B Dolan – House of Bees – Volume II
Released: 12/06/2012 on Strange Famous Records
Strange Famous is my favourite independent record label and B Dolan one of its stalwarts, creating edgy, political and emotional hip hop and urban poetry with some of the best producers in the circuit to create some killer hooks. Read more about him here.
I have been lucky enough to catch Dolan live in the UK twice, most recently on his tour with Scroobius Pip, where he showcased a couple of new tracks from this album, House of Bees – Volume II. Surprised he was dropping a new album so soon after Fallen House, Sunken City in 2010, I was keen to find out what HoBV2 had in store for us.
Produced by SFR producer and DJ de jour Buddy Peace, the concept behind HoBV2 was that it would be an hour long “album quality” mix-tape of “tunes good enough to be on a regular LP” (Dolan’s words). And if there is one thing BP can do – it’s make a mix-tape. First track Still Here chronicles B Dolan’s father’s diagnoses with terminal cancer, and how the loss had caused him to question his calling. However, upon hearing this upbeat and unique cut provided by Buddy Peace, Dolan states he was pulled out of his reverie, and decided to fight back, and get this album finished. And thank the Gods of hip hop he did. From its opening riffs (note to self - can a bagpipe sample be a riff?) it was clear this album would be a game changer.
B Dolan has stripped away all except that which is necessary on the tracks to basically leave his guts strewn across the record. It’s wide open, raw, emotional, personal, political but utterly listenable. Even if you don’t agree with the politics behind some of the tracks on album, this won’t detract from the album. Tin Soldiers, where B lays down his opinions on military conscription will be a heartfelt hymn to some, but to others it will simply be a pretty beautifully worded track with a relaxed r and b hook. Film The Police, the recent You Tube phenomena, has become an anthem for the Occupy movement (of which B Dolan is a spokesman), but to others, it will simply be a banging hip hop record, using reworked cuts from the NWA classic F*** The Police to make a modern day anti-establishment track. Dolan has a flawless ability to inform, to educate – but not to preach, and this seeming absence of judgement is what helps endear the listener to him.
As this is a mixtape, the tracks blend seamlessly from one to another, whilst still each maintaining an individual identity (so you can listen to it on shuffle without it sounding chaotic, don’t worry). Buddy’s attention to detail means even the interlude track Colony Collapse has a post-apocalyptic, unsettling vibe to it, complete with a spoken word detail of how Colony Collapse Disorder can be identified by the loss of bees (seriously – wiki it).
Reviewing this album has been really, really hard – mainly because I could write essays on each track; the lyrics, the poetry, the song structures – then the music; the samples, the effortless mixing, the seamless matching of one to the other. Not to mention the overall concept of a mix tape album, which deserves far more analysis than I can give it here.
The best thing you can do? Just buy it. Listen. And feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise up when you realise what this album has created. A new breed of emceeing. A new breed of hip hop. And it will give you goose bumps.
Turn On: When it starts
Turn Off: When it’s over