CD Reviews 10 Nov 2005

robdzexpTHE ROB DZ EXPERIENCE – Soul Anthems

(2005   Floroq Enterprises)

Rob Dz has cultivated a jovial, boisterous persona, full of life and music and respect.  He has become a central figure in the local hip-hop community, finding his face on magazines and winning awards for his unique, smooth flow and unrelenting drive to succeed.  However, this is only his first record.  With years of experience in area bands, countless guest slots for local artists and a fantastic live band featuring some of the finest musicians this town has to offer, this is his first record.  With such unyielding market presence and a tendency to promote to the bone, Dz had years’ worth of hype to live up to with this release.  With an album of this caliber, with slick vibes, serious soul and a classic personality, Dz has firmly and decisively justified every last ounce of hype that has surrounded his young career.

After the obligatory spoken-word introduction, the music makes an immediate impact.  The guest presence of local brass addicts Youngblood Brass Band on the first tune, “Dig That,” twists the expectations of what a hip-hop means in a commercial market.  And if that isn’t made clear by the music, Dz himself makes it very clear.  “We’re just trying to take it back to the essence, you know.  Get back on some real hip-hop–get away from all these gimmicks.”  The album continues to deliver a musical maturity that is rare for a debut album.  

Dz joined forces with local musician, producer and cultural icon Rick Flowers to create this disc.  Flowers produced the record, played most of the instruments and squeezed silky sounds out of the young emcee.  The music melds elements of classic R&B with a jazz flavor, using tasty, classic vocal performances by Jason Foster, Denise Cotton and the incomparable Joy Dragland, among others, to drive the vibe home.  Dz’s gritty vocals, laid-back flow and intense charisma anchor each tune with positive energy and spiritual character.  His lyrics consistently call for love, peace and respect, never insulting or tearing down either his message or his audience.  And while I respect the religious ideology that comes through with sincerity and drama, raps about God can tend to get heavy, and at times a bit preachy. 

By the time a DJ comes into focus on the eighth track, “Fonkee Fresh,” (which also features the rhymes of local hip-hop hero Mr. Parker) the album has defined its groove.  And by the time sax man Hanah Jon Taylor plays the soundtrack to the poetry of “Spoken Sax,” the album has evolved into a unique creation that takes much of this community into the studio to generate a truly socially conscious event.  With virtually every track highlighting a different local talent, from Clyde Stubblefield’s beats to Hollie Noel’s vocal purity to Fred Brown’s gritty, distorted guitar licks, the album is a community effort led by an honest, talented voice that speaks of hope and love.  Though this is Dz’s first recording, it reveals a mature presence and a hint of the depth of character and charisma that he will undoubtedly bring to future projects.

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