Dubbledge - Dubbledge Vs Boondocks (Hidden Agenda)

When the words 'concept' and 'album' are bandied about in tandem bad things generally happen. Or at least criminally dull things. From seventies prog-pixies Yes creating an entire musical "journey" set in an underwater kingdom spread over a double (yes, count them TWO) vinyl package clocking in at nearly 90 minutes for just 4 tracks on Tales From Topographic Oceans to seventies prog-ponses Genesis' musical epic about a half Puerto Rican juvenile delinquent who battles demons and monsters underneath the bowels of New York whilst looking for his alienated brother who might actually be himself spread, again, across a double vinyl, it seems the main ingredients of the conceptual album are the Seventies, double vinyl, double page plots and (probably) a double helping of an industrial grade hallucinogen.

Released Dec 5th, 2011 via Hidden Agenda Records / By Matthew Bayfield
Dubbledge - Dubbledge Vs Boondocks (Hidden Agenda) Dubbledge, a name that has been something of a watermark for quality in UK hip-hop ever since the release of his Smile EP waaaaay back in futuristic 2005 on Dented Records, has none of the above... But his name does contain a variant on 'double' so all should be fine for his new concept album 'Dubbledge Vs Boondocks' . Eschewing the penchant that many a space faced, forest haired musician has for the marathon length album 'Edge's new collection clocks in at a refreshingly lean 32 minutes, summarised quite aptly in 'Edge's words on album highlight 'Holy Cow' wherein he states "two lungs ain't enough for me to waste breath." This conciseness, alongside consciousness, provides one of the album's most immediate strengths, and also helps to form the backbone for the lyrical snatches taken from ever enlightened Boondocks show itself, which punctuates the conceptual thinking nicely.

As with any Dubbledge release wordplay is nearly always at the forefront of the album, from the infinitely intricate multi-syllabic and numeric delivery of 'Eyeseeyou' , which floats along effortlessly on a warm bouncing bass and seventies flute pairing of a most laidback variety even Peter Gabriel would be proud of, to the bare faced honesty of 'Willie Lynch a.k.a The Making Of A Slave', a minor key led track that looks into the mentality of slavery and its perpetuation in bygone Western Society. In a clumsier set of hands or possibly from a less eloquent tongue, this range of content could quite easily come off as overly earnest, completely bogus or simply far too oppressive in tone to make a palatable album. Fortunately, not only does the album's creator have a source material in Boondocks that comments on ignorance and absurdity through the use of humour and wit, but Edge himself is also exceptionally talented in creating humorous imagery and self depreciating wit which helps to stop the record ascending up its own arse. Something Eminem should probably thought about before his last bedwetting release. The laidback posse cut 'Oi' sees 'Edge trading positive vibes with longtime collaborator Dabbla of London Zoo, Willo Wispa and Verbal (plus an uncredited Samuel L Jackson) over a laidback, smoky little beat inter-cut with Boondocks audio, and is a prime example of knowing when to lighten the tone, it being well timed after the cerebral heavy sequence of 'Willie Lynch', the Chase & Status produced 'Chess' and 'Eyeseeyou'. Hot on the tails of that track is 'Ello Lady' another intelligently humorous track where, over a lounging funk beat courtesy of DJ IQ Dubbedge gets down to the age old tradition of chatting up the fairer sex.

Overall the production on the album is of a particularly high quality, but it is fair to say this is no surprise with the producers list being composed entirely of veteran names such as Ben Grymm, DJ IQ, L.G and Metabeats. Who between them have also worked the boards for the likes of Jehst, Micall Parknsun, Foreign Beggars, Kashmere, Jack Flash and anyone else you care to name in upper echelons of the UK scene. A common factor that contributes to this synergy between producer and emcee, aside from their working familiarity with each other, is that at no point do the beats become showy or elaborate merely for the sake of it, unlike many of the bells, whistles and wobbles variant you might find the lion's share of chart rappers leaning on at present. Instead they are much more organic, acting more as the shaded areas around Dubbledge's lyrical colour. It is this detailing that makes the album a complete package; neither the beats nor the concept are allowed to smother the lyrics at the forefront of the record, but at the same time the emcee knows when best to temper heavy concepts and dense rhymes with humour or a lighter touch. Away from the excess heavy concept works of (largely) 70's prog rock groups the only conceptual album that has worked this well in recent memory is the MF Doom / Dangermouse collaboration 'The Mouse & The Mask' which also paired an intelligent and humours rhymer and organic producer with an intelligent & witty animated show. Dubbledge not only proves on this record that rappers and cartoons go together like hippies & drugs but that a well picked concept can unify an album without contaminating it or turning it into coffee table chin-stroke fodder.

That being said let's all just pray to the Gods that Dappy or his "peers" don't get hold of a copy of Rastamouse any time soon and attempt to make a "bad ting good"...