Another successful alter-ego project of both Dose One and Jel, Themselves pushes the hip-hop envelope just that little bit further.

 

This is the third album under the moniker for the former cLOUDDEAD and Subtle collaborators, which also made it into our picks of 2009.

 

 

Themselves – ‘Crowns Down’

Anticon 2009

Vinyl (double)

 

Side 1.

1.    ‘Back II Burn’
2.    ‘Oversleeping’
3.    ‘The Mark’

 

Side 2.

1.    ‘Gangster Of Disbelief’
2.    ‘Daxstrong’
3.    ‘You Ain’t It’

 

Side 3.

1.    ‘Roman Is As Roman Does’
2.    ‘Skinning The Drum’

 

Side 4.

1.    ‘Dead Catcher II’
2.    ‘Gold Teeth Will Roll’

In recent times we have seen a flourishing underground movement in Hip Hop, one that’s moved towards a rawer and more left field indie template. Both in the use of their original beats and the style of delivery artists such as MF Doom, Madlib, Mr.Lif, Aesop Rock and Edan have remained low key in the background, busily reinventing the scene whilst the mainstream continues to indulge in celebratory culture and roll around in a pit of dirty lucre . They all make the ridiculous blown up pretensions of commercial Hip Hop look frankly out dated and stale. Just because the likes of Kayne West sample Daft Punk it doesn’t mean that he has taken any risks. You see it’s all calculated to the nth degree so that he can sell more of his pop- lite banal brand of rap.  We seem to have created a monster!

The last decade in Hip Hop has ended up being watered down for the X-Box/i-Pod generation, either brute force messages about killing to stay alive or boring ditties about girls and money by 50 Cent seem to be the only choices on offer to the masses. But there is an amazing scene that runs counter to its bloated rival helped by social networking sites and low key gigs that have promoted some of the more cutting edge and experimental groups out there.
Artists like Yo! Majesty and Uffie have broken through yet remain gritty and carry a lot of kudos, granted that they may not have the most politically charged of subjects in their resume. Like Spank Rock they may just want to shake their booty. All these artists have incorporated a back to basics approach into their music, rocking beats from the golden period of Hip Hop in the Eighties and merging them with an updated style of now.

Which leads me to the inventive duo of Dose One and Jel, who have both been involved in a long list of creative projects including the highly acclaimed cLOUDDEAD and Subtle, whose influence is heavy on this the third album from their creatively successful moniker Themsleves.
Dose One and Jel return to the old skool set up of MC and DJ to create an extraordinary poetic slice of bombastic, unrelenting prose, set to a mix of beats and samples that conjure up memories of the golden period in Hip Hop, from 1985 to 1989.
On top of this we get a layer of industrial strength effects and abstract sounds familiar to those used on Subtle’s Exiting Arm LP.
The rapping features the distinct nasal style of Dose who never lets up on the tracks ‘Oversleeping’ and ‘The Mark’. He uses this delivery style almost like an instrument in its own right as he spits rapid readings like a form of lyrical autism.
Famously back in the day Dose faced off against an unknown Eninem at a scribble jam, which he lost.  In hindsight Dose’s loss is hardly a curse, his career developing over time, his collaborations far more inventive and groundbreaking.
Partner Jel supplies the music and drum beats though some of his cool and dazzling effects are borrowed from the Ultramagnatic MC’s, Kool G Rapp and Marley Marl. Like on the opener ‘Back II Burn’ which uses a heavily influenced electro break feast from Graig G era ‘Transformer’, or the darker tones of past masters Paris and Big Daddy Kane on the track ‘Roman Is As Roman Does’.
His drum machine creates some deeply unwieldy moods that threaten to crush who those that step up to the challenge.

Highlights on the album include ‘Skinning The Drum’ which has samples flying around with nods of recognition to the pioneers, much in similar fashion to Edan on his ‘Beauty And The Beat’ LP.
The lyrics further back up the mood with the repeated refrain of “who was inventing it, who was wrenching it”, on ‘Daxstrong’. The track’s  swirling playground ambience turns into an assemblage of breaks redolent of the cLOUDDEAD material, as Dose eloquently builds up a picture of social ills expressed in his clever use of lyricism.

My only criticism is in the track ‘You Ain’t It’ which sounds like a horrible vocoder pastiche of Californian bump and grind mixed with Hal Mar Superstar’s smooth brand of funk.
I’m not sure what they are trying to do with this song but it doesn’t in my mind sit well with the rest of the album.

This album thoroughly deserves your attention even if you don’t usually follow Hip Hop. A mix of experimental sound collage and subliminal wordplay suffused with the inventive use of samples ‘Crowns Down’ could be the equivalent of TV On The Radio’s ‘Dear Science’ LP from last year.

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