Writing my first review about Dumbfoundead was a daunting task. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to distance myself from what I know of him from his King of the Dot battles. Worried anything I’d write would be chock-full of superlatives and contradictions—being both a proud and frustrated fan. But what it always comes back to is the music, and Dummy gives me much to unpack with We Might Die.
Opening track “Murals” showcases the breadth of Dummy’s storytelling. He’s got a swiftness of tongue that has nothing to do with the speed of his flow, though his cadence does set a breakneck clip. He has an impeccable ability to paint a picture, give depth and texture to the landscapes he builds with his immaculate lyricism. “Murals” and “All In” display some of the best songwriting I’ve ever heard from Dummy. You’re forced to lean in, as it were, almost bend yourself to the point that you become a part of the song so you can both catch every nuance as well as fully immerse yourself in the story he’s telling.
Lyrically Dummy’s proven that there are few that can keep pace with him. From his days in the underground he’s managed to at times completely twist his opponents around, verbally dancing circles, squares, and isosceles triangles with the way he weaves words within each other without becoming obtuse. There’s complexity to his wordsmithing, yet he’s never esoteric. Everything is honest and true, pure and clear.
Very few battle rappers easily transition from the underground stage to the studio. It’s a learning curve, taking the skill, dexterity, and scheme craft from a battle and translating it to something that will work on wax. It’s intimidating when the only opponent in front of you is the mic. You can’t strip it down, can’t expose or manipulate it, can’t take a knife to its life and dissect it in front of an audience. The only person readily available for your scope is yourself, and there aren’t many people, let alone rappers, who are ready to tear themselves open and splay their guts to get to the truth of who they are.
In that way We Might Die is an absolute triumph. “Ancestors,” title track “We Might Die,” “Safe,” and “Harambe” are downright poetic there’s so much truth and untamed realness within their lyrical confines. They pulse and throb, fat with energy and content. This album is an abundant feast, a banquet of rich tastes and sounds that could sate even the most ravenous glutton.
By contrast much of the music housing his lyrical magnitude leaves much to be desired. Opting for generic beats and melodies with a basic keyboard skeleton, it’s obvious the most important aspect of Dummy’s production is his lyrical content and his guest appearances. Unfortunately, those too err more on the side of uninspiring. While that does further highlight Dummy’s skill, it pulls a listener out of the music when a dissenting voice with a less honest approach—all bravado and grandstanding in an attempt to overshadow—hovers over the beat and tries to overpower the depth of a track with the stagnant water of a wade pool (e.g. “Hit and Run” and “Cochino”).
There’s such musical disconnect from the first three songs, produced by Stereotypes, and the tracks that follow. While the compositions themselves are simple, there’s musical congruency. The music works in concert with Dummy as opposed to against him. In that sense, music and artist working together, the first few performances manage to reach greater peaks.
And that’s probably why track “Banned in the Motherland” surprised me so much. It’s no secret that for me Jay Park is hit or miss when it comes to his style of rap. However, his presence on “Banned in the Motherland” (quite apt, yes?) was shocking with its clarity and power. In fact every feature added a layer, each floor built upon the next until we’re given a skyscraper of a song that’s easily one of the rawest on the album. You can taste the bitterness on each artist’s tongue, yet “Banned” is incredibly focused, verses concise and packed tightly into the confines of a simple beat. The artists work together to construct this piece of music, and we get a star track that surprisingly outshines some of the latter half of the album.
We Might Die is an album of shapes and distances. Dummy’s conscience is wide. He crafts his lyrics with a geometric wit, compass rose and protractor in hand to define his angles and give each song dimension. But he extends the reach of his pen with social consciousness. He’s a mathematician of the highest order, melding his brand of trigonometry with a chemist’s penchant for mixing and matching until after each explosion we get something exciting, sometimes dark and sinister but always innovative. He challenges listeners, as if to say, “I dare you.” And we as his audience have no choice but to take up the gauntlet and throw ourselves into his world. For better or worse.
- All In (feat. CA$HPASSION & KOHH)
- Ancestors (feat. Donye’a G & YEAR OF THE OX)
- We Might Die
- Hit And Run (feat. Nocando)
- Cochino (feat. Too Short)
- Banned in the Motherland (feat. Jay Park, Simon Dominic, G2)
- Hold Me Down