously, perplexing lyrics over frazzled breakbeats – continues on G Is For Deep, his first “proper” solo outing for some years. However, G Is For Deep drops the grubby glow of the DIY purism, and nostalgia for hip-hop’s Golden Era, exhibited in his early work. In its place, Doseone goes for a rather eccentric, worrying take on synth-pop – he moans, intones and whines like a clinically depressed barbershop singer all over squelchy, oddly shaven beats and clipped, choppy synths. And somehow, just somehow, it sounds seriously funky.
There are moments on G Is For Deep where Doseone indulges in things like accessible melodies and banging beats. Well, kind of; they’re accessible in the same way as, say, Neptune. Just check the nightmare neuro-funk of opener “Dancing X” or “End & Egg” or “Thy Pattern”. If you try hard enough, you can imagine Dose’s creepy falsetto as coming out of the mouth of Pharrell Williams, or The-Dream or something. Sort of. You’ve gotta try pretty hard. And if you try hard enough, you might even scare yourself into thinking that you could blast G Is For Deep out of a car stereo and not get sneered at by the bigger boys. But it is hard work, and you’re only ever gonna find those merrie melodies after making the effort to burrow your way through all of the frayed, mangled sounds. Then again, how are you gonna trawl through the thick electronic haze that fills out the sound on “OwlShark”? Here, the chorus embodies the central paradox of this record: some of this stuff is pure sing-along pop, but, yes, scratch the surface and you find yourself teetering on the edge of oblivion. Just look at the jiggling synth disco shapes on “Dancing X” or “The Bends”, where he sounds like a subterranean homesick Justin Timberlake, or the awkward sine-wave synth-pop of “I Fall”.
As ever, Dose’s lyrics are freaky-deaky beat poetry and their subject-matter really rather worrying – take as an example his description of his own anxious guilt as “a fearsome church built from black stone” on “Therapist This”. Basically, even though it shares some of the formal qualities of certain chartbusting records, it isn’t going to allow you to confidently strut into, er, “da club”, or live out any porno R&B fantasies. However, it does go to show that these sort of barenaked neuroses are totally acceptable in some quarters of pop music these days, and Doseone shares more with Kanye West than you might have first thought.
G Is For Deep collapses at least some of the categories that we’d usually use to bracket and judge pop music. But could a description of music as, say “avant-pop” ever really mean anything? Who knows, but how else could this record sound like Prince and Fever Ray at the same time? How, or why, else would the recommendations for further listening on critics’ Bible Allmusic.com include Björk, The Beastie Boys, Gloria Estefan, Donna Summer, and 1990s Irish boyband Westlife? Baffling, huh? Well, whatever, it sure tells us one thing – Doseone is, and always has been, a wild-card, and the crazy audacity he shows on G Is For Deep might just make it his wildest album yet.
// Notes from the Road
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