Beat Scientist

Experimental rapper Doseone is too weird for the hip hop faithful -- but indie rockers love him

"We're getting shunned pretty hard by the hip hop people right now," Logan admits. "We don't really mind. When we first moved out [to the Bay Area], it was hard because that [world's] where you're from. But now, with the state of hip hop, I don't care anymore."

It seems odd that groups like Jurassic 5 or Anti-Pop Consortium can do well while Anticon's artists languish. Of three local hip hop radio DJs I polled recently, one wasn't really aware of Drucker's work, one flat out didn't like it, and a third had heard enough about him that he hadn't bothered checking out the releases. Just what is it that's so scary about Doseone?

Drucker's latest effort, Circle, a collaboration with New York-based DJ Boom Bip (aka Brian Hollon), holds the answer: His songs require work to listen to. If Drucker were an Olympic diver, his tricky verbal forays, peculiar lyrics, and nonstandard music would carry a degree of difficulty that ran into the double digits. His words come out so fast even the enclosed lyric sheet isn't that helpful. And what words they are: kooky stories ("he dropped out of self-indulgent sponge school"), strange boasts ("I can write Mother Teresa in binary code and "boobless' on a calculator"), peculiar word juxtapositions ("techno-murder-fusebox-fisting-twistoff-marrow-transplant"), and tons of goofy lines about a regular guy named Jesus ("Jesus and I go to dinner and/ Everyone keeps nailing themselves to things/ Kinda trying to impress him/ Like even the waiters and my friends"). The closest he gets to gangsta rap is naming a song "Ho's" (it's about Santa Claus trying to see the new Star Wars film).

What's new, pussycat? Doseone, 
that's what.
Dave Madsen
What's new, pussycat? Doseone, that's what.

Details


Sample of Boom Bip & Doseone's "Questions Over Coffee"

<p align="center"> If your browser doesn't play the music automatically, <A HREF="http://www.sfweekly.com/media/2000-10-18/doseone.mp3"> download it here.</A> </p>

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"We're the incarnate of the beats, that whole unschooled thing," Drucker says. "But they used those million-dollar college words that aren't nice to readers. You've got to write for the people -- if you can't write it on the toilet or the city bus, it's no good."

Circle's music is a far cry from the hip hop norm. The usual rhythms and samples crop up now and again but mostly the album is full of slow-buzzing synth, noirish horns, undulating radio static, wind-up clocks, and space-rock guitar riffs. "Slight" is nearly a punk tune, propelled by a rapid-firing drum bit and a metallic guitar part, whereas "The Birdcatcher's Return" is an eerie frightmare with a melody that sounds like a finger on a wineglass rim. With its cheesy synth and drum sample, "Town Crier's Walk" could be from some '80s teensploitation soundtrack, while the drifty organ on "The Birdcatcher's Oath" wouldn't be out of place on a Cocteau Twins album.

"A year and a half ago, [all I listened to] was hip hop," Drucker says. "Then I heard [spacey indie bands like] Flying Saucer Attack and Stars of the Lid. I'm really into electronic musicians now."

The interest goes both ways. Just ask Mike Martinez, creator of the one-man electronic band Electric Birds.

"I met Doseone at Amoeba and we immediately struck [up] a conversation about [highly regarded electronic label] Warp Records," Martinez recalls. "He gave me all these different CDs he had done. I went home and listened to them all, and it's crazy stuff: wild lines, trippy sounds. ... I would love to do a track with him."

Drucker recently collaborated with renowned post-rock experimentalists Tortoise; this month he is flying to London for a Warp showcase. Circle charted several times on a local college radio station's overall playchart (as per the norm, it didn't make the hip hop chart). And while mainstream hip hop may not be embracing him as one of its own, word is slowly spreading among experimental music listeners.

"We're creating our own following, a cult," Logan says. "It has a lot to do with the Internet."

For quite some time, the Anticon site (www.anticon.com) has been one of the few places listeners could discover and buy the collective's releases.

"Also, what we're seeing now is people who grew up on hip hop or got into it hard, then had to leave it after 1994 because it wasn't stimulating anymore," says Drucker. "And now they hear us and say, "Oh my god, I've always loved hip hop and now I can again.'"

Doseone is the ultimate crossover artist: He's crossed over so far, he's left his roots behind. Only time will tell if everyone else will catch up with him.

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