I have come to learn that releases age fast in the world of music blogging, so it may seem weird to post on a mixtape that came out more than two months ago. But rapper e-dubble's Written Thursday is something I have to write about because when I really dig something, it makes the blog, age be damned. And after a ton of spins in the past months, it is clear I really, really dig Written Thursday.
For those unfamiliar with e-dubble, this mixtape represents the culmination of a prolific year of "Freestyle Fridays," on which every Friday each week for an entire year, e-dubble released a song on his soundcloud page. (I was pretty late to the party, wasn't even a blogger when he began in fact). That year was completed in February, and this mixtape contains about half the tracks from those efforts. Thus, the name "Written Thursday" (and incidentally, an accurate description of this post!). The selected cuts have been seamlessly mixed and offer a broad spectrum of sounds, flows, lyrics, and personality. Written Thursday succeeds as an artistic statement, a personal manifesto, and an enjoyable listen.
e-dubble commands attention first and foremost because he is extremely talented. All of the tracks here are samples which he has turned into hip-hop beats (a process called "chopping") and most are surprising choices, generally from classic rock or indie rock. Compare that to lots of other mixtapes just rhyming over other rapper's songs. e-dubble is an excellent rapper, capable of altering his flow from song to song (for instance "Move Out" to "Space Rivers" to "In Between"), always sounding magnetic, and boasting a verbosity and intellect that constantly make things interesting. I think having both strong production and mc-ing skills takes everything to another level. Not only does he find fresh sounds, but he has a gift for being able to seamlessly match a style and subject to the mood of the music. Each choice is inspired for this reason, as well as how e-dubble often references the titles or lyrics of the sources in his lyrics and titles. You can tell he's just a music fan overall, and I think this in turn makes him more universally appealing.
One of the best things about the mixtape is that it keeps revealing new highlights over time. I dig a lot of the choices for beats; Cold War Kids, Regina Spektor, the Parks and Recreation TV show theme (one of my favorite TV shows!), and Spoon are some of my favorites. I love the breadth of e-dubble's allusions. He references other hip hop music I love (including Wu Tang Clan, Brother Ali, and perhaps my favorite Jay-Z lyric), "high" culture (such as FDR and Teddy Roosevelt, Hemingway, Vonnegut, Alfred Hitchcock) and "low" (like Groundhog Day, Tony Danza, Quentin Tarantino, David Bowie in Labyrinth). Seriously, there are some amazing lines on this mixtape, I encourage you to share your favorites, I guarantee you will have some.
The other thing that keeps me coming back is that e-dubble feels so real. It's not always the case that you get a sense of "I've never met him or spoke to him, but I feel like I know him after listening to this." Like knowing how it would go to meet him at the bar and just talk. I don't think this exercise would have been compelling week after week (or track to track here on the mixtape) if e-dubble wasn't channeling himself and putting his life to verse. This is a very personal work. I love how "On the Radio" is about the power of music and how great it would be to get on the radio – something lots of other rappers go out of their way to say they "don't give a fuck" about. Another highlight is how the details and imagery of "Sidelines" concerning women stand apart from typical hip-hop macho but still are vivid, self-assured, and romantic. Finally, the one that might be the most poignant is from one of my favorite tracks. It's called "Greenlights." It seems to be no accident it is sequenced in the middle because it feels like the heart of the mix. There is a ton to like about this song, but what gets me the most is this line: "My pops told me that he loves that I'm on my dream and god damn that shit felt nice so I ain't stopping." Both the sentiment and delivery. It's an extraordinary moment, one that makes me hope e-dubble gets as big as he wants to be.
And it just so happens that his specific personality is pretty great. He's driven, he's funny, he's smart, he's risk-taking, he's humble, he's strong-willed, he's authentic, he's confident, he knows his roots, and much more than that. I am not saying it is a mandate that I listen only to musicians I can understand or relate to, because that would be boring. But I am saying it is easy to really love music when you really get a sense of the artist and that they seem to be a lot like you.
I have a theory, or maybe more accurately a hope, that in a world where there is more music than we can ever hear, we hear what we need to, when we need to hear it. Honestly, that's the clincher to this whole post. This mixtape has captured so much of what I've been thinking about my life – where it is and where it should be – that it truly has made a strong impact on me. One of the main themes of this work (and consequently, e-dubble's own life) is the empowerment to pursue what matters to you, while also acknowledging the work and effort that goes into that. For e-dubble, that is rapping and making music. I don't want to be a rapper but I do have dreams too, and when you are stuck in a job you don't really like in a place you kind of want to leave like I am, it can be so easy to lose sight of them. Hearing this message in words (and in turn, experiencing the concrete embodiment of the message by virtue of the fact that these songs exist through e-dubble's efforts) was something I really needed. I am betting a lot of other people do, too.
It all happened pretty quickly. One of the songs I posted above "Tired" is the first proper track of the mixtape and it just had me instantly. "Tired of myself, tired of this town" goes the Tom Petty sample before e-dubble comes in with, "Small pond, big pond, the fish are the only difference…" Wow. He had my attention, I was all in from there. This work is a journey that builds to the incredible last track before the outro, "Grounded," which I think is like a microcosm for everything great about the mixtape. The Go Team! sample gives the perfect vibe. The first verse has some awesome lines that hit on just about everything I mentioned earlier, and then he pulls out this chorus: "Got my drink in my cup, so I'm ready for whatever / got to put my time in, so I'm 'bout to pull the lever / no time like the present and I'm gonna live forever / tired of being tired, never hear me say never." What a send off and summation. But it's not over. Verse two shifts the beat, gaining momentum to a quick fire flow. That's how you go out strong. I especially love how he talks about music's power and the value of "the ones who shaped me." Whew!
I could keep writing and writing about this mixtape, I just got so engrossed by it, but I'd rather wrap it up so you can listen to it and see for yourself. I dig Written Thursday. I hope you do too. It's available free here. Check out e-dubble's soundcloud and facebook for more.