Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we delve into a rather unique performer hailing from London, Dash the Baptist. The self-described “life narrator” utilizes his craft as “therapy on his psyche,” delving into life stories, his struggles, views, and much more. His latest record, ‘The Book of Dash,’ is an eclectic debut album that offers an incredibly broad range of subject matter. Thus, it’s able to remain consistently compelling throughout, offering a wonderful atmosphere and insight into the world through a very different lens.
‘The Book of Dash’ does a very fine job of juggling contemporary and classic hip hop influence throughout its run. Songs often harken back to late 80s, early 90s hip hop stylings, as is the case with the opening track, ‘Mr. Black.’ At the same time, however, the slew of producers and production tactics maintain a steady theme of contemporary composition as well. (There are some tunes on this record that you could draw parallels to someone like Jay Z with.) ‘Mr. Black’ feels like a perfect balance between classic hip hop beats and modern production tactics. Rising string sections and echoing atmospheres dance about in beautiful harmony to manifest themselves into a dramatic opener.
Lyrically, ‘Mr. Black’ is a rather intriguing effort. Dash is a very talented lyricist, and it’s equally as interesting how in touch he is with American politics despite being a United Kingdom raised man born in Ghana. Dash’s commentary of a modern social and political climate throughout ‘The Book of Dash’ is a rewarding endeavor. Musically, an early highlight is ‘5 Minutes,’ a tune featuring Monica Dockery. Guest producer Mad Alice has created a masterful soundscape with some immensely entertaining production. “All that glitters ain’t real gold,” Dockery croons as she sublimely accentuates Dash throughout the piece.
Dash’s collaboration with Dockery extends to the track following ‘5 Minutes,’ ‘Audacity of Hope.’ This song, produced by Jay Bonez, samples a tiny tidbit of President Obama and heavily harnesses some soul influence, especially with Dockery. The track feels critical of Obama, touching on his inability to close Guantanamo and his heavy usage of drones in the Middle East throughout his presidency. (I’d actually be interested to hear Dash’s thoughts on the Obama administration putting a handful of boots on the ground in Syria in the past week. Bear in mind this record was released in November of last year.)
‘Lost’ feels more like an interlude to connect ‘Audacity of Hope’ and ‘Mary & I’ than an individual piece of its own. It’s a poignantly written track, though, one that elects to embrace a high level of productional brevity to send Dash to the forefront of the track. Producer RadioSoul77 did a nice job holding back, something that Foxas Beats, the producer of ‘Mary & I’ also embraces to some extent. That tune is the weakest of the three featuring Dockery’s vocals, but it’s a nice effort nonetheless. The production and delivery just feel lacking in comparison to the rest of the record - the mix feels a bit jumbled while the rest of the songs are so superbly refined.
‘Real Talk’ is certainly one of those refined experiences. Goodness, this is a well-written socially conscious piece chock-full of absolutely incredible composition. The tight back beats, piano lead, and electronic influence are infectiously exciting, highlighting Dash in a remarkable fashion. Thus, credit is due to Soultunebeats, the producer. Dash’s delivery and songwriting reign supreme on this track, perhaps even making the definitive statement of the record outside of the lyrical content of ‘Audacity of Hope.’ It’s the most well-rounded song in the collection.
‘We Are Chemicals,’ a remix featuring ‘We Are Aerials,’ is a fascinating choice for the finale of ‘The Book of Dash.’ It feels particularly thought-provoking and introspective, closing out the effort with a haunting sense of finality. We Are Aerials stunningly contrast Dash’s presence, which is bold here. The song seems to genre-hop in some senses, delving into some form of indie soft rock with the inclusion of We Are Aerials, one tinged with electronica as well.
It probably says something about the current independent scene here stateside when some of the more articulate political musings in music over the last year are coming from a man across the pond. Eloquently balancing life stories with pieces like ‘Mary & I’ and ‘Lost’ and political and social banter on pieces like ‘Mr. Black’ and ‘Audacity of Hope,’ Dash the Baptist has managed to craft one of the finest indie hip hop efforts I’ve heard in months. It’s a refreshing pursuit of honesty and authenticity matched with some unparalleled production on behalf of an array of killer producers. Check it out on Band Camp below.