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Elevator 15: DoseOne

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Back in 1997 I made predictions about Adam ‘DoseOne’ Drucker’s rap career. I was dead wrong and I’m happy I was wrong. I told my brother and various other hip-hop heads, ‘Wow, this Dose-1 has to be one of the best rappers in the world; it’s just a pity so few people are ever gonna hear him.’

I love his demeanour, his imagery, his multiple complex flows, his voice, his ready-to-pounceness, his unabashedly theatrical delivery.

I guess I thought that other people just wouldn’t dig him. There is no one quite like DoseOne. My wife calls him ‘The Worm’. This is what he sounded like in the late 90’s.

I first met him a few hours before he freestyle-battled Enimem at Scribble Jam 1997. We planned to hang out during the months I lived in Cincinnati but it didn’t work out. I still have a tape of him freestyling on a radio show called ‘B-boys Underground’ from around that time. His intensity clearly made an impression on a number of like-minded left-fielders. He co-founded Anticon, moved to Northern California, worked his ass off, toured extensively and sure enough, he’s made many colourful, ambitious, experimental and dynamic records since. I was wrong. Other people do dig ‘im.

Here’s his man-being-chased-by-a-? collaboration with Slug

This is the doused-in-angst, perfectly delivered ‘Soft Atlas’

I love his work with Jel as the group Themselves.

How ’bout Good People Check or Oversleeping?

To call his shows [especially with his band Subtle, which is really a deluxe version of Themselves] engaging would be an understatement. Dose’s stage presence is immense. He beguiles the audience by cracking surreal jokes, by pulling plastic forks out of a painted skull and by whispering in individual audience members’ ears. He dares you to mock him. He might not have the same exact motives as comedian Andy Kaufmann, but he clearly wants the audience to be impacted by the show, by the interaction, by his carnivorous poetry filtered through growls and roars, by Jel’s nifty finger work on the MPC, by the spectacle even if it means being heckled and misunderstood.

By the way Subtle are the best hip-hop band I have ever seen: tight, epic, surreal, melodic, ethereal and funny.

Amazing in the studio too:

In this interview with close friend and collaborator Yoni Wolf, Dose talks about his early musical journey and his childhood.

Dose will treat you, the listener, like his sparring partner, his local corner store owner, his ex-partner, his best friend, his therapist, his art teacher, his rap battle nemesis, his muse, his fellow wanderer. Listening to a DoseOne record is like stumbling through The Wood between the Worlds in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew dotted with mystery pools, some leading to worlds of hope, beauty and innocence, others to sloughs of existential doubt, nightmares and ‘deathiness’. Dose One is undoubtedly a disorientator and an elevator.

Here’s his artist page on Anticon.

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Elevator 14: Dave

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Dave from De La Soul is in my opinion is one of the greatest voices in the history of rap music. De La Soul formed in Long Island, New York in 1987. Their very first demo song ‘Plug Tunin’ is one of the highlights of 1980’s rap music. For a while De La Soul were unignorable.

Dave is a team player, so much so that you rarely hear about him without hearing about Pos, the other rapper in De La Soul. These emcees share verses and frequently back up each other’s lyrics and ideas. Unlike Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav or Andre and Big Boi of Outkast, the De La Soul vocalists are on the same wavelength. So what does Dave have that’s distinctive?

Dave’s vocal delivery exudes the melancholy and soulfulness of the rhythm and blues tradition – he doesn’t flaunt or draw attention to it. It’s just there.

His voice has both authority and a colloquial warmth, but listen closely and you’ll hear a deep anger brewing. The anger does at times spill out like in the classic ‘Stakes is High’. Dave’s verse starts in the laundrette:

Dave less frequently opts for the uppercut punchline than Pos and therein lies his power: restraint, understatement, wicked satire. His verses are like an unbroken stare that makes you second-guess yourself.

My journey with hip-hop music began properly listening to Doug E Fresh and Whodini but it was De La Soul’s startlingly creative album 3 Feet High and Rising and its follow-up De La Soul is Dead that spoke to me in a way that was life changing.

The tragic narrative of Millie Pulled A Pistol on Santa blew my mind, as did the up-tempo defiance of Say No Go. De La Soul managed to conjure up the image of Much Ado about Nothing set in a Burger King and exhibited satirical wit and sincerity in equal measures. These albums made me believe that rappers could be limitlessly creative, playful and dead serious. Dave is all three.

De la Soul will release a new album this year. Here’s their new single ‘Get Away’: Dave’s verse starts 1 min. 40 sec. in with ‘And some’ll believe that they’re leaders…’

Trying People