By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
At one time, hip hop and rock were entirely separate entities. Then, in 1986, Run-D.M.C. scored big by trading riffs and raps with Aerosmith, and the mighty crossover was born. Now, thanks in part to MTV's overwhelming embrace of the music, hip hop is nearly as prevalent in the suburbs as it is in the cities.
There's a big difference, however, between an album that scores big only with hip hop devotees and one that is beloved both by rock and rap fans (groups that often remain mutually exclusive). Records like De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising, Digital Underground's Sex Packets, and A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory appealed to people who previously didn't know squat about source material like George Clinton or the Turtles. Unlike Run-D.M.C.'s cover, which smacked of crude commercialism, these albums came by their boundary-busting naturally.
Doseone -- aka Adam Drucker -- is not as well known as any of the above artists. In fact, if you were to ask most knowledgeable hip hop fans who he is, you'd probably get blank stares and shrugged shoulders. However, if you were to poll a growing number of indie rock fans and underground rap lovers, you just might find that Drucker has, over the last three years and under a wealth of different names, crafted some of the most unusual, thought-provoking, just-plain-crazy hip hop around.
Sample of Boom Bip & Doseone's "Questions Over Coffee"
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"I'd never heard anything like it as far as what was considered hip hop," improv musician Dax Pierson says about first hearing Drucker's recordings. "His voice was really original -- that nasal quality -- and what he's saying is so untypical. It's off-the-wall, spiritual, almost psychedelic, whereas [much] hip hop is homophobic, misogynistic, and violent."
Drucker wasn't always so intellectual. When he first got into hip hop during high school in Philadelphia, "it was all about the blunts, smoking dust, getting shit-faced. I got in a lot of trouble."
By the time he went away to college at the University of Cincinnati, however, Drucker had cleaned up his act. "I wasn't living that anymore. ... I couldn't do that straightforward macho shit."
By this time, Drucker was getting a pretty decent reputation around the Cincinnati area as a skilled MC. He'd sent out his demo to people he respected, like Lyrics Born of the band Solesides. Drucker recalls, "I called him and he said, "It's good, not great, but good. You need to get in a band and that'll change everything for you.'"
A trip to the semifinals of the 1997 Scribble Jam (a Cincinnati competition for rappers, DJs, break dancers, and graffiti artists), at which he battled then-unknown rapper Eminem, led to Drucker meeting fellow UC student and bongo-playing poet Yoni Wolf. Along with local DJ Mr. Dibbs, the duo formed a band called Apogee.
"The band opened me up," Drucker says. "I came out of my face -- it changed the way I recorded. Suddenly I realized I could say anything I wanted. Yoni taught me to write from the heart, to write well, to work the cliché."
Drucker and Wolf began experimenting incessantly, using a cheap sampler called Dr. Sample. The result was two hallucinogenic albums they released under the name Greenthink. One record, Blindfold Gatefold,sounds like a pothead's version of a Saturday Night Live script, featuring two 30-minute suites of tweaked samples from Sesame Street, Steely Dan, and South American fife bands, over which the duo laid plainly spoken recitations about shopping carts full of new socks and non sequiturs concerning inner and outer space.
"Greenthink started this new experimentation," Drucker says. "We were being eclectic and contrasting light poems to dark music and dark poems to light music."
Meanwhile, Mr. Dibbs introduced Drucker to Jeff Logan, a DJ who recorded beats as JEL. After moving to the Bay Area late last year, Drucker and Logan put out the self-titled Them album, a lightly swinging effort heavily informed by Tribe and De La Soul. While Drucker's raps in Them are more traditional than those in Greenthink and later works, they still hold seeds of the bizarre flights of fancy to come. "Directions to My Special Place" begins with a litany of swingers introducing themselves ("Hi my name is Roadkill -- my interests are writer's block and long walks on a short tangent") while the theme song "It's Them" ends with Drucker pretending to be a woman, saying, "What you need to do is get your brother and go up the store and gimme some Marlboros before I beat you with this piece of rug I just ripped up off the floor."
Soon, Drucker and Logan hooked up with Tim Holland (aka MC Sole) and the rest of the MCs and DJs who would form local label Anticon. Bonding over a fierce love for hip hop and their shared experiences as white rappers, the new friends gathered together in Chicago for 10 days to cut a record under the name Deep Puddle Dynamics. A collective MC effort in the vein of Digital Underground or Freestyle Fellowship, The Taste of Rain ... Why Kneel record put the collective on the map; reviews and articles in Urb, Spin, CMJ, and The Wire heralded the coming of a new hip hop supergroup. And yet, even with all the good press, distributors were afraid to carry the group's releases. One even returned a whole 1,500-piece run of 12-inches and offered to foot the bill, saying it had no idea how to market the records.