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 shine our gaze on Jacob Didas, a 27 year-old producer, writer, and recording artist currently based in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Didas, who is currently working as an Army Officer and psychiatric nurse, has released his debut endeavor: an album entitled ‘Lucid.’ Is this indie hip hop record worth having in your collection this winter, or does it fall by the wayside? Let’s dig deep into it and find out.
The record was entirely self-recorded in Didas’ own home studio, and it’s designed to be a poignant personal journey through life’s trials and tribulations. “My intent was to make an album inspired by many of the topics that are important not only within the psychiatric setting,” says Didas, “but in life as a whole.” In this sense, ‘Lucid’ is immediately a starkly different effort than the majority of its independent genre counterparts.
Didas’ debut opens with ‘Drumroll,’ a surprising tune. Frankly, it’s not just one of the stronger opening tracks I’ve heard from an independent artist on their debut. It’s one of the stronger tracks I’ve heard from any indie act this season. ‘Drumroll’ exhibits incredible productional prowess and versatility, hopping through synthesizers, erratic bass and electric guitar musings, compelling use of acoustic guitar and percussion, and notably sharp vocals and lyricism.
‘Manic,’ the second track on ‘Lucid,’ takes Didas’ compositional experimentation in an entirely new direction. There’s a classical influence in the introduction, but it’s quickly morphed into a bombastic, thick electronic production with industrial influence. Didas’ beats are well crafted, and they’re matched elegantly by his lyricism. He’s a powerful MC, and can hold his own against his impressive production.
‘Deluded’ is one of Didas’ better lyrical jaunts. It’s a melancholy, but intense - even anthemic track. If I was to draw a popular parallel toward ‘Deluded,’ I’d align it with Kanye West’s ‘Black Skinhead.’ (Especially in regard to the tune’s beat, which is very reminiscent of the ‘Yeezus’ tune.) Similar to ‘Yeezus,’ ‘Lucid’ does a wonderful job of utilizing instrumentation not typically found in hip hop - particularly rock-oriented stylings.
Didas begins to really exercise his chops as a rapper on ‘Wagwan,’ a song where his fast-paced delivery is baffling excellent. It’s shocking to me that a 27 year-old performer with no prior musical presence online can come out of the woodwork with polished presentation the likes of ‘Wagwan.’ That’s echoed even further on ‘Flight,’ one of the LP’s most superb compositions.
Of the ten tracks on ‘Lucid,’ however, few stand as tall as ‘Phantom.’ The piano composition is absolutely jaw-dropping, but more even more importantly, Didas’ introspective lyricism is at its finest on ‘Phantom.’ “I’m here for a limited time only,” Didas raps, “Not trying to be phony.” He most certainly isn’t - ‘Phantom’ is the most original hip hop tune I’ve heard in the indie scene in months.
Immediately after, Didas jumps even further toward jazz-esque influence on ‘Homebound’ with lovely brass sections. Another parallel to be drawn is to perhaps Chance the Rapper, one of the breakout successes of the genre over the last year. ‘Homebound’ sounds like a tune off the cutting room floor off the record Chance the Rapper did with Donnie Trumpet.
‘Aisle (Interlude),’ is, as one might expect, an entirely instrumental interlude. It’s lengthy, however, clocking in over three minutes. It’s a breathtaking performance, though, and may be the album’s resounding moment of versatility. Didas is more than a hip hop artist: he’s a well-rounded creative that’s clearly pulling from a bevy of influence all over the musical spectrum.
The final two tracks on ‘Lucid’ are intriguing efforts. ‘Octane’ is the collection’s most searing track, showcasing a really dynamic electric guitar section. It’s also one of the album’s most uplifting tracks as Didas essentially recounts his journey toward overcoming opposition in the path of his inevitable journey toward his ambitions. ‘Vision’ then closes the album with R&B influence. “Change has got me hoping that I can fly away from all my terrors,” Didas croons in the unforgettable final moments of the album.
‘Lucid’ is outstanding. I don’t often issue such complimentary reviews, but Jacob Didas’ debut is one of the best independent records of 2016. It boggles the mind how fully realized it is, and how well Didas has crafted a series of ten stunning soundscapes with endless creative depth. From beginning to end, it’s a brilliant showcase of talent. Keep close tabs on Jacob Didas. This is the kind of hip hop everyone needs to hear.